Years ago, one of my earlier mentors told me, “Everyone should have a Paul and a Timothy”. What he meant was that every Christian at different times in their lives should be being discipled by an older Christian and also discipling a younger Christian themselves. Discipling a younger Christian does not necessarily mean someone younger in age, but one less mature in their development as a Christian. There are many younger Christians around who would love for someone more experienced in the Christian life to come alongside them and help them grow to spiritual maturity.
It doesn’t take a college or seminary degree or special training. And as someone who has been a growing Christian for years, you have a lot of knowledge and wisdom to impart to a younger Christian. You’ve learned how to have a devotional time reading and studying the Bible. You’ve spent hours in prayer and have seen answers to those prayers. You’ve made mistakes and have learned at least somewhat how to avoid the pitfalls. You have been through discouraging times and found that God was there taking care of you all along. That type of knowledge and experience is just what a younger Christian needs to grow and mature in his or her walk with Jesus Christ. Our own church is blessed with a group of older Christians who can disciple and mentor a younger person, whether it is a new convert just starting out or someone who has been a Christian for years, but has always had problems knowing just how to go about growing in Christ. I personally know what it is like to flounder around like a fish on a beach in my Christian life until some dear older Christian came alongside me to help point the way.
Some people have the mistaken idea that you just win people to Christ and invite them to attend church. Somehow we think having them sit through years of listening to sermons and Bible studies will be all that it takes to develop a robust Christian life. It doesn’t work that way, however.
What is Disciplemaking Anyway?
Let’s start with a definition. This one is mine, although you can probably find a better one somewhere else. Disciplemaking or discipling is a process of bringing a new or immature Christian to the point where he can grow on his or her own in the Christian life towards full maturity in Jesus Christ.
What Does It Involve?
It might be better to give some examples to show the process of making disciples. Some people think discipling someone involves having a weekly Bible study with the person they are discipling. This may be part of the process, but not necessarily. For instance, a new convert may need a weekly study on such things as:
- How to read and study the Bible.
- The importance of prayer and how to do it.
- How to deal with sin in their life.
- How to share the gospel with someone else.
- And many other related things necessary to grow in the Christian life.
However, a weekly Bible study format is not always what is needed.
Discipling another person involves literally building your life into theirs. Not in the sense where you are building a duplicate version of yourself. Your purpose is to help them grow into the image of Christ. It means sharing your life with them as you teach them and help them grow. It involves being there for them when they need you. It means sharing your victories as well as your defeats, your failures, and your trials and to help them avoid the pitfalls you found in life. It means encouraging them and rejoicing with them in their successes. This involves teaching them the Biblical principles needed to successfully live the Christian life. The whole purpose is to help them learn to grow into the likeness of Jesus Christ.
That’s the way Jesus taught His own disciples. They lived with him for three and a half years. He taught them, admonished them, and they saw how he reacted to various situations they came across in life during His ministry on earth. Much of His teaching was on the spot application of principles for situations they ran across in daily life.
Different Styles and Different Formats for Different Needs
Not everyone teaches the same way. Nor does everyone learn the same way. Some people learn best in a structured format such as a Bible Study. Some learn best sitting in a restaurant over a cup of coffee receiving on the spot encouragement and Biblical instruction on how to apply a Biblical principle to whatever problem they are facing. Some forms of discipling will take the form of hands on experience such as taking a person out and showing them how to share the gospel with others.
This is the Real Purpose of the Church
The Great Commission in Matthew literally says, “Going into the world, make disciples”. That is why the church exists on earth and that is the way our church can grow.
Imagine this: What if our church became known in our community as the church which creates and nurtures disciples and helps Christians grow by one on one instruction in the Christian life? Personally I think that kind of reputation would cause a lot of growth in our church.
What to Do
If you are an older Christian, look around for someone who seems to want to grow in their relationship with Jesus Christ. Develop a relationship with them. Spend time with them. Invite them over to your house to get acquainted. Let them know you are there for them whenever and for whatever reason there is.
If you are a younger Christian who would like to be more successful in your Christian living and have a closer walk with God, find someone in your church whom you think could help. Pull them aside and ask them if they would be willing to spend some time meeting regularly with you to help you learn and grow. Don’t be shy. There people in our church who would love to be able to spend time with you and help you develop in your Christian life.