In order to faithfully carry out the Word component of discipleship, we must first build conviction that:
- The Bible is the true, inerrant and sufficient word of God.
- Gaining biblical knowledge bolsters, not diminishes, our devotion to God.
We must take the Bible and its truths seriously. Healthy Bible study does not involve reading passages out of context and asking, “How does this verse make you feel?” but rather, it involves carefully and prayerfully digesting Scripture and asking, “What is the author trying to communicate? What does this passage say about who God is? What is this verse telling us about what believers should be doing?”
Further, biblically correct doctrine must be taught and protected. As 2 Timothy 4:3 warns us, “For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.” Once you have cultivated an ethos of healthy Bible study habits, the soil is fertile for the Word component of discipleship to thrive.
In our ministry, we approach the Word component by encouraging individuals to take their disciples through a study of fundamental truths of the Bible (which you can access on the Resources page). This theological training helps disciples grow in their understanding of who God is, who man is, and how they should be living for His glory in all areas of life. This training is often one-on-one; Sunday sermons – no matter how well crafted – do not fulfill the Word component of discipleship.
While taking the Word component seriously, resist the temptation to solely focus on theological training when discipling others. Teaching disciples biblical knowledge is an element, not an equivalent, of holistic discipleship.
As fallen people who are selfish, prideful and insecure, it is difficult for us to care for others and let others into our lives. But in order for healthy discipleship to take place, the Relationship component needs to be robust – the walls must come down, the facade set aside, the sin exposed, and the heart made vulnerable. Additionally, we must have the conviction, commitment and courage to speak into the lives of other individuals, no matter how awkward or difficult it might be.
Remember, Jesus loved His disciples and regarded them as friends rather than mere projects to train. We must learn to love our disciples. We must get to know them and care for them in all areas. We should know how they feel about work, what is going on in their marriage, what their hobbies are, etc.
It is often easy for individuals, while they are enjoying fun times and fellowship with their disciple, to neglect accountability. Pressing into difficult areas like sin, sexual purity, marriage, finances, etc. is daunting and requires courage from the Holy Spirit but is absolutely necessary for the Relationship aspect of discipleship to work and for your disciple to grow in Christ.
For many Christians, Ministry is the hardest aspect of discipleship to actualize, especially for larger churches and ministries. To faithfully serve and evangelize is treated as optional or radical, like some sort of Christianity 2.0. When we ask people to take ministry seriously, or live with a missional posture, we are asking them to leave their comfort zone.
Ministry is the external behavior flowing out of the mindset that asks, How can I engage my community – my work, my friends, my neighbors – with the gospel? Missional living is not to be an event but a part of your ministry’s culture. You must build conviction that being on mission should be the DNA of your ministry; serving others and sharing your faith is a lifestyle. When we live missionally, we go from doing stuff to people to neighboring with people.
Where do we begin?
Individually: live outside your house. Connect with coworkers, friends, family members, neighbors and strangers. Serve them and share your faith with them.
Corporately: engage in consistent community outreaches. Think of a need in your community and have small groups, or your whole church body, address that need.
For example, in our ministry we have church members run a “Corner Store” in our community. Because we live in an under-resourced community, we have Corner Store to offset the scarcity of high-need products (like fresh fruits and vegetables, toiletries, and adequate winter clothing) by making them available to our community at greatly reduced prices. We believe that monetary exchange promotes the dignity of the person and helps mitigate the culture of entitlement. In each exchange, we take time to converse with the individual, getting to know them and engaging them with the gospel. Members then follow up with each individual by phone or in person. These consistent community outreaches help foster a culture where missional believers are developed and encouraged.
Ministry must be the ethos of what you are doing, not an additional program.