We talk about making disciples at Faith Bible Church, a lot. After all, we want disciple making to be the culture of our church. As we say, “We are a loving community making disciples of Jesus Christ.” However, even with all the discipling talk there lingers confusion in many of our minds as to what discipling practically looks like. Is it a class? Is there a curriculum? How do we arrange a discipling relationship? Is it better to be informal or formal? Is there a level of spiritual maturity I should have before I try to disciple someone? How much time should this take? Is it best to do one-on-one or in a group? How do you measure success in discipling? etc.
These are all great questions and worthy of consideration. However, I have been thinking about another question that I think every Christian needs to ask themselves about discipling and it is this: Do you want to be discipled? Let me ask it this way: Do you want others in the body to help you, teach you, model for you, and lead you to be more like Jesus and trust Him with every area of your life?
Here is why this question is important: we spend a lot of time equipping and encouraging every member to be a disciple-maker but every member also needs to be a recipient of that discipling. Are you wanting to effectively receive the discipling provided by others in the body? Let’s think of this article then as a brief equipping on how to grow in your effectiveness at being discipled. Here are some thoughts:
I would encourage you to pray for God to put people in your life that will be able to help you grow in specific areas. This type of prayer does at least three things: it makes you think intentionally about how you want to grow in Christlikeness; it makes you more aware of the people that are in your life and whether or not you are helping each other grow towards Christ; and it puts you on the alert to watch for others who might be worth emulating.
When you find people that you would like to pattern your life after, get to know them. Do you want to have a Christ-honoring marriage? Find an older couple who models that and ask them to dinner. Do you see parents who have a good relationship with their children at ages and stages that your children have not arrived at yet? See if you can get coffee sometime and just ask what they have learned along the way. Notice these don’t have to be ongoing meetings or a twelve-week class. Ongoing meetings and classes are good things, but that is not the summary of the discipling ministry of a church. A lot of discipling takes place in watching someone live and then asking why or how they have come to that pattern of life. If you are waiting for someone to initiate, you may be waiting a while. Do not wait—initiate! Now, as a word of caution, it must be said that the goal of discipling is not to obtain a formula for success. Rather, the goal of all discipling is the transformation of the heart and mind, of motives, thinking, and desires. The goal is being conformed to the image of Christ. Find people that look like Christ in their marriage, or parenting, or finances, etc. and ask them to help you follow their example.
This is the correct posture of a disciple. You must commit yourself to listening and watching carefully for the purpose of change. A disciple must purposefully put off things about their heart and life that need to change while putting on patterns of thought and practice that are Christlike. Nothing is more discouraging then when the person that has come to you for discipling does not listen or refuses to see what needs to be seen. To be discipled takes a commitment to humility, vulnerability, and a willingness to die to self. It takes a commitment to change. I would love to see a church full of people that all believed they needed to change—because we all do—every single one of us.
The final encouragement is to patiently wait upon the Lord while actively availing yourself of what God has provided. I often hear people say that they are having a hard time finding someone to disciple them. Some of this might have to do with expectations that are unrealistic or narrow in definition. However, it might also be that the discipling culture of a church is not healthy or in process. If you find yourself in that situation do not despair. God is committed to your spiritual growth more than you ever will be and He will not fail in His purposes to make you like His Son. God is using means to grow you that you need to lean into and embrace even if there seems to be the lack of a more intentional discipling relationship that you desire. Take advantage of the ways that you are already being discipled through the regular gathering of the church.
By the way, do not miss what I just wrote, you are being discipled every time you gather with the saints under the singing, the praying, the seeing of the ordinances, and the preaching of God’s Word. Be thankful for what God has provided in the gathering of His people and continue to patiently pray.