The Discipline of Discipleship

Occasionally, I’ll pose a question to the Church Replanters’ social media channels asking what topics or issues pastors would like addressed here.

Recently, someone asked, “How can we encourage growth and accountability in discipleship without making it look like we’re judging others?”

This is a fantastic question! I don’t think any pastor would say that he doesn’t have the desire to disciple folks, but probably almost all of us share this frustration of wanting to encourage accountability and spiritual growth in a church member, only to be accused of coming across as judgmental.

Now, I think it’s important to note that, often, when we call out sin or inconsistency in someone’s life, it can be perceived as judgmental initially. However, if a deep relationship has been cultivated, then you will have the opportunity to say something like, “Hang on. I’m not being judgmental, but you said you wanted to grow in your relationship with Christ. I see some things hindering that growth.”

The fear of coming across as judgmental or “holier-than-thou” can’t stop us from discipling others. In this post, we’ll briefly look at how we can do that effectively as we replant churches.

1. The Discipleship Mandate

Both the Great Commission (Matt. 28:18-20) and 2 Timothy 2:2 give us God’s plan for discipleship. In the Great Commission, Jesus commands His followers to make disciples wherever they go, baptizing them and teaching them to obey all that He taught. We’ve typically placed a lot of emphasis on the first part – baptism – and not so much on the second part beyond telling folks that they should get involved in a Sunday School class or small group.

However, 2 Timothy 2:2 gives us a pattern for carrying out the Great Commission.

2. The Discipleship Mission

In that verse, Paul tells Timothy specifically that he must be about passing the faith on to other generations who can teach others also. If we want to have future generations of disciples, then we must have future generations of disciplers. That requires effective small groups, yes, but it also requires leaders who will pour into other potential leaders for the sake of leading them to a place where they can disciple others.

Doing so helps ensure that the gospel continues to be declared in your community through your church, just as it has for decades (or in some cases, centuries). This is one of the keys to church revitalization and replanting – discipling others, who can disciple others, who can disciples others, etc. And on and on the cycle goes until Christ returns.

3. The Discipleship Method

Several wonderful discipleship curricula can be found out there. I don’t intend to point you to one or the other, but I’d say it’s important to find a process that is both simple and reproducible. If you want to train others to be able to teach, don’t make the process overly complicated.

While curricula are good (and I’ve used a number of them with great success in discipleship), I’d also not rule out selecting some passages or books of the Bible and taking disciples through those. As we do so, we teach our folks to read the Bible for themselves and to see how it really is living and active (Heb. 4:12).

The major question comes, “Well, where do I start?” In Mark Clifton’s book Reclaiming Glory, he notes the importance of reaching young men. Personally, I think that’s a great place to start. Find a young man or two in your church (or, if you don’t have any young men in your church, go find where they hang out and join them there) and begin meeting with them regularly. Get to know them and their families. Open the Word together and pray for one another. And see what God does as He uses you to mold them (and vice-a-versa) into the image of Christ.

Discipleship is an oft-missing piece of revitalization and replanting efforts. However, if we want to see churches and communities changed, that begins with changed people.

And that just might begin with you as the pastor pouring your life into one or two young men in your church.

Published November 6, 2021

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