Panel: Practical Tips on Discipleship
We asked Chuck and Hanniel to share some insight on discipleship. Both have been involved in discipling others and it’s one of their passions to see more men and women involved in helping others grow in their faith. Here are some practical tips they have observed over the past number of years.
Jesus commanded his disciples to make disciples who would observe all the things which Jesus taught them – which includes this command to make disciples (Matt 28:18-20). Paul may have learned this truth from Peter during his 15 days in Jerusalem (Gal 1:8)—he essentially teaches Timothy the same thing.
He says “The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (2 Tim 2:2). So it seems clear that despite the protests of some that discipleship is something only between a believer and His Lord, the Scripture is unambiguous that we are to make disciples. I want to be one of those “faithful men” who disciples others.
Teaching is the foundation
While evangelism is the first and foundational step in making disciples, the bulk of disciple making is teaching. At its core I see this as intentionally bringing someone into my direct sphere of influence, to help them grow toward maturity in Christ. Some have to get beyond the false humility of considering it arrogant for someone to think he is spiritually mature to help others become mature.
When a person shows a child how to tie his or her shoe, it is not arrogant to assume the he has more knowledge and experience in tying one’s shoes than the child. None of us figured it out on our own, someone taught us. Actually, it is quite humbling to share what God has graciously shown you. In fact, it is our responsibility.
The necessity for small group discipling
To be sure, Sunday morning and mid-week meetings provide an abundance of teaching. But nothing beats tailor-made, 1-on-1 or 1-on-a-few discipling. In my ministry, I take the initiative to invite a younger or newer believer to meet with me. Jesus didn’t wait for the disciples to chose Him first, He chose them. We will meet either weekly, bi-weekly or monthly depending on the time availability. And we will agree to study a specific book or resource.
Study resources that can help
I like to use a book or study guide, so that the individual has an example to follow when down the road he has opportunity to disciple someone else. The “Christian Training” (BCT/ICT/ACT) study series by O.J. Gibson provides excellent, in-depth teaching for this purpose. For men with leadership potential, I have used Alexander Strauch’s “Biblical Eldership” and accompanying workbook.
Currently I am meeting with two groups of two men each using the BER (biblicaleldership.com) material. We meet once per month. The men study the workbook chapter and answer all the questions (no small feat), then we meet to discuss and interact with their questions. One group meets at 6:30 a.m. (before work) the fourth Monday of each month. The other group on the 4th Sunday evening of each month.
Memorize, pray, worship and evangelize
In the past I have met with many different individuals once a week for a set period of time. During these sessions, the disciple is encouraged to memorize the Word, pray, worship and evangelize as well as the study the Word. Our time includes general discussion about how our spiritual lives are going. Then we dive into the study material. If a pressing concern arises, we may schedule another time to go deeper in the discussion.
Some discipleship groups focus on evangelism, pastoral ministry or the like, often related to the gifting of the one doing the discipling. Some books and courses are designed to cover “all” the foundational aspects of Christian growth and ministry. For me, the focus has always been on helping people become grounded in the Word so that they not only grow by it, but also become capable of teaching others.
Doctrine is our duty
When it comes to discipleship, one of the challenges you will face is convincing others about the importance of doctrine. Evidently, this was a concern shared by the apostolic church, with Paul exhorting Timothy to continue such teaching in the face of opposition (2 Tim. 4:1-5). The truth of the matter is that sound doctrine – or “healthy teaching” – is the requisite health food for the assembly.
Our bodies become malnourished and infected without healthy eating. Likewise, without doctrine, the assembly weakens and becomes infected by false teaching. In this appeal, I would like to debunk a few popular “myths” about doctrine.
“Doctrine is only for grown-ups”
I was saved through the gospel at 17. That very year, I was discipled in doctrine by men in the assembly as well as in a leadership Bible camp I attended, respectively. I’m all the better for it. Not long after I entered university at 19, an attractive group calling itself Christian tried to recruit me. It turned out they were a cult devoted to the false doctrine of baptismal regeneration. The investment of solid teaching equipped me for the enemy’s approach (1 Pt. 5:8).
“Doctrine is impractical”
These days, devotional ministry is often preferred to doctrine because the former is considered by many to be more “practical”. Consider the apostle Paul’s model: in his epistles, he always began with the doctrine and then segued into its practice. Before I ever dreamed of turning on the ignition to my parents’ car as a teen, they insisted I learn the rules of the road first. Such should be the believer’s approach to God’s Word.
“Doctrine is boring”
One of the aversions to doctrine is its relative complexity. Granted, one would expect that teaching on such a rich organism as the church would be a bit challenging! This is why it is important to go beyond the pulpit with teaching. Whether one-on-one or in small groups, I would submit that Bible studies allow for vital interaction in a way that 40-minute Sunday sermons may not. The venue can be as diverse as the chapel on a weeknight, at a home or even in a coffee shop!