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1st Steps, Discipleship part 9
1/15/2012 6:28:19 AM Link 0 comments | Add comment


The Church's Responsibility

Working to effectively make disciples is not an option for the local church. 

In the context of his book on Systematic Theology, Wayne Grudem speaks of the church's responsibility. 

"According to Scripture, the church has an obligation to nurture those who are already believers and build them up to maturity in the faith..."  As Grudem addresses the theological purposes of the church, the second responsibility on his list is ministry to believers; i.e., discipleship.  It is a critical component among the other purposes of the church, including ministry to God (Worship) and ministry to the world.  Teaching and mentoring the church body is critical to accomplishing the other purposes.

It is not sufficient for the church to superficially teach and disciple the current generations of believers.  Discipleship must be deeper in the individuals, to the point that believers grow into a level of maturity where they are capable of discipleship of others, teaching them of Christ, but also how to teach still more people about our Lord. 

The church's responsibility is to be in the business of multiplying disciples.  Only in that manner will the church continue moving forward to accomplish God's purpose of reaching the world – all nations.

Blessings and many thanks,




1st Steps, Discipleship part 8
11/2/2011 6:30:02 PM Link 0 comments | Add comment


The Problem/Challenge Today

The first century church, fresh with the mandate to make disciples from Christ himself, set out on that mission and accomplished amazing growth.  Glimpses of the very first conversions and church growth as illustrated in the book of Acts are inspiring and motivating.


Ac 2:38Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
39 The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.”
40 With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.”
41 Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.


Today we have a problem.  The church has drifted from the intentionality and focus needed for making disciples.  One author, David F. Wells, in his book The Courage to Be Protestant: Truth-Lovers, Marketers, and Emergents in the Postmodern World, describes the problem as, "...numbers of people (in America) who began with the gospel, apparently accepted these biblical truths, and yet somehow lost their way.  They never matured." 

With that as a backdrop, Wells talks about the challenges of "Truth Engagement" in our culture.  It is essential to understand this when framing the responsibility and tactics for church leaders to use in instilling the purposes of discipleship within today's local churches.  It can help us sort through various venues of discipleship that may or may not be effective for the various groups within the churches.

Blessings and many thanks,




1st Steps, Discipleship part 7
10/28/2011 1:14:34 PM Link 0 comments | Add comment


The Practice Of Discipleship In The Local Church

The basic discipleship process contains the same elements as it did in the time of the apostles. 

"Disciple making included introducing people to Christ, building them up in faith, and sending them into the harvest field.  This process can be summarized by what I call the three Ds of disciple making:  Deliver them, develop them, and deploy them."  Hull does a nice job of confronting a few of the basics in The Disciple Making Church:

"Who should be disciples?  Every Christian is a disciple." 

Hull then reminds us from John 15:7-17 that each believer is then expected to bear fruit – reproduce more disciples.

Jn 15:7If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.
8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.
9 “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love.
10 If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love.
11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.
12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.
13 Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.
14 You are my friends if you do what I command.
15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.
17 This is my command: Love each other.

"Who should make disciples?  Every disciple should make disciples."  If we can encourage all believers to engage in making disciples, the potential impact for God's kingdom will be amazing.

"How long should the process last? – until the very end of the age..."  Making disciples should continue with vigor until Christ comes again.

Blessings and many thanks,




1st Steps, Discipleship part 6
10/24/2011 2:44:22 PM Link 0 comments | Add comment


The Purpose for Discipleship

Christ's direction and focus remained on the larger purpose, to take the gospel to the world.  As noted by the author Bill Hull, in his book, The Disciple Making Church,  "Spreading the gospel filled his thoughts, even as early as his encounter with the woman at the well (John 4), when He called the fields ripe for harvest to the attention of His disciples." 

The purpose for discipleship rests in the fact that God has a mission to reach all people and nations of the earth with his Good News – the gospel.  This is well stated in summary for our purposes by John Stott's article in Perspectives on the World Christian Movement,

The Living God Is a Missionary God– "The nations are not gathered in automatically.  If God has promised to bless 'all the families of the earth', He has promised to do so 'through Abraham's seed' (Genesis 12:3; 22:18).  Now we are Abraham's seed by faith, and the earth's families will be blessed only if we go to them with the gospel.  That is God's plain purpose." 

To reach all peoples and nations of the earth requires multitudes of disciples.  It requires Christ's church to accomplish this biblical purpose.

Having examined some of the biblical purposes that compel us to practice discipleship, we now must consider details essential to follow Christ's command and "make disciples."  In our modern day, it looks quite different.  We are not "studying at the feet" of a single teacher as was the practice 2000 years ago.  We have a range of tools and venue possibilities from which we must seek to derive effective discipleship within our local churches. 

So next time we begin to examine some of our practices of discipleship.

Blessings and many thanks,




1st Steps, Discipleship part 5
10/20/2011 2:17:36 PM Link 0 comments | Add comment


Christ chose those who would be his disciples.  It is interesting to examine what He did.

He did not look for men who might have been considered most qualified by religious notions or standards of the day, experts in the Law or qualified and experienced teachers.  Instead, He pulled his group from common laborers such as fishermen. 

His band of disciples lived with and learned from Jesus until He went to the cross.   Rather than evaluating the "qualifications" and experience, Jesus looked for what these men would become.  He saw in them the future leaders of his church, which would have the responsibility of discipleship to all nations.

Now, in our modern day of abundant resources for studying, discipleship takes on many forms other than studying with and living with the Master.  Yet the purpose remains the same –  to follow Christ and become increasingly like him.

It is a lifelong process, too. 

Jesus spent approximately three to three and one-half years living with and teaching his chosen disciples.  As he prepared to return to the Heavenly Father, he promised them on-going support and teaching.  We read in John 14 of this promise to provide his Holy Spirit (Counselor), just as he would then promise to always be with them as we cited from Matthew 28:20 on page 2, "...And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

With these promises Jesus deployed his disciples into the world, to make disciples. 

Blessings and many thanks,




1st Steps, Discipleship part 4
10/13/2011 3:44:18 PM Link 0 comments | Add comment


The Biblical Purpose Of Discipleship – last time we referenced the Great Commission.

Mt 28:18Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

There is nothing quite like a command from our Savior that should put us into motion to follow and obey.  There was nothing confusing about Christ's instruction to his disciples just prior to Him ascending into Heaven. 

Jesus had prepared his team for exactly this mission – to go and make disciples.  We can search for a concise definition of "discipleship," and we did earlier in this series.  However, another great source of insight into discipleship is to observe and study deeply the approach that Christ took with his chosen men. 

A disciple in general terms is somebody who believes in and follows the teachings of a leader, a philosophy, or a religion.  In our context then, a disciple is someone who believes in and follows Jesus Christ.

Christian discipleship then is the process by which followers of Christ grow in the Lord Jesus, overcoming the pressures and challenges of this current life, becoming more like Christ.  Dallas Willard in The Great Omission defined it in terms of what it meant in Jesus' day –  "When Jesus walked among humankind there was a certain simplicity to being his disciple.  Primarily it meant to go with him, in an attitude of observation, study, obedience, and imitation."

As we mentioned last time, we sometimes think of Jesus' disciples as the first.  They were the first disciples of Christ, but this type of preparation of men was quite common in that day and before.  It was logical for Jesus to take this approach with his closest followers -his chosen twelve.  "This was the ancient method whereby rabbis trained their talmidim, or disciples.  Talmidim (tahl-mee-DEEM) were disciples or students who dedicated themselves to learning both from the rabbi's understanding of Scripture and his way of living it out."

Blessings and many thanks,




1st Steps, Discipleship part 3
10/11/2011 6:38:21 AM Link 0 comments | Add comment


Our focus is on making disciples of Christ, and we learn a lot from how Jesus modeled techniques and teaching methods with his original 12 disciples. 

The concept of disciple is actually much older than in Christ's day.  In the ancient Jewish culture in particular, rabbis would commonly have disciples.  "Disciples often traveled with, lived with, and imitated their rabbis, learning not only from what they said but from what they did..."  Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus, by Spangler and Tverberg, does a beautiful job of illustrating the Jewish culture in which Jesus lived and taught during his time on earth.  Understanding that culture can help us see more relevance for how and why Christ taught as He did. 

Following this tradition was natural and efficient for Jesus in order to disciple his immediate circle of chosen men.  It would have been a comfortable pattern for the disciples, also – a lifestyle that they knew about.  Perhaps some of them had even longed for a chance like this before they had entered into their "blue collar" life work. 

In our series and discussion:

  1. We will see Christ's examples and examine the purposes of discipleship. 
  2. From the first church, our lessons pursue the practices of discipleship in the local church body. 
  3. Later we will outline responsibilities of today's church leaders to teach, cultivate and encourage discipleship in the direction of the purposes the Lord intends.

As we noted last time, discipleship is not optional.  It was a command of our Savior that we often refer to as the Great Commission.

Mt 28:18Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

That is where we pick up next time.

Blessings and many thanks, 







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