Becoming a Discipler God Will Use
Discipleship may be defined as the process of passing the truths of God’s Word that one has learned and applied on to another believer (2 Timothy 2:2). A discipler is a disciplined learner. This is a person who not only has knowledge and understanding but responds and applies what they know. This means that there is head level knowledge and heart level penetration. Heart penetration reveals a person’s genuine response to truth. A person who disciples others communicates that there is more than just learning biblical truth; it is desiring that those truths impact the heart in a way that brings about change. And not just change in circumstances, but a change of heart that says it is more important or most important to love, serve, and honor God first. It is from those desires that actions change.
If you want to be involved in discipleship, you must be willing to invest time into others (Matthew 28:19 – 20). If you are going to disciple people to obey all that Christ commands, you must realize that Christian maturity is a process of progressive sanctification. It does take time. Some people grow faster because they are eager to learn or just get it quicker, while others are a bit slower or struggle with certain things.
Goal of Discipleship
The goal of discipleship is to help a person to grow to spiritual maturity (Colossians 1:28). When Paul says, his (our) goal is to “present every man complete in Christ” he means to bring every person to maturity. This is where that time element comes in! The discipler focuses on specific applications of biblical principles in the life of their student. Many of these principles are related to foundational truths or developing a solid theology. As the discipler, you must have a theological foundation and a knowledgeable intimacy with Christ.
The time element involved in a discipleship relationship is not the only sacrifice. When you disciple someone, you are in effect an example of life and godliness to them (John 13:35). This doesn’t mean that you must be perfect, just consistent. You must be a person who hates evil and loves righteousness. Your life should reflect that belief in a fairly consistent way. It requires a real servant’s heart and this work must be done willingly. You must personally be teachable (John 14:26) and willing to continue to grow in the knowledge of God’s Word (John 8:31).
Confrontation Leading to Self-Examination
The discipler often provides admonition or correction (1 Corinthians 4:14; 2 Timothy 3:16 – 17; Colossians 3:16). Some people are not comfortable with confrontation, but a normal disciple relationship involves not only teaching but often involves some aspect of confrontation that drives the student to self-examination. As confidence and trust grow in the disciplers ability to rightly handle God’s Word, it is common for the student to begin to bring problems in her life to the forefront. As you help her to address the problem, remember that the object is not to simply put off some nasty attitude or behavior, but to truly deal with the heart issues. You will find most people get back into line with relative ease, while others will stubbornly resist change. You will need to develop a relationship with the leadership of your church to whom you can refer a stubborn sheep.
Encouragement for the Fainthearted
Another aspect of discipleship is to encourage the fainthearted (1 Thessalonians 5:14). Those who are fearful or doubtful need great encouragement and you will need to point her to the promises of God to strengthen her faith. She may also be a young or immature believer in a spiritual sense, and will need great encouragement to stay the course so that she will be useful for Christ. One of the greatest blessings for the discipler is to see their student go on to become an excellent discipler themselves (Ephesians 4:11 – 12).
Challenge for the New Year
Investing in people is hard work. However, it is one of the greatest things you can do with your life. It is a new year and many people begin the year with a desire for spiritual growth. They are eager to begin their Bible reading plan, or join that women’s Bible study. This is a great time to open yourself up for a discipleship relationship with a woman from your church or neighborhood. If you are interested in becoming a discipler but fear getting in over your head, invest in some training that will prepare you for this kind of ministry. You can take our intensive discipleship (biblical counselor) training program in person or online. I also highly recommend Ellen Castillo at Word of Hope Ministries for biblical mentorship training.