Making discipleship a reality in your church
I can picture it now, standing at Caesarea Philippi on an Israel trip with my wife, remembering the words of Jesus, “On this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it” (Matt. 16:18). For the last two thousand years Jesus is doing exactly as he promised – building His church and advancing His kingdom. What an honor and privilege it has been to be a small part of that in my two and a half decades as a Christian!
A large part of this adventure has been influenced and occupied by the theme of discipleship. Many of us have read Coleman’s The Masterplan of Evangelism and Shadrach’s Fuel in the Flame. We have heard to look for FAT Christians (Faithful-Available-Teachable).
That said, how often do we make reproduction a key priority from the start? Multiplication is always better than addition when it comes to advancing the kingdom of Christ. Assuming you are already meeting with new or maturing believers in a discipleship relationship, have you already told them that you expect them to be doing the same in the next six months?
The Bible gives us this expectation in 2 Timothy 2:2: “…what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also.”
Right from the start, tell these younger believers in the faith, “I am meeting with you not only for your growth and sanctification in Christ, but for the growth of the next person you will invest in, and the people two and three generations down the line.” Casting a vision for spiritual grandsons and granddaughters is what multiplication looks like.
Here are four practical tips:
1. Give an expectation for multiplication from the beginning.
End-vision from the start is key. Don’t wait until you are a few weeks in, or (worse) months, to tell your disciple they will be doing this with a new believer sooner than they think. If you start praying about this opportunity from the beginning, it will be an easier transition when they start obeying the Great Commission to teach others also everything Christ has commanded (Matt. 28:20).
2. Start praying for their potential disciples in your first meetings.
Identify names of friends, neighbors, and co-workers they know who might be potential candidates for discipleship. Often times, praying for people increases our affection for them and desire to see God do heart-melting spiritual work in the lives of those we love.
3. Don’t wait to have your new disciple start leading aspects of the discipleship time.
Even if the early stages of Christian maturity, these young disciples can take the lead in the evangelism reports, prayer, or accountability time of the meeting. They may not be ready to start leading the Bible study portion yet, but handing off these other responsibilities will not only prepare them for more in your future meetings, it also will give them the tools and confidence to know what to do in their own discipleship relationships as they come.
4. Don’t let your foot off the gas.
Far too often, we are tempted to be passive or lackadaisical in our push to get our disciples meeting with their own disciples. If you are six months in and this is still just a conversation for some time in the future, you are giving in to this temptation. Double-down in your challenge and prayer efforts. Be willing to meet with them in their first attempts, but don’t forget to eventually push them out of the nest.
Multiplication matters in the kingdom of Christ and in our discipleship efforts. At times, growth feels slow-moving and tedious, but if we will commit to casting a vision for reproduction, we can long for an eternity in which we see the ripple-effect it has in the church and community for the glory of God!