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Working On Your Own Discipleship

11.01.18 | Discipleship | by Matt Shantz

    This is Part 2 in the LEADERSHIP LAB blog series
    Part 1: What Stops You From Making Disciples?

    In Part 1 we said that disciples of Jesus are disciple-makers (or said more plainly: followers of Jesus help others follow Jesus). Now in Part 2, we want to emphasize the fact that those who are growing followers of Jesus are those who can help others grow.

    What Is A Disciple?

    A disciple is a student, a learner, a follower, an apprentice. They have not arrived but they are on a trajectory, like every good apprentice, towards doing what Jesus did. 

    A disciple is anyone who has heard and obeyed the call of Jesus when He said, "Follow me". That's the beginning of a relationship, a relationship that continues, grows and produces fruit. 

    Christian discipleship begins with acceptance of the free gift of grace, a relationship with Jesus, and the promise of eternal life. The only natural response to this encounter with the radical love and grace of Jesus is radical discipleship. 

    In the Great Commission, Jesus told His followers to make disciples by going (mission), baptizing (representing salvation), and teaching all that Jesus commanded (knowing and growing in Jesus).

    The concept of apprenticeship should both drive us and free us. It drives us because apprentices learn and apply the trade. There is work to be done and we are tasked with acquiring the know-how to do it. And it frees us because we are not left to our own devices but given the Holy Spirit inside us and accepted not on the merits of how well we do but how perfectly Christ has already done.

    How Can I Grow as a Disciple of Jesus?

    Jazz musicians dedicate hundreds of hours of practice time to music theory and scales so that when the time comes to play a solo their improvisation looks effortless. And at the moment it is, but that's because of the discipline. 

    We will look at 7 ways you can grow as a disciple. These are disciplines of the Christian life that take work and commitment, while at the same time the very place you will find greater freedom in your life. The outcome: competent apprentices of Jesus.

    1. Be Centred on the Gospel
    2. Be Rooted in the Word
    3. Gather in Community
    4. Manifest the Empowerment of the Holy Spirit
    5. Get Equipped for Ministry
    6. Live as a Sent One
    7. Be Dependent in Prayer

    1. Be Centred on the Gospel

    To be centred on the gospel means letting the gospel (the centrality of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus) define every area of our lives.

    Tim Keller shows the contrast between religion based on our own moralistic behaviour and the gospel based on the finished work of Jesus Christ. He shows how these opposing worldviews work out in a few different contexts of life:

    This is merely the beginning of how a life centred on the gospel works itself out in every area of life. Joe Thorn put it this way,  “The gospel-centered life is a life where a Christian experiences a growing personal reliance on the gospel that protects him from depending on his own religious performance and being seduced and overwhelmed by idols.”

    Do you see how living with this emphasis and applying this emphasis to every sphere of your life would help you grow as a disciple of Jesus?

    2. Be Rooted in the Word

    God wrote a book. He did that so that we could know Him. The Bible tells us what God is like, what we are like (sinners), what God has done about it (redemption), and how we are called to live in response. 

    I had a mentor who would say to me (on a concerningly frequent basis!), "God makes the worst of sinners preachers". Here's what he meant: By God's grace, he makes some men preachers so that they are forced to live in the Word when they otherwise would not. And God uses that. I completely agree. God has taken the crooked sinner that I am and given me a rhythm of life where I need to live in the Word each and every week in order to proclaim His Truth to His people. And in the process, my heart is nourished and I grow.

    The goal is that we would all delight in the Word. The reality is that there will be seasons when we don't. However, that should not keep us from the discipline of rooting ourselves in the Word of God. He speaks to us through His Word, revealing Himself, ourselves, the beauty of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and how we are to live in response. 

    Do you see how being rooted in the Bible grows a disciple of Jesus?

    3. Gather in Community

     Discipleship happens in the context of the local church. Ricky Jones put it this way:

    "I want you to understand that being a part of the universal church without submitting to a local church is not possible, biblical, or healthy.

    First, it’s simply not possible. To imply you can be part of the greater community without first being part of the smaller is not logical. You cannot be part of Rotary International without also being part of a local chapter. You cannot be part of the universal human family without first being part of a small immediate family.

    Second, it’s not biblical. Every letter in the New Testament assumes Christians are members of local churches. The letters themselves are addressed to local churches. They teach us how to get along with other members, how to encourage the weak within the church, how to conduct ourselves at church, and what to do with unrepentant sinners in the church. They command us to submit to our elders, and encourage us to go to our elders to pray. All these things are impossible if you aren’t a member of a local church.

    Asking where the Bible commands you to be a church member is like asking where the USGA rulebook for golf insists you be a human. The whole book is addressed to the church."

    The New Testament places a major emphasis on the need for Christians to be accountable to each other. That accountability and mutual upbuilding towards Christlikeness happens exclusively in the context of the local church in the New Testament.

    We say this in our Baptism & Ministry Partnership Class: diverse, broad, committed community is important for your faith and that happens in the local church. 

    Do you see how investing fully in a local church grows disciples?

    4. Manifest the Empowerment of the Holy Spirit

    Think about professional athletes with me for a moment. They are incredibly disciplined. They watch everything they eat, they live and breathe the game, and they practice like crazy, which sharpens their mechanics and muscle memory. While that's all true, there's something else going on too. They're gifted. Like, exceptionally gifted. And so are you.

    The Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead dwells in every believer (Romans 8:11). The Apostle Paul, in 1 Corinthians 12:4-7, says, 4Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; 6and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. 7To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.

    There are two important things here: 1. Every believer is given manifestations of the Spirit, and, 2. Spiritual gifts are for strengthening others. 

    Do you perceive how exploring and exercising the spiritual gifts God has placed in you for the common good grows a disciple of Jesus?

    5. Get Equipped for Ministry

    Just as exercising the gifts the Spirit has given you for the good of others grows you, so stepping out and ministering to others stretches and grows you.

    Ephesians 4:11-13 tells us that leaders in the church exist to equip the saints for the work of ministry, not to do all the work of the ministry for the saints. This is a paradigm shift for a lot of Christians and churches. The goal is stated in verse 13: so that we all attain unity in the faith, knowledge of Jesus, maturity of faith, and Christlikeness. 

    Do you see how putting an emphasis on playing a role in ministry equips and grows you as a disciple of Jesus?

    6. Live as a Sent One

     You live in a neighbourhood. How do you see living as a sent one in your neighbourhood growing you as a disciple? You work a job or go to school. How do you see living as a sent one in your workplace/school growing you as a disciple? You have friends and family in your life. How do you see living as a sent one in these God-assigned relationships growing you as a disciple?

    You already exist in these places. How would living with intentionality as a sent disciple of Jesus in these circumstances spur on your growth as a disciple?

    These first six disciplines for discipleship growth are our core values at Central. Here's a seventh and final element I'll share here:

    7. Be Dependent In Prayer

    When we pray it says something. Our prayers literally say something to God but they also say something about our priorities and where our confidence rests. 

    Do you see how dependency on God in prayer grows a disciple of Jesus?

    Personal discipleship growth draws you into greater intimacy with Jesus and simultaneously equips you to make disciples. As you live out the implications of the gospel and pursue these timeless disciplines for the sake of godly growth, Jesus will use your pursuit of Him to help others follow Jesus. After all, that's what disciples do.

    And by God's grace, you experience the greatest possible joy in life when the Holy Spirit is blowing wind in your sails as you help others follow Jesus. There's nothing like it. I encourage you: work on your own discipleship and God will use that in innumerable ways for your good and the good of others. 

    Click here to access the Working on Your Own Discipleship handout that was provided at our October 2018 Leadership Lab.