Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Seven Functions of a Discipler - Part I

In a previous post I listed seven functions of a discipler in the life of a disciple. I thought the list was self-explanatory even though it was not exhaustive.

However, Larri @ Seams Inspired left this wonderful comment:

Wow...that quite a list to live up to as a discipler. Thanks for sharing.

Are you going to write a post for each particular point on the list with its
 scriptural reference?  Just curious to where you found all of them. :o)

I had not thought of developing this into a series but her question kept nagging at me? Had I left something undone or incomplete? Is there any value of a series here. Since I like to be thorough and complete, I have decided to develop each point over the next seven weeks and hope to offer something beneficial.

"...what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also." (II Timothy 2:2)

Proposition:  Discipling is the effective means to mature growing Christians in order to be obedient to the great commission. This is the only plan for church growth in the Scriptures.

1.  Disciplers are crucial in the development of a growing Christian

Let's look first at the commission or charge that Jesus gave to the church just prior to ascending back into heaven:

"All authority (εξουσια ex-oo-see’-ah) in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you." (Matthew 28:18-20a, ESV)

This εξουσια is that ability that contains the power of choice, or the liberty of doing as one pleases. This is the ability or strength with which one is endued, which he either possesses or exercises. Within this power or authority is the power of authority (influence) and of right (privilege.) In other words Jesus Christ as the head of His church is in charge. We must recognize His leadership. As Christians we exist for His glory and we exist for His purposes.

In this passage, Jesus has given to the church, which is made up of many, yet different parts or disciples, the commission, or the charge that as we are going to make disciples of all the nations. 

Let me say as a sidebar, that many people think this is a commission given to only a few selected people who are trained in bible college or seminary. This command, this job if you will is given to every disciple. It is the job of every believer to make disciples. The job of the leadership of every true New Testament church is to equip and train every person to make disciples.

Secondly, notice that this is not a command to make decisions or converts. This is a command for all believers to be busy making disciples. Now granted before one can develop and make a disciple, one must have a convert. The average church and Christian have the tendency to stop right there. They assist in the birth of a spiritual infant and then like a mid-wife they walk away. If the new infant is fortunate at all they are turned over to the morning worship service and left to grow or die.

The discipleship process that Jesus developed, modeled, and delivered to the church is His plan to reach the world with the gospel of redemption. If you look at John 17:3-4 carefully shows that Jesus is sharing with His father than He completed the development and discipling of His twelve disciples.

We can focus on the message of the cross all we want but if we forget about the process that a discipler plays in the life of a new disciple then these new disciples are not completed or trained. If Jesus didn't train and develop the 12 until they could train other disciples the gospel message would have died out. No one would have heard the message after the disciples were all dead.

Let's think this through shall we? How important is a discipler in the development of a disciple? What are the other tools that someone can point to? First, there was the Old Testament and even some New Testament Scriptures available. Second, the Holy Spirit had been given as promised. Is that enough? Think about it before you answer. The Word and the Holy Spirit - can they reach the world?

If that was all that was necessary why did Jesus give the command to make disciples of all the nations? Why did Paul give the instructions to reliable men who could in turn teach other men. It is simple. Included in God's plan to reach the world mature believers play a part in the development of new believers.

Discipleship is more than just telling someone about the good news. Discipleship is teaching people to obey all the commands that Jesus gave us. There is no plan B! Jesus did not give any other instructions or directions. 

Jim Putman in His book real-life discipleship (sic) made this tragic observation:

"Too often our idea of being on a mission with God is inviting our unbelieving friends and family to church so the pastor can convince them to accept Christ. If we believe that these new converts should be taught at all, we certainly don't think we are qualified to teach them. We have no idea that conversion is just the beginning of a spiritual growth process and that what comes next - discipleship - will determine if a person matures spiritually to a stage where that disciple experiences real change that others will notice. ."

The reason that disciplers are crucial in the development of a growing Christian is discipleship requires real teaching and real learning. It takes conversation, modeling, encouraging, debriefing, and practice for a new convert to develop into a mature believer.

Even after infants are birthed they do not develop mentally and sometimes physically without the help of parents. Whether those parents are surrogate or natural, they are needed. When there is no model there is no opportunity to follow. Disciplers are given by God to provide such a model that creates support, accountability, relationship, and what ever is missing or needed.

So, my first point comes from the example of both Jesus and Paul. Jesus preached to thousands, he healed hundreds, and he even raised a few from the dead. Jesus spent three years intimately teaching, training and developing 12 men. Even one of them failed the course.

Paul told Timothy to train men who had the ability to train other men. Disciplers are crucial to the development of growing Christians. My scripture is Matthew 28,:18-20, II Timothy 2:2, John 17:3-4, Romans 12:3-8, I Corinthians 12:12-26, Hebrews 5:12, Acts 11:26)

1 jim putman, real-life discipleship, (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2010, p.22)


welcome to my world of poetry said...

Great to read Gregg, there are many issues here that can be written in depth.

Have a good day.

Larri @ Seams Inspired said...

Excellent. ☺

I wonder if the fear of discipling others (the "I'm not good enough / I don't know enough" fear) is in part due to spiritual warfare. My biggest fear is misinterpreting scripture and passing those misinterpretations onto someone my kids.

Thanks for the post! I look forward to your Discipleship Series. Happy Wednesday! ☺

Michael Wright said...

"notice that this is not a command to make decisions or converts. This is a command for all believers to be busy making disciples."

That's a needed reminder. Most are busy "making decisions for Jesus!" instead of working for real conversions. Thanks for expanding on this subject I look forward to the rest of the series.

li said...

It's my belief that modeling is one of the most important aspects of trying to teach/guide others. Thanks for including the scriptural references at the end.

Sharon said...

This was great, Gregg. I think it's vital that we realize the responsibility we have to others - to provide an example and to invest our time in discipling. And that is one thing that Jesus did (and continues to do) - He spends TIME with His disciples. We must be willing to do the same with others.

I pray that God teaches me how to disciple those people in my life that are newer to the faith than I am. I certainly don't have the answers, but I sure know Someone who does!


Penned Pebbles said...

Great series! "notice that this is not a command to make decisions or converts. This is a command for all believers to be busy making disciples." Amen! Now I go pray for courage...