Disciple Making Plan: What a Plan Should Look Like

Introduction

For any ministry to make disciples, it must develop a vision, determine values, develop a solid perspective, incorporate the methods to the process, and track the success of the plan. Churches and ministries who are not ultimately pointing its mission and vision to discipleship is not following Christ’s intentions of The Great Commission. Jesus’ command is that we are to preach and teach the gospel to everyone, make disciples of all nations, to be witnesses in Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the earth.[1] This paper will discuss how to start and measure the process of Discipleship and its success.

The vision of my ministry originally started out evangelizing to the lost who I ran across or God opened divine appointments with, through the corporate marketplace. Once these people came to Christ, I would refer them to a local church to be discipled. Unfortunately, not every new believer that I referred was ever discipled, which defeated the purpose of the referral. Therefore, this new plan will incorporate how my ministry will function as not only a marketplace evangelist, but as a disciple maker.

Vision

Within my marketplace evangelism ministry, my vision was to take the gospel into the corporate world and lead others to Christ. Although this has worked well in people coming to Christ, my vision was very narrow and did not encompass the discipleship of the new convert. I failed in making sure that those new converts were being discipled. Many times, I would refer the new convert to a local body, but follow through was not attempted by the local pastor since he was not involved in the conversion. I cannot let this occur again, therefore, my new vision is to continue to share the gospel in the marketplace as well as disciple the people come to Christ. If they live locally, I will disciple them to the point that they will start to do the same thing that I am doing. In other words, I will make disciples who make disciples. This vision must be based on biblical principles. According to Jim Putman, Bobby Harrington, and Robert E. Coleman, “As a team, develop the biblical vision for your church.”[2]

As a team, the process of developing a vision will take some time and should be based on the Word of God. Our vision must really be God’s vision. In Matthew 28:19, Jesus said that we are to go and make disciples in all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. This is God’s vision and we must incorporate it as our own. Although leading people to Christ is paramount, we take the responsibility to disciple them so that they will grow in the Word. We must stay engaged with them to get from the conversion experience to the next phase of becoming a disciple of Jesus. As they mature as followers of Christ, then they themselves can start to teach new converts how to live a life of Christ. If we are to reach the world, then we must reach the total person to unlock his or her kingdom potential.[3] Aubrey Malphurs states, “A leader’s style reveals how he or she uses relational behaviors to influence followers to accomplish the ministry of God’s given mission (paraphrased).”[4] It is through this relationship that we can influence disciples so that they will grow in God’s Word, developing their spiritual gifts, and maturing.

The leader of the ministry must be a shepherd and is key in how the ministry moves into its vision. This is to be done through prayer and needs to be in line with God’s vision. According to Putman et al., “As a team, we must develop a plan that works and then enlarge it.”[5]

The vision of our ministry is to win the lost to Christ, teach them to become disciple makers, and send them out into the world to reproduce so that they will make disciples who make disciples. Implementing this new vision when the ministry is new will be easier as opposed attempting to implement if the ministry has been in business for years.

Values

Our core values are based on fulfilling The Great Commission through evangelism and discipleship. We base this on Matthew 28:19 and Acts 1:8; Luke 14:26-28; Luke 14:33; John 8:31-32; John 13:35; John 15:5, 7-8; and Acts 13:52. Our values are based on biblical commandments and the understanding that we are here to worship God as well as make ourselves available for God’s vision and glory. We cannot fulfill The Great Commission without first knowing the Savior of the world, Jesus Christ. Luke 14:6 states that we are to have a love of Christ, so radical, that any other love in comparison feels like hatred for others. Having a personal relationship with Jesus means that we must give up everything so that our will can be surrendered to God (Lk. 14:27). There is a cost of surrender and following God’s plan means that it may even cost us our lives (Lk. 14:28, 33). By staying in God’s Word, our hearts can be transformed into a life like Christ (John 8:31-32). In addition, faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God (Paraphrased Rm. 10:17). If we truly are His disciples, then we are to love one another (Jn. 13:35). If we abide in Christ, we will know and ask for His will, so that fruit will be produced, and God will be glorified.[6]  Following Christ will lead us to being filled with joy and the Holy Spirit, which will produce the fruit of the Spirit (Acts 13:52).

Following these prescribed Scriptures lead us to determine our core values which are to become disciples by living our lives like Christ, studying God’s Word, and relying on the Holy Spirit to transform us. Through our worship of God, we will live our lives in community with others, living Christ’s love, servant leadership, modeling, and in relational mentorship. Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote, “The Christian community thus lives its own life in the midst of the world, continually bearing witness in all it is and does that ‘the present form of this world is passing away’ (1 Cor. 7:31), that time has come short 1 Cor. 7:23), and that the Lord is near (Phil. 4:5).”[7] We must live out our faith in the world to make a difference for Christ’s gospel and this can only be done through multiplication in an exponentially expanding world population. Fulfilling The Great Commission means that we all must have transformed hearts, be willing to give up everything, love Him with radical love, and follow Him by living and breathing Christ day in and day out. Our love for Christ must be so scandalous in contrast to any love, it would be hatred for the other. The way to change the world is to love the lost, pray for them, share the gospel with the neighbors across the street, and throughout our region, and invest in those new believers by living and having a relationship with them through discipleship.

Views

Our most important ministry perspectives are evangelism and discipleship. We cannot have one without the other. The problem we had with our previous mission statement was that we only did evangelism, led others to Christ, and then tried to hand them off to other ministries who were not invested in our vision. We concluded that we had to continue the relationship with these new followers of Jesus Christ because if we did not, they may never mature in their walk with Christ. I remember one young lady accepted the Lord but never got connected with a local church body and ultimately fell back into sin, living and sleeping with her boyfriend. I believe that she wanted to change, but did not have another woman mentoring her in her walk with Christ. I went as far as calling this young lady’s sister as well as the sister’s pastor. It became evident that the pastor was not going to reach out or call this new Christian and attempt to get involved in her life. I have since come across this baby Christian who is still living in sin with her boyfriend. I somewhat feel as if I failed her by not being able to find a woman to disciple her. I never want this to happen again. Therefore, we are implementing discipleship as well. When I first started this ministry, I felt that God was calling me into evangelism, but it has become evident that I am being called into a more pastoral role with the focus of discipleship. I can no longer leave a new follower of Christ wondering, “What’s next?” Therefore, our ministry has taken a paradigm shift towards discipleship so that we can make disciples and teach them to lead others to Christ and then make disciples.

Dave Earley wrote about Thom Rainer and how Rainer shared conversations from people from other religions, who had converted to Christianity. According to Earley, Rainer states “that they all had one thing in common. They had all been actively loved to Jesus.”[8] We cannot argue people into the faith, but we are called to love our neighbor. The best way to love our neighbor is to start an intentional relationship with them. We need to get to know them so that we can live our lives by investing in their lives. New Christians need a mentor to help them figure out what is next for them in their new walk with the Lord. According to Earley, “Relationships can be understood as bank accounts. Every positive interaction makes a deposit in that account while every negative encounter results in a withdrawal. We influence people most easily when there is a positive balance in the relational account.”[9]

Jesus gave us two commandments and a commission. The first is called The Great Commandment taken from Matthew 22:36-40. We are to love God and love people. Jesus also gave The New Commandment taken from John 13:34, which we are to love one another. By loving one another, this provides proof that we are his disciples and are loving other disciples. Jesus then gave The Great Commission taken from Matthew 28:19-20, to make disciples in all nations. We are to baptize the new believers by immersion, teach them to observe and obey as well as be an example to them. Then we are to teach them Christ’s promise that he will be with us.[10]

Some key terms which drive our ministry are Evangelism, Discipleship, Leadership, Gospel, Saints, and Pastor. Each of these terms are equally important in our focus on delivering the gospel as well as discipling the new convert.

In defining these terms, evangelism means that we are to take the gospel not only across the world but to the family across the street. It means that we are to live our lives for Christ and attempt to be like Christ in all our daily activities. People must come to Christ, repent, and have a heart transformation before we can disciple them. The next term is discipleship, which means being trained and mentored for the gospel. To be trained, one must have a disciple maker, who will teach the Word as well as live life among the new disciples. Disciple makers help the immature in Christ to become mature. The disciple makers main goal is to multiply the disciples who make disciples. The next term is the gospel, which is the “Good News” of Jesus, His death, and resurrection. Good Christian leadership is needed for the group to grow and remain focused on the vision and mission. A good leader may also be known as a pastor or shepherd. The last term is saints, which are the body of Christ.

“If we go back to the early church, we will see that there was a continual devotion to the Apostles teachings. The body would meet in house churches. They would pray for each other, break bread, fellowship, and worship and praise God. The Apostles would equip the saints by teaching all that Jesus had taught them. It was each member’s responsibility to grow in knowledge of who Jesus was and discover what their individual gifts were. The goal was to proclaim Christ, admonish every man, teach every man, present every man, and be complete in Christ.”[11]

Dave Earley wrote, “People who are saved are then sent to tell others the good news about Jesus. So the process is an ongoing cycle: We are saved. Then we are sent to tell others how to be saved. In other words, if we are saved, we are missionaries. We must go and tell others.”[12]

Vehicles

The vehicles which will drive the discipleship process will be to keep it simple. Since the ministry is currently comprised of my wife and I, there are no boards to approve any new changes. The ministry is currently funded through my business, which is the platform in which we operate. We do employ one Christian Customer Service Representative who has embraced the vision of our ministry and I would consider a mature Christian disciple maker.

Organization Structure

The ministry is currently a 501(c)(3) and is operating under a different name. We are in process changing our legal documents and will be known as Marketplace Evangelistic Ministries. Once changed, we will bring on at least two other advisory board members for accountability.

Our organization is structured more like an organic ministry such as from the early church. Although we have no church building, we closely match Neil Cole’s Church 3.0 where our growth will be based on multiplication. Our ministry setting is in the marketplace and education will occur within our discipleship group. Our goal is to train others in discipleship so that we can send disciple makers out into the world to win souls for Christ and then disciple them into maturity.[13]

According to Dempsey, “The church location is incarnational and lived out in the community. The evangelism is done by relational missional groups. Discipleship is mainly conducted in small groups with a focus on learning and mentoring. Intentional mentoring is the process within the community. What drives the ministry is discipleship and missional living. Worship is through the people in the community. Since we have no ordained pastor, the discipleship leader is the equipper and the teacher. Our training is to teach us how to lead missional groups.”[14]

Small Group Philosophy

We have embraced the organic small relational group philosophy as presented by Earley and Dempsey as well as Putman et al. As we start to recruit and set up a small group, we will make it clear as to the spiritual reason for the group. Robert Coleman wrote,

“A group needs to know what it exists for. If not, it will probably wander aimlessly, which leads to frustration. A group in some measure will involve a component of discipleship, even if it’s just at a relational level of getting acquainted. There has to be a sense of mutuality, or else you don’t have a group. That relationship is the glue that holds it together.”[15]

Within the small relational group, we will follow Coleman’s suggestion to pray for one another as well as commit to pray privately at least thirty minutes each day. We will also read at least two chapters of the Bible each day starting with the Gospels. We will attempt to memorize at least two verses each week. Following these instructions will help each of us develop a spiritual lifestyle individually as well as a group. To hold each other accountable, we will meet at least once every two weeks.[16] Of course, the group must be Spirit-led to endure the spiritual warfare that will ultimately ensue as we set out to make a difference for Christ.

According to Dave Earley, there are five components of a discipleship group. The five components are Welcome, Worship, Word, Works, and Witness. When we start our group, we will open the group with a welcome. We will focus on one another through mingling in a social context. After about fifteen minutes, we will begin worship through prayer, thanksgiving, and praise. After about fifteen minutes of worship, we will get into God’s Word which will be a discussion-oriented Bible study with an emphasis on application. This will last about thirty minutes. Works will be the next topic of discussion. Where and how they will apply the Word of God to their own ministry in the coming week will be discussed. We will also focus on accountability. The last part of the group session will be witness, taking time to pray for the lost by name. We will also focus on strategic plans of evangelism. Our goal is to have everyone praying for lost persons each day and asking God to give us Divine appointments to witness for Him.[17] Like Dempsey wrote, “Our leadership philosophy is to equip the disciple makers so that they can develop people to reach their full potential.”[18]

We must also pray for one another. According to Dave Earley, “If you want to maximize your impact, prioritize your prayer life. Prayer is the most important task of the spiritual leader. Prayer provides insight. Prayer is our greatest spiritual weapon.”[19] Henry Blackaby states, “More than any other single thing leaders do, it is their prayer life that will determine effectiveness.”[20] One last emphasis on prayer is what S.D. Gordon wrote, “Prayer must be in Jesus’ name. The relationship of prayer is through Jesus. And the prayer itself must be offered in His name, because the whole strength of the case lies in Jesus.”[21] Not only are we to pray for one another, but we are to teach our mentees to pray.

Calendar and Events

Our calendar to implement this new plan will start immediately. We will set up a small group to start the first Tuesday night in June 2018. Our initial group will consist of one other couple and will meet in our home. We will meet twice a month initially. As our group starts to grow, then we will set other events up to get to know new people.

Budget Personnel

Our budget will be determined by the need. Since my for-profit business will be initially funding the organization, there is no need to be concerned about funding at this time. Once the new 501(c)(3) has been changed and converted to the new name, then we can start to solicit for donations. All personnel will be volunteers and neither my wife nor I will accept a salary.

Curriculum

The curriculum will be Bible study based. We will utilize the following textbooks: Share Jesus Without Fear authored by William Fay; Share Jesus Without Fear New Testament Bible; DiscipleShift: Five Steps That Help Your Church to Make Disciples Who Make Disciples authored by Jim Putman, Bobby Harrington, and Robert E. Coleman, Disciple Making Is…: How to Live the Great Commission with Passion and Confidence authored Dave Earley and Rod Dempsey; Evangelism Is…: How to Share Jesus with Passion and Confidence authored by Dave Earley and David Wheeler; and the Holy Bible.

Communication Plans

Our communication plans will be to send out announcements to our local church body, looking for people who are Christians who want to learn how to share their faith and then become mentors to those who they lead to Christ. We will also reach out to corporate Christians as well since this ministry is founded on marketplace evangelism. We are looking for a niche group that will be willing to do this ministry within the confines of corporate America, becoming marketplace evangelists and disciple makers.

Verifiers

Verifiers are confirmations of ministry success as well as indications of a calling. Verifiers are alignments to Scripture. If the ministry is aligned to God’s Word, then it will be successful and will be ordained by God. If it is not in alignment with Scripture, then it most likely is not God’s will to pursue it. The ministry must be matched to the purpose of making disciples. According to Putman et al., “There are five key components for alignment which are: a clear goal of discipleship, an intentional leader who makes disciples, a biblically relational environment, a reproducible process, and a supporting organization.”[22] If the ministry has these five components, then it will be in alignment with Scripture.

Win/Grow/Send

Win/Grow/Send is an excellent way to recruit people to become disciples who make disciples. According to Dave Earley, there are three stages to this process. The first is Stage One, Help Seekers Become Believers. In this stage, the disciple maker is utilizing evangelism to witness to the lost and helping them come to Christ. Once the new believer accepts Christ as his or her savior, then the disciple maker is ready to move them into Stage Two. Stage Two is Help Believers Become Disciples. The disciple maker is developing the new believer by praying for them. The disciple maker, who will be referred to as the leader from this point forward, will invest time in the disciple. The leader will instruct the disciple and discuss Jesus’ commands. The leader will get the new disciple into a small relational group so that he or she may be encouraged by other disciples. Inspiring the new disciple will encourage them to take the next step into discipleship ministry. This will lead into the Third Step of Help Disciples Become Disciple Makers. The leader will train as well as build a relationship with the new disciple maker by interceding for him or her in their daily activities. The leader will involve them in on the job training, so that they can go out on their own and lead others to Christ and then disciple their own new converts. All three stages are known as Win-Grow-Send.[23] This is the exact model we plan on using within my own ministry context. When our group starts producing other disciples, that is when I know that I was successful in multiplying myself in ministry.

Conclusion

In conclusion, we have discussed the five processes of making disciples. First, we must have a vision. Next, we must determine what our values will be? The third process are our views on ministry. Fourthly are the vehicles in which we start our ministry. The fifth and final step is the measurement of success. We must determine our verifiers.

Our ministry will be based on an organic church model. Although we are not a church ministry, we are a ministry of the body of Christ. By conducting ourselves like that of the early church, I believe that we can be more successful in winning more souls for Christ as well as taking on the responsibility of discipling new believers. In our previous encounters, once the lost came to Christ, we would refer them to a local body. Many times, the new convert either may not follow through with attending a local church or the pastor of the local church did not follow through on the referral. Since leading someone to Christ, I personally feel that it is our responsibility to continue the relationship and mentor the new convert in discipleship, unless they do not live in my area.

Teaching new believers how to live a life of Christ is paramount in retaining them in their new-found faith. This will be done through a relational small group platform of at least four people with a maximum of ten people. The intent of the small group is to share life together and building an intentional discipleship relationship with them. The small group could be considered a house church because the Word of God will be shared and new believers trained in the ways of Christ. The Bible will be the reference guide to Christian living.

My wife would need to be involved if the new convert were a woman as I want to make sure that there would be no chance of inappropriate situations occurring. My preferable group would be all men, but I have come to realize that women who come to Christ may not engage in the faith without the proper assistance from another woman.

As the small relational group grows in maturity, then we will utilize the Win, Grow, Send method. When the disciple is ready, we will send them out to reproduce themselves. He or she will start their own small relational group and we will be their spiritual parents, in that we can supervise them in their new ministry. The goal is to create new community and multiply new leaders and new groups. We want to make Great Commission Leaders who will lead evangelism teams, which can ultimately lead to church planting. I have not ruled out the possibility that God may be utilizing me as a catalyst to start a church plant with those that come to Christ under my ministry. Certainly, I can see that if my wife and I were involved in the harvest and the conversions to Christ, then we must not allow a new convert to fall backwards because they did not engage in a local body of Christ. Regardless of the failure of the receiving pastor for not engaging the new convert, I feel it is my responsibility to continue the relationship with each new convert, so that they will be discipled and taught how to live the life of Christ.

The measurement of ministry success will be determined in how many new converts are discipled and how many new groups are formed. The initial goal is to reproduce myself at least one time. If reproduction occurs, then I will have been successful, as no one knows what the power of one can accomplish when multiplication occurs?

Bibliography

Blackaby, Henry, and Richard Blackaby. Spiritual Leadership. Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2001.

Bonhoeffer, Dietrich. Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works, Volume 4. Minneapolis, MN: First Fortress Press, 2003.

Earley, Dave. Prayer: The Timeless Secret of High-Impact Leaders. Chattanooga, TN: Living Ink Books, 2008.

Earley, Dave, and David Wheeler. Evangelism Is…: How to Share Jesus with Passion and Confidence. Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2010.

Earley, Dave, and Rod Dempsey. Disciple Making Is… How to Live the Great Commission with Passion and Confidence. Nashville, TN: B&H Academic, 2013.

Gordon, S D. Quiet Talks on Prayer. Shippensburg, PA: Destiny Image Publishers, 2003.

Liberty University DSMN 500. Lecture Notes: Discipleship Passages and Conclusions. Lynchburg, VA: Liberty University, 2018.

—. Lecture Notes: What is a Disciple? Lynchburg, VA: Liberty University, 2018.

Malphurs, Aubrey. Being Leaders: The Nature of Authentic Christian Leadership. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Publishing Group, 2003.

Putman, Jim, Bobby Harrington, and Robert E Coleman. Disciple Shift: Five Steps That Help Your Church to Make Disciples Who Make Disciples. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2013.

Notes:

[1] Jim Putman, Bobby Harrington, and Robert E. Coleman, DiscipleShift: Five Steps That Help Your Church to Make Disciples Who Make Disciples (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2013), 228.

[2] Ibid., 216.

[3] DSMN 500, Lecture Notes: What is a Disciple? (Lynchburg, VA: Liberty University, 2018), 1.

[4] Aubrey Malphurs, Being Leaders: The Nature of Authentic Christian Leadership (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2003), 93.

[5] Putman, DiscipleShift, 220.

[6] DSMN 500, Lecture Notes: What is a Disciple?, 2018, 3.

[7] Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works, Volume 4: Discipleship (Minneapolis, MN: First Fortress Press, 2003), 250.

[8] Dave Earley and Rod Dempsey, Disciple Making Is…: How to Live the Great Commission with Passion and Confidence (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2013), 138.

[9] Earley and Dempsey, Disciple Making Is, 149.

[10] DSMN 500, Lecture Notes: Discipleship Passages and Conclusions (Lynchburg, VA: Liberty University, 2018), 1.

[11] DSMN, Lecture Notes: Discipleship Passages and Conclusion, 1-2.

[12] Dave Earley and David Wheeler, Evangelism Is…: How to Share Jesus with Passion and Confidence (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2010), 107.

[13] Earley and Dempsey, Disciple Making Is, 276-277.

[14] Earley and Dempsey, Disciple Making Is, 236-237.

[15] Putman, DiscipleShift, 185.

[16] Putman, DiscipleShift,185.

[17] Earley and Dempsey, Disciple Making Is, 150-151.

[18] Earley and Dempsey, Disciple Making Is, 237.

[19] Dave Earley, Prayer: The Timeless Secret of High-Impact Leaders (Chattanooga, TN: Living Ink Books, 2008), 1-11.

[20] Henry and Richard Blackaby, Spiritual Leadership (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2001), 151.

[21] S.D. Gordon, Quiet Talks on Prayer (Shippensburg, PA: Destiny Image Publishers, Inc., 2003), 113.

[22] Putman, DiscipleShift, 177-178.

[23] Earley and Dempsey, Disciple Making Is, 129.

Joseph T. Lee, Copyright © May 28, 2018, The Lantern & Shield Times LLC. All Rights Reserved.

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Philosophy of Small Groups

Introduction

Small relational groups are essential in making disciples for the health of the body of Christ through authentic and genuine lifestyles of the disciple-maker. The sharing of life and modeling will help to define the philosophy of the relational group, which in turn will encourage the disciples to missions within the local, national, and international community.

My Philosophy of Small Groups in a Church or Ministry Organization

My philosophy of small groups within a church or ministry organization is constantly being developed. I can see the need for small groups, since the leader can maintain more control over the group as well as keep it on track as to its ultimate destination. A small group is more intimate and the members can get to know each other much better. It is through relationships where the group will become much stronger so they can forge ahead and accomplish the goal of the group. For instance, I plan on starting a “Share Jesus Without Fear” group, to teach others how to share their faith and evangelize. The goal of the group will be evangelism which will lead to discipleship. Having a small group will make it easier to stay in control as well as teach and help those who may not be grasping the material well.  A larger group would not afford the intimacy of a small group.

The Importance of the Relational Group in Authentic Disciple Making

Disciple makers leading small groups must intentionally pursue a relationship with their disciple mentees through genuine and authentic interactions. According to Jim Putman, Bobby Harrington, and Robert E. Coleman, “Jesus himself made disciples using a variety of methods and activities, yet his goal was always discipleship.”[1] For relationships to occur, the leader must be willing to be open in his or her small group. Sharing life together is important, but they must also allow others to see their humanness as well. For instance, pastors and disciple makers are not perfect. They have problems as well as sin in their own lives. By being open and honest with one another, this can forge a true and open relationship so that the group members can pray for one another. Putman et al. wrote, “We believe in the priesthood of every believer, and we want to get people into the game.”[2] Since every believer is called to be a minister to others, then members of the small relational group can certainly minister to their own leader by praying and showing love to one another.

Putman et al. states “Making disciples in biblical relational contexts can work well to reach the world for Jesus, one person at a time. The relational small group forms the backbone for discipleship.”[3] A small group must have a defining purpose so that it can stay on course with its vision and goal. If the group’s purpose leads back to making disciples, then it is on target to succeed. Putman et al. wrote, “A biblically based, disciple-making small group involves three components. It’s (1) a place where shepherding takes place, (2) a place where real teaching takes place with Q&A, modeling, and stories, and (3) a place where authenticity and accountability are encountered and modeled.”[4]  Taking these steps can lead to a healthy small relational group which will strengthen the body of Christ.

Missional Groups Can Help the Body of Christ Move into the Community

Missional groups can help the body of Christ move into the community. As mentioned previously, there must be a purpose and a vision to stay on track. Rod Dempsey wrote,

‘In the Great Commission, the command to ‘make disciples’ is clear. In the final instructions from Jesus to His disciples, we have some clues about how to go about making disciples regardless of the model. We must be going. We must be going to all nations. We must be preaching the gospel. We must die to self and be witnesses (martyrs) for Christ. We must be going and making disciples, which includes baptizing and teaching them to observe (obey) everything that Christ commanded. We must wait on the Spirit of promise to go with us.’[5]

I found Dempsey interesting when he wrote about Neil Cole’s book, Church 3.0. Dempsey wrote,

“Neil Cole in his book Church 3.0 argues that historically, the church has had three operating systems. The first system was organic and functioned around the idea of a people movement. The second system rejected this system and morphed into a professional clergy-driven model. The third operating system is a return to the family/body operating system where every person is important to the health of the church.”[6]

What I found interesting was that church as we know today (Church 2.0) has been conducting itself as a place where people have gone for the last 1700 years. Cole asserts that in Church 2.0. the ministry setting is at the meeting place, which is a church building. The new emerging church is Church 3.0 in which the ministry setting is in the marketplace. In other words, instead of teaching disciples to disciple within the confines of the church physical building walls, Church 3.0 is sending disciples into the community and the world to evangelize and make disciples. I truly believe that is what Christ truly meant when he stated that we were to take the gospel to Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the utmost parts of the world (Acts 1:8). The church posture is that we all go. We all minister since we all as believers are called into priesthood.[7] Another interesting comparison is that growth in our current Church 2.0 is based on addition where in 3.0, it is based on multiplication.[8] Dempsey wrote, “Missions: people are encouraged to live as missionaries and go across the street and across the world.”[9]

My Status of Living in the Community

My status of living in the community identifies more with Church 3.0. I have started a ministry called Marketplace Evangelism Ministries, which focuses on taking the gospel into the workplace through evangelism. I share my faith with corporate business owners. If they come to Christ, then I take them on as disciples to teach them how to share the gospel with others and ultimately, they start to make disciples. Many times, my activity leads me to others in the marketplace who may not be business owners, but employees who want a true relationship with Jesus Christ. I will never turn down an opportunity to witness, but my focus is to stay within the confines of the marketplace to stay on track with the vision of the ministry.

Being Missional in the Community

Within my own community, I can be missional by living my life as a man of God, by praying for those I meet, helping when I see a need to help, and when people come to Christ, encouraging them to live a life of Christ as well as taking them on as a disciple of Christ. Don N. Howell wrote, “Jesus referred to himself as the Son of man who walks among people offering redemption to lost sinners, proclaiming God’s inaugural rule, and experiencing loss, persecution, and betrayal.”[10] Living my life as a follower of Jesus Christ and intentionally investing in the lives of others through relational discipleship can make a difference for the cause of Christ. As Christ lived among the people, we all should be living among the people and testifying and sharing our faith. Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote, “The Christian community thus lives its own life in the midst of this world, continually bearing witness in all it is and does that ‘the present form of this world is passing away’ (1 Cor. 7:31), that time has come short (1 Cor. 7:23), and that the Lord is near (Phil. 4:5).”[11] As Bonhoeffer asserts, we must be living our life in the world in order for the world to be changed. The time is short and the second coming of Christ is near. According to Dave Earley, “A Christian missionary is a person with the mission of positively impacting others with the life-changing message of Jesus Christ.”[12] Therefore it is so important that every believer live their life as ministers of the gospel and missionaries. The only way to do this is that everyone must become engaged in taking the gospel across the street and ultimately across the world.

Conclusion

In conclusion, we are all called into priesthood as followers of Jesus Christ. This is accomplished by training all church members to be missionaries for the cause of Christ. This can be done by developing small relational groups with the ultimate focus of discipleship. The group can be whatever, as long as it leads to discipleship. As mentioned previously, “A biblically based, disciple-making small group involves three components. It is a place where shepherding takes place, a place where real teaching takes place with Q&A, modeling, and stories, and a place where authenticity and accountability are encountered and modeled.”[13]

By implementing these types of groups, it can lead to these newly trained disciples to take the gospel out into the community to minister to neighbors, as well as their local community. These new disciples can then start their own ministries and multiply by making disciples who in turn make disciples. By training new followers of Christ to be missional, then they can take the church into the marketplace to evangelize and make disciples. As Cole asserts, we must all become engaged in the business of ministering to each other as well as in the harvest fields of our communities. Dempsey states to see life transformations, we must follow Colossians 1:28, “We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ. Our goal as Christian leaders is to help every individual stand before the King of kings and hear from Him: ‘Well done, good and faithful servant.’”[14] It is my hope through Marketplace Evangelism Ministries that we can do just that.

Bibliography

Bonhoeffer, Dietrich. Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works, Volume 4. Minneapolis, MN: First Fortress Press, 2003.

Earley, Dave, and David Wheeler. Evangelism Is…: How to Share Jesus with Passion and Confidence. Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2010.

Earley, Dave, and Rod Dempsey. Disciple Making Is… How to Live the Great Commission with Passion and Confidence. Nashville, TN: B&H Academic, 2013.

Howell, Jr., Don N. Servants of the Servant: A Biblical Theology of Leadership. Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock Publishers, 2003.

Putman, Jim, Bobby Harrington, and Robert E Coleman. Disciple Shift: Five Steps That Help Your Church to Make Disciples Who Make Disciples. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2013.

Notes:

[1] Jim Putman, Bobby Harrington, and Robert E. Coleman, DiscipleShift: Five Steps that Help Your Church to Make Disciples Who Make Disciples (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2013), 177.

[2] Ibid., 170.

[3] Ibid., 196.

[4] Ibid., 197.

[5] Dave Earley and Rod Dempsey, Disciple Making Is…: How to Live the Great Commission with Passion and Confidence (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2013), 275-276.

[6] Earley and Dempsey, Disciple Making Is, 276.

[7] Earley and Dempsey, Disciple Making Is, 277.

[8] Earley and Dempsey, Disciple Making Is, 277.

[9] Earley and Dempsey, Disciple Making Is, 280.

[10] Don N. Howell, Jr., Servants of the Servant: A Biblical Theology of Leadership (Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock Publishers, 2003), 198.

[11] Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works, Volume 4: Discipleship (Minneapolis, MN: First Fortress Press, 2003), 250.

[12] Dave Earley and David Wheeler, Evangelism Is: How to Share Jesus with Passion and Confidence (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2010), 101.

[13] Putman et al., DiscipleShift, 197.

[14] Earley and Dempsey, Disciple Making Is…, 278.

Joseph T. Lee, Copyright © May 20, 2018, The Lantern & Shield Times LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Discipleship and a Healthy Church

Introduction

This article will discuss discipleship and a healthy church. We will then discuss the initial steps that the organization should take to improve its spiritual health. An analysis of the ministry context and the identification of the areas of needed improvement, will help identify the top three areas of focus; which will lead to the improvement of the health of the ministry and of the body of Christ.   

A Heathy Church

What is a healthy church? According to Rod Dempsey,

“A healthy church is Where the gospel is being proclaimed by word and deed.

Where new believers are baptized.

Where new believers are growing in their ability to surrender and sacrifice for the kingdom.

Where all new believers are intentionally nurtured and developed.

Where believers are willingly investing their financial resources in the kingdom of God.

Where the ‘whole counsel of God’ is being taught with a view toward application, even to the point of church discipline.

Where the leaders see their role as equipping and empowering the saints.

Where the saints are growing in maturity (connecting them to Jesus through disciplines).

Where the saints are growing in unity and love for one another.

Where the saints are encouraged to discover their spiritual gifts.

Where most the saints are using their gifts ‘properly’ (according to God’s design).

Where relational groups are intentionally developed and growing in their love for one another.

Where relational groups are lovingly sharing their lives and the gospel with unbelievers.

Where passionate prayer is continually being offered up for the lost and the laborers.

Where leaders for the Great Commission are intentionally being developed.

Where relational groups are multiplying new leaders and new groups.

Where worship occurs at the individual level and it is powerfully manifested when the body gathers together.

Where the poor and ‘least of these’ is intentionally being targeted for the gospel.

Where the mission of Christ is being accomplished locally, regionally, nationally, and globally by members from within the local body.

Where new churches are being planted as a result of effective discipleship and effective leadership development.[1]

If the body of Christ is not engaged and following these key areas, then it is not a healthy church and is not following the commandments of Christ. Dempsey gave the analogy of a physical doctor examining a human being and determining their health. Dempsey suggests that “we” are the “doctors” of the body of Christ. We should be encouraging healthy habits and encouraging the body to function tin these key areas of service and ministry.[2]

Personal Ministry Context

My ministry is a marketplace evangelism ministry where I share my faith and minister to people in the corporate world. We take the gospel into the corporate world, witness to business owners, and teach Christian business men and women how to share their faith. We attempt to duplicate ourselves through discipleship. We also purchase and take Bibles into the jails, send them overseas to third world countries, and distribute them to new converts of our ministry. The reason we do this on a corporate level is because many of the people that we minister to will never go to a formal church setting. God has opened doors for our ministry to go where the people are, who are searching for the truth, and where pastors may never be invited into their lives. Once people start to come to Christ, it is my job to disciple them and refer them to a Bible believing church to become a part of a local body in which they will be discipled and learn to make disciples.

Top Three Areas of Focus in My Ministry

There are three important areas of focus within my ministry context in which to improve on. The first area is to focus and improve in teaching the saints to grow in maturity and learn to use their spiritual gifts. The second area is the need to focus on relational groups so that we can multiply new leaders and new groups. The third area is the need to help the poor and the “least of these” by intentional interactions. To accomplish these areas of focus, I must train new leaders in how to disciple others. I must pray and ask God to lead me to someone who is willing to be discipled and someone who wants to help make disciples who make disciples, which will help build the momentum of the ministry.

Initial Steps to Improve Spiritual Health

It takes Christian leadership and prayer to improve organizational spiritual health. First, let us define what a leader is. According to Dempsey, a Christian leader has a solid character. He or she has a vision for the ministry. The leader will help develop and empower others in how to succeed utilizing their God given spiritual gifts and talents.[3] Based on these three areas, Dempsey wrote, “A Christian leader is a person of influence. He or she follows God’s vision for his or her life, and influences others to follow God’s plan for their lives.”[4] A good strong Christian leader is needed to lead the organization into the future with all the areas of focus. Dempsey reemphasizes, “Christian leadership is the process of influencing individuals to follow God’s plan for their lives and become all they can be for Christ and His mission.”[5]

Secondly, leadership involves a process of developing everyone through the power of love. Jesus said that we are to love one another as mentioned in John 13:34-35 and in John 15:12, 17. Dempsey mentions thirty-six times in the Bible where Jesus has commanded that we are to love one another.

This brings us to the third area of focus of intentionally helping and loving the poor and the “least of these.” The “least of these” means people who are Christians in need, who are weak and vulnerable, who cannot support themselves due to their circumstance. Since we are to love one another, then we need to focus on helping meet the needs of our brothers and sisters in Christ who are downtrodden. This is what Christ meant when He said to love one another. We are to take care of one another.

Since we are to love one another, then we are to invest our time, intentionally with each person whom we are discipling, so that we can ultimately multiply ourselves, so that others may come to know the risen Christ. This will help the disciple grow and mature in his or her walk with Christ. We can also help the disciple to develop their spiritual gifts, so that they will be able to carry out their task and talent for the body of Christ.

Putman, Harrington, and Coleman asserts that it is okay for the mentee to see that the pastor or disciple maker is human and that they make mistakes. Putman et al. suggests that the disciple maker should lead a small group of ten to minister to. He or she should be open with the group, so that they will see his or her short comings and will be able to pray and minister back to the disciple maker. Putman et al. wrote,

“Instead of seeking to hide their sin and project an image of perfection, church leaders need to show people they lead that they too are redeemed sinners growing in the ways of Christlikeness. The overall trajectory of our life is to live set apart for Christ. This comes with a humble recognition that we will never be perfect this side of heaven, yet we also recognize that the Holy Spirit is doing his work and increasing spiritual fruit in our lives. If we model this for the church, then people who struggle on the path of discipleship will have a new model for growing in godliness.”[6]

As leaders, we must show our own failures so that we do not set up the disciple to feel that they can never succeed in their journey with Christ in becoming a disciple maker. For we have all sinned and fall short of God’s glory. That is why it is important to teach each new convert that they are to love one another.

Jesus’ model for relational discipleship involves four types of environments. According to Putman et al., the four environments are intimate discipling relationships, personal discipling relationships, social discipling relationships, and public discipling relationships.[7] These relationships should be done intentionally and with love. The key points are for the disciple maker to set the tone for what spiritual maturity looks like in the organization. Leaders must practice Biblical love. The leader must be genuine and authentic with those he is trying to disciple.

As the disciple maker works with the mentee, he is encouraging the new disciple to develop their spiritual gift. One way is to pray for the disciple as mentioned in Ephesians 6:18. Teaching the disciple to pray for all things is biblical. Dave Earley wrote, “Spiritual leaders must pray to keep from being defeated by Satan’s persistent attacks on them and their churches. When it comes to spiritual warfare, to fail to pray is to fail altogether. Satan will not let you simply plunder his kingdom. He will fight you every inch of the way.”[8] David Wheeler wrote, “We can renew the effectiveness in evangelism if we plow the fields of lost people’s hearts with our prayers. We focus too much of our prayers on the physical needs of the saved instead of the spiritual needs of the lost.”[9] It is through this horizontal relationship with others that we can impact people. David Wheeler and Vernon Whaley wrote, “When discussing horizontal relationships, I am specifically talking about the application of upward worship in our daily life. Our horizontal relationships are a reflection of the depth, duration, and quality of our upward worship of God and God alone. Horizontal relationships are vitally important to our spiritual development.”[10] Through prayer and love is how the body of Christ will be strengthened and develop into a healthy organism.

Conclusion

In conclusion, for the body of Christ to be healthy, we must be raising up leaders who love God and love people. We must intentionally invest time into others’ lives and be genuine and authentic in our own presentation to the world. We are to encourage followers of Jesus to embrace and develop their spiritual gift. We are to pray for not just physical needs, but for one another and engage in each other’s life. It is through our relationships with each other that we can influence and help those who are struggling with their walk. The body of Christ is made up of many parts. We are to act as physicians and recognize when a part of the body is not healthy. Once we recognize this, then we can work together towards a resolution in how to heal the body. This is done with prayer and with biblical counsel. This is what helps make a church or ministry healthy, which in turn strengthens the entire body of Christ.

 

Bibliography
Earley, Dave. Prayer: The Timeless Secret of High-Impact Leaders. Chattanooga, TN: Living Ink Books, 2008.

Earley, Dave, and David Wheeler. Evangelism Is…: How to Share Jesus with Passion and Confidence. Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2010.

Earley, Dave, and Rod Dempsey. Disciple Making Is… How to Live the Great Commission with Passion and Confidence. Nashville, TN: B&H Academic, 2013.

Putman, Jim, Bobby Harrington, and Robert E Coleman. Disciple Shift: Five Steps That Help Your Church to Make Disciples Who Make Disciples. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2013.

Wheeler, David, and Vernon M Whaley. The Great Commission to Worship: Biblical Principles for Worship-Based Evangelism. Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2011.

Notes:

[1] Dave Earley and Rod Dempsey, Disciple Making Is…: How to Live the Great Commission with Passion and Confidence (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2013), 212-213.

[2] Earley and Dempsey, Disciple Making Is, 218.

[3] Earley and Dempsey, Disciple Making Is, 195-196.

[4] Earley and Dempsey, Disciple Making Is, 198.

[5] Earley and Dempsey, Disciple Making Is, 203.

[6] Jim Putman, Bobby Harrington, and Robert E. Coleman, DiscipleShift: Five Steps that Help Your Church to Make Disciples Who Make Disciples (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2013), 104-105.

[7] Putman et al., DiscipleShift, 107-109.

[8] Dave Earley, Prayer: The Timeless Secret of High-Impact Leaders (Chattanooga: Living Ink Books, 2008), 12.

[9] Dave Earley and David Wheeler, Evangelism Is: How to Shae Jesus with Passion and Confidence (Nashville: B&H Publishing Group, 2010), 86.

[10] David Wheeler and Vernon M. Whaley, The Great Commission Worship: Biblical Principles for Worship-Based Evangelism (Nashville: B&H Publishing Group, 2011), 106.

Joseph T. Lee, Copyright © May 8, 2018, The Lantern & Shield Times LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Disciple Making in the Local Church

Introduction

The Christian community and local church are responsible for spreading the gospel to unbelievers. Once a new convert comes to Christ, the church is responsible to teach and train them in their walk. An analysis and discussion of the Christian community and local church will reveal the roles and importance of the pastor, local church, saints, and spiritual gifts in God’s plan for being and making disciples of Jesus Christ.

How Are Disciples Made in the Local Church and Christian Community?

According to Putman et al., “The true role of the church is to create biblical disciples in relational environments. Following Jesus and the apostles, we seek environments in which disciples are made not just through public gatherings but especially from house to house.”[1] When someone comes to Christ and joins the church, then he or she needs to be mentored in God’s Word. Christian mentors intentionally invest their lives into new converts through relationships. According to Putman et al., before one can be discipled, three things must change in a person’s life, which are the Word of God, the Spirit of God, and the People of God.[2]

Putman et al. wrote, “Church leaders must also create systems in which biblical relationships are available to everyone in the church. It’s the job of a church leader to both administrate biblical relationship and regularly communicate the need for biblical relational environments.”[3] Pastors must also train their congregation to see the need and have the desire for discipleship.[4] The discipleship makers are to make a commitment as well as the one who is being discipled.

Role and Importance of the Local Church

As mentioned previously, pastors must teach their congregants the need and importance of discipleship. Dietrich Bonhoeffer made it very clear as to the importance of the church, which is the body of Christ. Bonhoeffer wrote, “The body of Jesus Christ is the ground of our faith and the source of its certainty; the body of Jesus Christ is the one and perfect gift through which we receive our salvation; the body of Jesus Christ is our new life. It is in the body of Jesus Christ that we are accepted by God from eternity.”[5]  The importance of the body of Christ must be taught to the congregants for them to understand the reason why we must make disciples. Bonhoeffer also wrote, “Christ’s body is the spiritual temple built from living stones (1 Pet. 2:5). Christ is the sole foundation and cornerstone of his temple (Eph. 2:20; 1 Cor. 3:11); at the same time, he himself is the temple (Eph. 2:21) in whom the Holy Spirit dwells, filling and sanctifying the hearts of believers (1 Cor. 3:16; 6:19). The temple of God is the holy church-community in Jesus Christ. The body of Christ is the living temple of God and of the new humanity.”[6] The key concept is that the church is the body of Christ. It is the responsibility of the body to share their faith and make disciples. According to Rod Dempsey, “The church must be in the absolute middle of God’s global plan of making disciples…. Jesus first mentions the concept of ‘church’ in Matt. 16:18 when He says, ‘And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the forces of Hades will not overpower it.’”[7] Jesus said that the church must take the gospel to others as mentioned in Acts 9:31, not only in spreading the gospel but teaching scripture so that disciples can be made. This is done by the leading of the Holy Spirit.

Role and Importance of the Pastor

Every member of the body of Christ has a gift. According to Dempsey, Pastors are to teach, train, and equip their congregation in how to share their faith as well as teach God’s commandments and way of life.[8] They are to do this in love. J. Robert Clinton wrote, “Godly leaders display love for truth. They study the written Word to feed their own soul as well as others.”[9] As pastors teach believers, they will grow spiritually and develop their own spiritual gifts. Dempsey further expands on this by stating, “Spiritual growth involves the disciple discovering and developing his or her gift (see 1 Pet. 4:10-11), within the body (community of believers), to its full potential, for Christ and His kingdom. As the individual believer grows and matures, the body becomes healthier. The more parts of the body that are working ‘properly’ (as He intended), the healthier the body becomes. The health of the body of Christ should be a very important consideration for the leaders of a church.”[10]

For the pastor to help the disciple, he must invest time into teaching so that the disciple will develop his or her spiritual gifts, then internalize the teachings into their lives, which in turn will help continually transform their hearts for Christ and the gospel.

Role and Importance of Saints

The role and importance of the saints are to “do the ministry.”[11] The saints are the members of the body of Christ which is the church of Jesus Christ. Bonhoeffer states it very well when he wrote, “Since Pentecost, Jesus Christ lives here on earth in the form of his body, the church-community. …To be in Christ means to be in the church-community. But if we are in the church-community, then we are also truly and bodily in Jesus Christ. This insight reveals the full richness of meaning contained in the concept of the body of Christ.”[12] Therefore, the saints are charged with training and investing in others to make disciples. The body of Christ is commanded by Jesus who is head of the church, to take the gospel to Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the utmost parts of the earth. For a member of the body of Christ to do this, they must be in training by learning and studying God’s Word. Then they can teach others to do the same. We must do this with intentionality so that we can reach others, one person at a time.

One method for saints making disciples is explained by Putman et al, “Many of the churches in the Relational Discipleship Network use this simple blueprint, based on four words. They are Share, Connect, Minister, and Disciple.”[13] To expound on this a little more, Putman et al. wrote, “Jesus shared who he was through words and deeds. When people accepted his message, he invited them to connect with him in relationship. During that time of sharing life together, he taught them the truth about himself. As these disciples grew, Jesus trained them to minister to the lost and to his other followers. Finally, after Jesus rose from the dead, he deployed his followers to disciple others.”[14]

The saints must emulate Christ in their words and actions, share, and invite people to come to Christ. Once people have come to Christ, then we are to associate or connect with new Christians and help them consecrate themselves to God. The next step is to demonstrate service to others as well as delegate disciples to minister to others. The last step is to release the disciple maker to reproduce other disciples. Thus, make disciples who make disciples.[15]

Spiritual Gifts in God’s Plan for Being and Making Disciples

God gives all of us spiritual gifts to perform the ministry in which Jesus has called us to do. According to Aubrey Malphurs, “A Christian, then, could have both a spiritual and a natural gift of leadership or a spiritual gift of leadership plus a natural teaching gift or some other combination.”[16] These gifts surround the believer’s temperament and passion. Malphurs states,

A spiritual gift is a unique, God-given ability for service. Every believer and thus every leader will have one or more of the spiritual gifts, but all leaders will not have necessarily the same gifts nor exercise a gift in the same ministry context. Scripture is clear that all three members of the Godhead are the source of these gifts (Rom. 12:3; 1 Cor. 12:11; Eph. 4:7-11). Finally, the purpose of these gifts is to enable leaders to serve God more effectively, not sit on the sidelines and watch the game (1 Pet. 4:10). The different kinds of spiritual gifts are listed in Rom. 12:3-8; 1 Cor. 12:1-31; Eph. 4:7-16; and 1 Pet. 4:9-11.[17]

God knew what he was doing by giving us spiritual gifts that will help advance the gospel and to make disciples. Although there are many spiritual gifts, which all work towards the glory of God, I will mention three gifts which relate to discipling. They are teaching, leading, and encouragement as stated in Rom.12:3-8. These gifts are necessary in encouraging other Christians and leading them by the teaching of the Word of God. God uses our gifts to assist us in working through our specific ministry in which we were called to do. These gifts will assist us in training other disciples so that they will also discover their own gifts. Without these gifts, we would be on our own struggling in a counterfeit faith. In other words, one cannot have these spiritual gifts unless they were a follower of Jesus Christ and filled with the Holy Spirit. If every believer used their spiritual gift, then the body is edified, people will come to the Lord, the gospel will be spread, and disciples will be made.

Conclusion

In conclusion, it takes the Christian community, the local church, the pastor, the saints, the Holy Spirit, and using our spiritual gifts to make disciples. This involves taking the gospel into our communities, sharing our faith, connecting with new believers, and ministering and teaching them.  This will ultimately lead to making disciples, who will in turn, make disciples. This is not done alone as the body of Christ has many parts and the spiritual gifts bring those parts together, and together disciples are made. Making disciples takes the efforts of all members of the local church. The pastor must teach the Word and lead believers in how to disciple. The believers in the church use their gifts to disciple others. We must become engaged in this process or the church will not reproduce itself. Reproduction is done through intentional relationships. Being a spiritual leader and mentor can help change the lives of the ones we are teaching to be disciples. Earley and Wheeler could not have said it best when they wrote, “When we lead people to Christ, we must stay with them to help them get established in their faith. They can also be carriers of the good news, and the message of the gospel will multiply through their consistent witness.”[18]

Bibliography
Bonhoeffer, Dietrich. Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works, Volume 4. Minneapolis, MN: First Fortress Press, 2003.

Clinton, J Robert. The Making of a Leader: Recognizing the Lessons and Stages of Leadership Development . 2nd. Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2012.

Earley, Dave, and David Wheeler. Evangelism Is…: How to Share Jesus with Passion and Confidence. Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2010.

Earley, Dave, and Rod Dempsey. Disciple Making Is… How to Live the Great Commission with Passion and Confidence. Nashville, TN: B&H Academic, 2013.

Malphurs, Aubrey. Being Leaders: The Nature of Authentic Christian Leadership. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Publishing Group, 2003.

Putman, Jim, Bobby Harrington, and Robert E Coleman. Disciple Shift: Five Steps That Help Your Church to Make Disciples Who Make Disciples. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2013.

Sproul, R C. The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version. Edited by R C Sproul. Orlando, FL: Reformation Trust Publishing, 2015.

[1] Jim Putman, Bobby Harrington, and Robert E. Coleman, DiscipleShift: Five Steps That Help Your Church to Make Disciples Who Make Disciples (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2013), 149.

[2] Putman, DiscipleShift, 149.

[3] Putman, DiscipleShift, 150.

[4] Putman, DiscipleShift, 150.

[5] Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works, Volume 4 (Minneapolis: First Fortress Press, 2003), 213.

[6] Bonhoeffer,  Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works, 224.

[7] Dave Earley and Rod Dempsey, Disciple Making Is…: How to Live the Great Commission with Passion and Confidence (Nashville: B&H Publishing Group, 2013), 39.

[8] Earley and Dempsey, Disciple Making Is, 41.

[9] J. Robert Clinton, The Making of a Leader 2nd ed.: Recognizing the Lessons and Stages of Leadership Development (Colorado Springs: NavPress, 2012), 57.

[10] Earley and Dempsey, Disciple Making Is, 41.

[11] Earley and Dempsey, Disciple Making Is, 41

[12] Bonhoeffer,  Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works, 218.

[13] Putman, DiscipleShift, 153.

[14] Putman, DiscipleShift, 153.

[15] Putman, DiscipleShift, 155-164.

[16] Aubrey Malphurs, Being Leaders: The Nature of Authentic Christian Leadership (Grand Rapids: Baker Publishing Group, 2003), 76.

[17] Malphurs, Being Leaders, 77.

[18] Dave Earley and David Wheeler, Evangelism Is…: How to Share Jesus with Passion and Confidence (Nashville: B&H Publishing Group, 2010), 134.

Submitted to Dr. Morris Baker in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the completion of DSMN500-D03, Discipleship Ministries; Liberty University School of Divinity, April 22, 2018.This paper may not be copied or reproduced without express written permission. Copyright © April 22, 2018, Joseph T. Lee, The Lantern & Shield Times LLC. All Rights reserved.

Spheres and Stages of Discipleship

Introduction

New converts to Christianity are not being taught properly in how to become disciples. When they come to Christ, many are left alone to learn the ways of the Lord and what God expects from his followers. The purpose of this paper is to summarize the five stages and four spheres of discipleship. I will identify what spheres relate to the centrality of Christ based on Bonhoeffer’s call to the cross. I will conclude the paper with a summary of what it means to be walking and submitting to Jesus Christ.

The Five Stages of Discipleship

The “Five Stages of Discipleship” is a path of progress carrying the mentee into the direction of spiritual maturity. Stage One: Spiritually Dead, describes a person as defined by Ephesians 2:1-5. According to Putman et al., “these people are dead in their transgressions and sins.”[1] Putman et al. also wrote, “People in this stage have not yet accepted Christ as their Lord and Savior. They may reject God, they may be seeking God, they may call themselves spiritual, they may even claim to know God or call themselves Christians, but there is no true fruit in their lives. They may claim to know Jesus, but they do not have the Holy Spirit living in them.”[2] For the disciple to help these people, they must reach out in love and create honest friendships. We are to answer their questions and help them come to an understanding of their unbelief in love and prayer.

Stage Two: Infant, describes people who are new in Christ. Putman et al. referenced in Peter 2:2-3, as “newborn babies craving spiritual milk so they can grow in their salvation.  People in this stage are spiritually alive by deciding to follow Christ, but unfortunately, this is as far as they have gotten in their spiritual walk.”[3] According to Putman et al., “The key concept is that infants don’t know much. They don’t understand yet what it means to follow Jesus. They aren’t aware of the ways in which they need to change.”[4]

Stage Three: Child, describes people who are growing through the leadership of their pastor or teacher. Putman et al. states, “they are beginning to grow in relationships with other Christians as well. They are beginning to apply God’s Word in their lives and are walking with other growing disciples in their spiritual journey.”[5] In contrast, a child may have been a Christian for many years or can be a person who recently came to Christ. The key concept is Christ needs to be taught to people in this stage, to trust God and be obedient to him. According to Putman et al., “They need to learn to trust God in obedience, doing what the Word says rather than what their feelings tell them to do. As they grow, their lives will become more and more about God. They will learn to do the right things for the right reasons. And they will learn what it means to have a servant’s heart, rather than one that is self-centered.”[6]

Stage Four: Young Adult, emphasizes John 2:13-14, which describes people who are spiritually young adults. This stage does not mean literally that they are young adults, but could encompass any age range and the spiritual maturity of the person. Young adults are involved in ministry to others and are grounded in the Word of God. They are Christ centered in their thinking and actions. They put others first as they attempt to carry out the Great Commission. According to Putman et al., “They need deep, ongoing relationships with people who offer encouragement and accountability. They also need help in determining their gifts.”[7]

Stage Five: Parent is the highest goal and stage to achieve. In this stage, the Christian is now considered a teaching disciple. Spiritually mature people make disciples and are strong in Jesus Christ. They have grown to the point that they can now teach others how to be disciples.

The Four Spheres of Discipleship

There are four spheres of Discipleship. The first sphere is the most important sphere as it is the Centrality of a Relationship with God. Putman et al. referenced the first two chapters of Ephesians as the support for this sphere, which is our relationship with God. This is the hub that holds it all together and unites all the spheres together. Without having a personal relationship with Jesus, all the other spheres are in vain. Putman et al. emphasize the head, heart, and hands in three questions. Does the person who is being discipled have a personal relationship with Christ? Has his or her heart been changed? Does his or her life have evidence of change? Are these people willing to go where Christ is leading them?

The second sphere is Relationships within the Family of God, the Church. Putman et al wrote, “Does the person I am discipling know what the Bible teaches about the church and the importance of his or her relationships with other believers? Are they growing in their love for others in the body of Christ? Are they using their skills to minister to others?”[8]

The third sphere is Relationships at Home. This third sphere deals with the relationship of the family and how we can minister to our own families. Paul addresses this in Ephesians 5 and 6. Paul discusses how the husband is to lead his wife and love her, how a wife should respect her husband, how parents are to raise their children, and how children are to obey their parents.[9]

The last sphere is Relationships with the World. As Putman et al. suggests, Paul addresses how believers are to act in the world. We are to interact with unbelievers in love by living our lives like Christ. We are to be missionaries within our own towns and cities. Putman et al wrote, “He teaches disciples to be ethical and consistent and to live in such a way that even if someone does accuse them of doing wrong, the unbelievers will see their good deeds and glorify God.”[10]

What Stage of Discipleship am I in?

The stage of discipleship that I am currently in is a hybrid between a Young Adult and a Parent. I feel a call of God that I just cannot shake. I go to bed thinking about the Lord and I wake up thinking about the Lord. As Putman, et al. had mentioned John 2:13-14, I feel that I have overcome the Evil One and the Word of God does abide in me. I have seen real change in my life, my heart, and my speech. I am involved in ministering to others and have a zeal, energy, and joy as I serve Jesus through my ministry. I also believe that I am in the Parent Stage. I seek to make disciples and mentor those who are in process of growing in Christ.

Sphere Relating to the Centrality of Christ

The main sphere relating to the centrality of Christ would be the first sphere, The Centrality of a Relationship with God. This is the hinge pin that holds all the spheres together. Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s call to the cross suggests that disciples will recognize their cross in communion with Christ when they begin to follow the suffering Lord.[11]  Bonhoeffer wrote, “Thus, suffering becomes the identifying mark of a follower of Christ. The disciple is not above the teacher. Discipleship is passio passive (passive suffering), having to suffer. That is why Luther could count suffering among the marks of the true church.”[12] Bonhoeffer mentions the Augsburg Confession. He wrote, “Those who do not want to take up their cross, who do not want to give their lives in suffering and being rejected by people, lose their community with Christ. They are not disciples. But those who lose their lives in discipleship, in bearing the cross, will find life again in following the community of the cross with Christ. The opposite of discipleship is being ashamed of Christ, being ashamed of the cross, being scandalized by the cross.”[13] Without Christ in the center, there is no discipleship.

What Does It Mean to be in Submission to Christ?

A Christian who is in full submission to Christ is a person who loves God will all their heart, soul, and mind. Bonhoeffer wrote, “Everyone enters discipleship alone, but no one remains alone in discipleship. … The promise for those who follow Christ is that they will become members of the community of the cross, they will be people of the mediator, people under the cross.”[14] By submitting to Christ, one is accepting the fact that he or she must bear their own cross alone, and yet in community with other followers of Christ. He or she is responsible for their own salvation and walk with Christ. No one can do it for you.

According to Rod Dempsey, “The church exists to spread the gospel and develop the believer to the point where they become missionaries of the movement.”[15] What is the goal of a missionary? According to Dave Earley, “It is to help people be saved. Yes, they may serve them, feed them, clothe them, doctor them, and/or teach them; but it all is with greater purpose of helping them be saved.”[16] Being in submission to Christ is going all in for him. Not only are we to love God with all our hearts, we are to love our neighbor as ourselves as in Matt. 22:36-40. We are then to apply the Great Commission as in Matt. 28:16-20. When we place other’s needs above our own and can also share our faith, then that is what it means to be a disciple of Christ. That is when we are in submission to Christ. Don Howell wrote that disciples are leaders in training. Howell wrote, “Greatness in God’s kingdom consists in imitating the Son of man who came not to be served, but to serve.”[17] That is what we all should strive to do.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the five stages and four spheres of discipleship were described and discussed. The centrality of Christ was discussed using Bonhoeffer’s call to the cross. I discovered I am a hybrid of Young Adult and Parent in the Discipleship process. I have shown what it takes to be in submission to Christ. It is my hope that I will be able to help new converts who come to Christ to become strong in their walk with the Lord through mentoring and setting an example of my own life to them. This study has moved me and I have come to realize my full potential in making disciples who make disciples.

Bibliography

Bonhoeffer, Dietrich. Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works, Volume 4. Minneapolis, MN: First Fortress Press, 2003.

Earley, Dave, and David Wheeler. Evangelism Is…: How to Share Jesus with Passion and Confidence. Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2010.

Earley, Dave, and Rod Dempsey. Disciple Making Is… How to Live the Great Commission with Passion and Confidence. Nashville, TN: B&H Academic, 2013.

Howell, Jr., Don N. Servants of the Servant: A Biblical Theology of Leadership. Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock Publishers, 2003.

Putman, Jim, Bobby Harrington, and Robert E Coleman. Disciple Shift: Five Steps That Help Your Church to Make Disciples Who Make Disciples. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2013.

Sproul, R C. The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version. Edited by R C Sproul. Orlando, FL: Reformation Trust Publishing, 2015.

Notes:

[1] Jim Putman, Bobby Harrington, and Robert E. Coleman, DiscipleShift: Five Steps That Help Your Church to Make Disciples Who Make Disciples (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2013) 61.

[2] Putman, DiscipleShift, 61.

[3] Putman, DiscipleShift, 63.

[4] Putman, DiscipleShift, 64.

[5] Putman, DiscipleShift, 65.

[6] Putman, DiscipleShift, 67.

[7] Putman, DiscipleShift, 69.

[8] Putman, DiscipleShift, 87.

[9] Putman, DiscipleShift, 87.

[10] Putman, DiscipleShift, 89.

[11] Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works, Volume 4 (Minneapolis: First Fortress Press, 2003) 89.

[12] Bonhoeffer,  Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works, 89.

[13] Bonhoeffer,  Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works, 89.

[14] Bonhoeffer,  Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works, 99.

[15] Dave Earley and Rod Dempsey, Disciple Making Is…: How to Live the Great Commission with Passion and Confidence (Nashville: B&H Publishing Group, 2013) 42.

[16] Dave Earley and David Wheeler, Evangelism Is…: How to Share Jesus with Passion and Confidence (Nashville: B&H Publishing Group, 2010), 102.

[17] Don N. Howell, Jr., Servants of the Servant: A Biblical Theology of Leadership (Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock Publishers, 2003), 189.

Submitted to Dr. Morris Baker In partial fulfillment of the requirements for the completion of DSMN500-D03 Discipleship Ministries, Liberty University School of Divinity, April 15, 2018. This paper is the property of Joseph T.Lee and may not be copied or republished without permission. Copyright © April 16, 2018. The Lantern & Shield Times LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Christ in Discipleship

Jesus gave several commandments. The one that has stood out the most to this student, to help advance the Gospel, was to take the Gospel to Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the utmost parts of the earth (Acts 1:8). Disciples are to preach the Gospel to everyone, (Matthew 28:19-20), thus teaching the new followers of Jesus Christ to make disciples who make disciples. Without Jesus, then there would be no discipleship. Without Christ, there would only be God and people would still be lost without hope.

According to Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Jesus is the reason for the call to follow Him. Bonhoeffer wrote, “…there is only one good reason for the proximity of call and deed: Jesus Christ himself.  It is he who calls.”[1] It is Jesus who calls people to follow Him. Bonhoeffer wrote about Jesus calling Levi, the tax collector, to follow Him. Bonhoeffer writes, “This encounter gives witness to Jesus’ unconditional, immediate, and inexplicable authority. Nothing precedes it, and nothing follows except obedience of the called. Because Jesus is the Christ, he has the authority to call and to demand obedience to his word. Jesus calls to discipleship, not as a teacher and a role model, but as the Christ, Son of God.”[2]  Jesus is the center of discipleship. He is the sole reason that followers are called to become disciples, who then teach others to become disciples. Bonhoeffer continues to write, “Discipleship without Jesus Christ is choosing one’s own path. It could be an ideal path or a martyr’s path, but it is without the promise. Jesus will reject it.”[3]

Followers are called to discipleship. Robert Coleman wrote, “Conversion is the first step in the discipleship process. … Conversion is the beginning of a journey, whereas discipleship is ongoing. In true conversion, a person must commit to following Jesus. The person becomes a lifelong learner, a disciple. Being a disciple is a learning process that never ends.”[4] Putman, et al states that the definition of a disciple is found in Matthew 4:19.[5] There are three attributes in which Putman et al emphases. They are “Follow Me, And I Will Make You, Fishers of Men.”[6] This Scripture is about Jesus calling Peter and Andrew, who were fisherman by trade, to leave their nets and to follow Him. Jesus promises them that he will make the “Fishers of Men,” meaning that he will teach them how to harvest for men and women’s souls. Putman et al describes that the authority of Christ comes when He said to the brothers, “Follow me.” In their obedience to Jesus, they dropped everything and literally followed him. Putman et al wrote, “Though the notion of obeying Jesus is connected to our hearts at some level, this first attribute of a disciple is primarily a mental acceptance of Jesus, understanding that he is now the one in charge of our lives.”[7] There must be a mental acknowledgement, but also a heart change to become a follower of Jesus Christ. This is a requirement that one must believe and then repent from their sins, meaning to change and move away from sin.

Jesus said in the second part of the verse, “and I will make you….” It is this transformation of the heart in which one then becomes a disciple of Christ. It is at this point that the person should be hungry for what Jesus wants to teach him or her. It is through the power of the Holy Spirit that this will occur, through transformation. Putman et al quotes Romans 8:29, “…we are being conformed into the image of Christ.”[8] This is done through the Holy Spirit. Putman et al wrote, “But discipleship, at heart, involves transformation at the deepest levels of our understanding, affection, and will by the Holy Spirit, through the Word of God and in relationship with the people of God.”[9]

The third part of the verse, “fishers of men” means that the disciple will be sent on mission overseas as well as in their own towns and cities. This part is the missionary work. Dave Earley quotes Charles Spurgeon as saying, “Every Christian is either a missionary or an imposter.”[10] A true disciple is a follower of Jesus Christ who has had a heart transformation and is willing to allow the Holy Spirit to lead him to where ever God opens the doors. This means that the work of God is at hand and that every Christian convert in the Church are called to be a disciple, who will teach others to become disciples. This is what all true Christians are called to be.

This leads into the final discussion, the three stages of discipleship according to Dave Earley and Rod Dempsey. The three stages of discipleship are Believer, Disciple, and Disciple Maker. Earley and Dempsey expounds on each of these and lists Stage One as a Declaration. It is the conversion of the Believer, which leads him or her to repentance and faith in Jesus.[11] Earley states that there are five steps for Stage One which are that one must make a declaration of faith, that he must repent from his sins and have faith, that he must become a committed believer, he must lay aside all his doubts, and by coming to Jesus, he is saved.[12]

Stage Two is Development. It is the immersion, abandonment, and apprenticeship into ministry.[13] To be a disciple of Christ, one must immerse themselves into a deep relationship with Jesus. This is done by studying of the Word of God as well as through daily prayer. One will also become involved in community and will become engaged with others through Christ. Earley writes, “….it is universally relevant that all disciples of Jesus must immerse themselves into a relationship with Him. He needs to become their premier relationship. As God is to be loved with all their ‘passion and prayer and intelligence.’”[14] Disciples must learn and be teachable. Once they learn what Christ wants to teach them, then they are ready to be sent.

The Third Stage is Deployment, intentional global commissioning. The disciple must be willing to go where Jesus leads him to go. Robert Garrett states, “The greatest missionary in history was Jesus Christ.”[15] Disciples are sent; therefore, disciples must go. David Platt wrote, “Wherever you and I live, we are commanded to go and make disciples there. In light of Jesus’ example, our primary impact on the nations will occur in the disciple-making we do right around us.”[16] But even if the disciple does not go abroad, they are called to take the Gospel to the world within their own towns and cities. Christians can no longer sit on the sidelines and assume that missionary work is not what they were called to do. On the contrary, all Christians are called to be disciples, who make disciples, who make disciples.

The most effective way to accomplish the Great Commission is to multiply. Earley and Wheeler wrote, “When we lead people to Christ, we must stay with them to help them get established in their faith. Then they can be carriers of the good news, and the message of the gospel will multiply through their consistent witness.”[17]

 

[1] Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works, Volume 4 (Minneapolis: First Fortress Press, 2003), 57.

[2] Ibid., 57

[3] Ibid., 59

[4] Jim Putman, Bobby Harrington, and Robert E. Coleman, DiscipleShift: Five Steps That Help Your Church to Make Disciples Who Make Disciples (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2013) 44-45.

[5] Putman, DiscipleShift, 45.

[6] Putman, DiscipleShift, 46.

[7] Putman, DiscipleShift, 47.

[8] Putman, DiscipleShift, 48.

[9] Putman, DiscipleShift, 49

[10] Dave Earley and Rod Dempsey, Disciple Making Is…: How to Live the Great Commission with Passion and Confidence (Nashville: B&H Publishing Group, 2013) 77.

[11] Earley and Dempsey, Disciple Making Is, 62.

[12] Earley and Dempsey, Disciple Making Is, 61.

[13] Earley and Dempsey, Disciple Making Is, 68.

[14] Earley and Dempsey, Disciple Making Is, 69.

[15]Robert Garrett, “The Gospels and Acts: Jesus the Missionary and His Missionary Followers,” in Missiology (Nashville: B&H Publishing, 1998), 63.

[16] David Platt, Radical (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2010), 198.

[17] Dave Earley and David Wheeler, Evangelism Is…:How to Share Jesus with Passion and Confidence (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2010), 134.

Bibliography

Bonhoeffer, Dietrich. Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works, Volume 4. Minneapolis, MN: First Fortress Press, 2003.

Earley, Dave, and David Wheeler. Evangelism Is…: How to Share Jesus with Passion and Confidence. Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2010.

Earley, Dave, and Rod Dempsey. Disciple Making Is… How to Live the Great Commission with Passion and Confidence. Nashville, TN: B&H Academic, 2013.

Garrett, Robert. The Gospels and Acts: Jesus the Missionary and His Missionary Followers, in Missiology. Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 1998.

Platt, David. Radical. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2010.

Putman, Jim, Bobby Harrington, and Robert E Coleman. Disciple Shift: Five Steps That Help Your Church to Make Disciples Who Make Disciples. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2013.

This material is protected and may not be republished. Paper submitted to Dr. Morris Baker, Liberty University, in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the completion of DSMN500-D03, Discipleship Ministries, April 8, 2018 by Joseph T. Lee.

Joseph T. Lee Copyright © April 8, 2018, The Lantern & Shield Times LLC. All Rights Reserved.