A short time ago, I had a conversation with a small group leader who wanted to be better at discipling her group. I love the heart behind this! It’s a great thing when a leader wants to improve their skills. When I served at Saddleback Church, I heard Rick Warren say a million times: leaders are learners, as soon as you stop learning, you stop leading.
I was ready for a specific question, something like, “What’s the best way to teach a Bible passage?” I was surprised when she said, “What does it mean to disciple others?” After our conversation, I took a few minutes to sketch out the main ideas of our conversation:
1. Have a clear vision for what it means to be a MATURE CHRISTIAN
God can do anything through anyone, he’s not limited to our efforts. However, this doesn’t let us off the hook for being intentional and having a clear picture of spiritual maturity. God has a plan for every one of us, it’s our responsibility to say, “not my will, but yours.” This is true for us personally, and it’s true for how we lead others. It’s not possible to begin without an end in mind. Your picture ought to be as biblical as possible, do your best to curb your personal bias. The great thing is that God is still God: not only will he work THROUGH our plans, he’ll also work IN SPITE of them. To develop your picture of spiritual maturity, ask yourself, “What does it mean to love God?”
2. Understand your personal convictions, passions, and gifting.
You are an original masterpiece! God cas gifted, called, and strengthened you for ministry. How is your faith unique?
:: How do you personally grow?
:: What do you love most about being a Christian?
:: How are you passionate about making a difference in the world?
:: How do you handle temptation?
:: What does your connection with the Church look like?
To disciple others, it’s essential to look deep within to gain a wide understanding and personal insight. You can’t clone your spirituality to another person. If you are unaware of the particularities of your faith’s expression, your discipleship efforts with be little more than failed attempts to carbon copy yourself.
3. Teach from the overflow of what God is doing in your life.
Your daily spiritual journey ought to influence your discipleship. If you are going to teach a Bible study, don’t rely ONLY on the curriculum. Make the effort to encounter God’s Word first for your own life. You don’t have to be Billy Graham to disciple others, but you have to be authentic, teaching from the overflow of that God is doing in your life.
4. Constantly pray and pursue discernment for each of the people you are ministering to.
Discipleship requires discernement, and we can only receive this from God. Pray continually for the people in your care. Lift up their needs before God and beg for the wisdom to help them take their next step.
5. Develop your own personal convictions about discipleship.
Scripture is the foundation for everything we teach the people we are discipling. I think it’s a good idea to identify a few passages that influence you the most. The point is to have a few passages, so you can regularly meditate on them to hear God’s voice. These passages may change over time, that’s ok. Here are a few verses that are CORE to my thoughts about discipling others:
“For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” (Phil 1:21)
“My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you” (Gal. 4:19)
“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.” (Matthew 28:19-20)
“Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well.” (1 Thess 2:8)
“Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach. It is not up in heaven, so that you have to ask, “Who will ascend into heaven to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?” Nor is it beyond the sea, so that you have to ask, “Who will cross the sea to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?” No, the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it. See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction.” (Deut 30:11-15)