Last month I gave a few thoughts as to what a mature disciple of Jesus Christ should look like in practice. Jesus gave His church the commission to ‘Go and make disciples…’ That is the purpose of the Church—to proclaim the gospel throughout the world and call people to respond in repentance and faith so that they bring glory to God. The process of making disciples involves ‘baptism’ (a public witness that a person has made a commitment to follow Jesus) and ‘instruction’ (teaching people the Word of God). Growing in maturity as a disciple of Jesus is a lifelong process which involves both us and God at work together. As I said last time, “Above all, a disciple is someone who is on a learning journey – committed to becoming more like Jesus in character and action. They have a dedication to developing spiritual practices which assist in facilitating the transforming environment in which the Holy Spirit works. They also have a humble dependence upon the transforming work of the indwelling Spirit of God recognising that ultimately discipleship is a work of grace. In other words, both God and the believer contribute to the discipleship process.”
Today I want to briefly outline what I see are the 4 stages of the discipleship process:
Come and See (Meeting Jesus)
This stage focuses on pre-evangelism. It is the process of building relationships with the unchurched in order to introduce them to Jesus. We see examples of this in passages such as John 1:43-46; John 4:28-30. Some ministries of the church that most commonly fall into this area are: Playgroup, Youth Groups, Soccer Club, Friendship Club, and the Card-making group.
Come and Follow (Committing to Jesus)
At this stage you are looking to present the gospel and invite people to respond in repentance and faith. We find numerous passages in Scripture describing this, especially through Acts— e.g. Acts 8:26-38; Acts 16:11-15; Acts 17:22-34. Resources that are ideal for this stage are things like: ‘Introducing God’ course; Jesus the Game-Changer DVD; One-to-One Gospel sharing using a tool such as 2 Ways to Live; Christianity Explained/Explored; Just For Starters; etc.
Come and Be With/Remain in (Becoming Like Jesus)
This stage focuses on the intentional establishing, training and equipping in matters of faith. Jesus called his first disciples to come and be with him for a period of around 3 1/2 years. During this time he taught them and gave them opportunities to minister. Christian service forms an integral part of this process. Ministries in the Church that commonly fall into this area are: Home Groups; Bible Study Groups; Sunday Services; Prayer groups; etc. Key strategic programs could also include: specific ministry training; one-to-one Bible reading; accountability groups; teaching conferences/seminars on Christian doctrine; Ministry Grid training resource; Third Monday Night talks; etc.
Go and make disciples (Helping others to Meet, Commit to, and become like Jesus)
This stage involves the intentional mentoring of others. At this stage you are looking to intentionally invest in the lives of others with the set purpose of modelling a faith that is committed to multiplication. This area could include such things as mini-internships; one-to-one Bible reading and prayer; evangelism and/or apologetics training; etc.
One thing to keep in mind is that these stages are not necessarily distinct in and of themselves—there can be quite a bit of overlap in some areas. What I have endeavoured to do is point out the general development process that takes place in growing as a disciple of Jesus.
Hopefully this is some food for thought and perhaps the basis for some further fruitful conversations.