Christians are disciples of Jesus. That is a fundamental truth that sometimes gets lost in language about evangelism and salvation. And it seems to get overlooked in church practices centered around religious experience. Jesus demonstrated and proclaimed a way of living which is wise and true. As Christians we should trust him and submit to him as our master, our teacher. We should be learning from him a transformed way of living.
Of course, this is also what characterizes the work of the Spirit in us. God is transforming us toward Christlikeness. He is changing us and empowering us to be able to live the way that Jesus lived. So, we have in Jesus the perfect model for living, but God also gives us the power to live that way.
By God’s design this process of transformation involves the participation of the people he has placed around us. He wants us to learn from one another. And he has called us to invite others into it. This is the nature of the Great Commission. Acquiring from Jesus the very best way of living, and teaching others to live this way. Leading others into the way of Jesus should be a regular part of Christian life and ministry.
Having spent just about all of my life thinking about what it means to make disciples, I have realized that there is no one single authoritative method or model or approach. But I recognize that if we don’t think intentionally about how we transmit the life of Jesus to others, our hidden assumptions and prejudices are likely to sneak in, and our blind spots will result in a lack of balance in our disciple making. In what follows, I would like to share a summary of the fruit of my own thought and practice on this topic.
We can think of disciple making as a multi-dimensional activity. One way to express it is in terms of seven dimensions: Encountering God, Belonging to a Fellowship, Growing in Knowledge about God, Acquiring New Disciplines, Pursuing New Values and Longings, Becoming a Source of Life for Others, and Taking Responsibility for Others. Many people will experience these dimensions as stages in the Christian life, and they certainly have a kind of logical order. I chose to describe them as dimensions, because each of them continues throughout our lives, and sometimes one or another of them will rightly become a focus at different stages of our spiritual growth. As disciple makers, we can be thinking about how to incorporate these seven dimensions into our approach.
The dimensions that I am describing apply to the initial phase of discipling new believers, perhaps in preparation for baptism, but also for more intensive discipleship such as ministry training. And it can also be applied to the general approach of a church in encouraging growth among its members.
Some people come to Christ as the final destination on a long search for meaning or peace or hope in a difficult circumstance. Others find themselves surprised by an experience with God that they didn’t know they were looking for. Some are immersed in the idea of God and Christian community from childhood. For some people the journey is marked by intellectual reflection and searching, while others are pursuing more palpable emotional experiences. But, what is common to many of us who come to Christ is that we are struck by an encounter with the God-who-is-real. Whether that encounter comes gradually or in an instant, an initial phase of our spiritual growth is marked by this encounter. We have met God and we know him.
That God can be immediately known and experienced is a significant fact about Christianity. We can and should pursue the intellectual dimensions of the faith, including arguments for the existence of God, and responses to the accusations of Islam against the gospel. However, my knowledge of God and of the truth of Christianity isn’t dependent on the success of any of those particular arguments. It is God himself who
reveals himself to us and moves our heart to know him. I believe that Christianity is true because of the testimony of the Spirit in me. That is a valid source of genuine knowledge.
When someone has a new found “God-consciousness,” I don’t want to try to reduce their experience to a logical formula or a philosophical argument. I want to encourage them to continue to meet with God, to know him and to think relationally about God. Corporate worship and prayer times can be good ways of encouraging this kind of encounter and helping people to feel renewed in their encounter with God.
And there is an accompanying danger. We don’t want to reduce Christianity to emotional or religious experience. There is no normative spiritual or emotional experience that all Christians are supposed to have. And there is no experiential test for the genuineness of our faith. Sometimes we can be trapped by religious experience, thinking that if I don’t have the same level of emotional fervor in a worship meeting that I have drifted from God or that my faith is less real. I grew up with language about being “on fire” for God which encouraged this kind of unhelpful expectation of a sustained emotional experience. And some of our churches design their services to try to artificially create this experience for others. But, my emotional experiences are necessarily temporary. And my level of “excitement” is destined to rise and fall. That isn’t a measure of my love for God or the genuineness of my faith or my “closeness” to God. It is a pleasant, but not guaranteed, byproduct of seeking God. We can be grateful for a God who does sometimes reveal himself in that kind of experiential way, but we don’t have to be prisoners to religious experience.
A related topic has to do with the role of suffering and spiritual dry times in the Christian life. This is a deep topic worthy of more detailed development elsewhere, but I can summarize why I think it is so vital. For many of us, when we come to Christ, it feels good. And God gives us those emotions as a gift, partly in order to encourage us to develop new disciplines and practices. So, when we start reading the Bible, it feels like God is speaking to us. That feeling makes us want to read more. When we pray it feels like God is listening to us, which makes us want to pray more. But eventually we come to a place in our spiritual life when those early emotions related to reading, praying, worshiping, and serving aren’t present in the same way. We might be tempted to try to “fix” it by praying harder or trying to conjure up the right feelings. But, as the 15th century Spanish writer John of the Cross realized, God may be doing something deep in our souls that results in the dimming of that emotional experience.
While God gives us those emotions in the early stage of our Christian life as a way of bonding us to God and encouraging us to develop new spiritual disciplines, he wants us to move onto deeper and better reasons for praying, reading, serving, worshiping, etc. In order to develop those deeper motivations in us, he has to remove the emotional experience that was so vital in those early spiritual stages. John of the Cross likens this to a mother weaning a child, and I have often used the analogy of taking away my son’s pacifiers that he relied on to go so sleep when he was a baby. There was a stage in his life when I decided that it was in his best interest to learn to sleep without pacifiers; so I stopped giving them to him. It was uncomfortable at first, and he cried for a couple nights. But, after just a few days he stopped asking for them and he learned to sleep better without them. In a similar way, God takes the intense emotions related to worship away so that we can learn to discover the deeper truth that God is worthy of worship. He doesn’t want us to worship just because it feels good; he wants us to discover his worship-worthiness.
The Bible gives us an important perspective on the nature of suffering in God’s world. We can’t guarantee that we will feel good or have only positive experiences with God in this world. But, we can trust that God is doing something that is ultimately for our benefit and for his glory. And we can learn to see our own suffering as an opportunity to declare to the world God’s worthiness of worship. We see that message in the lives of the prophets, in the book of Job, in Lamentations, in so many of the Psalms, etc.
There is much more to say about a theology of suffering and about the nature of evil in the world, but it is important in our discipleship to set the right expectations about religious experience, emotions, and suffering, even while we try to set the conditions in which people can have genuine encounters with God.
The Christian life is not essentially an individualistic life. It is a communal way of living. Christian living is intended to be marked by characteristics that require meaningful relationships with others. Loving, forgiving, reconciling, sharing and serving are all fundamental components of Christlikeness, and they can’t be expressed in isolation. We need one another in order to live like Jesus.
The church is a vital part of the plan of God for the world. The church is a Christ-centered community that seeks to demonstrate the kingdom of God and invite the world into the transformation that God is bringing. Participating in the church, therefore, is an important part of our spiritual lives, and it should be a part of our discipleship. The Bible describes the unity and love that believers have as the fuel and means for reaching the world around us (see John 13:34-35 and John 17:20-23). If we aren’t drawing believers into the local church, we are not making disciples of Jesus.
If our churches are the kind of open community that has a high degree of belonging without making sharp insider/outsider distinctions, then we can invite the world into our community and they can see and experience the kind of belonging that is possible in Christ. In fact, for many people, an experience of belonging to a real community is part of the journey to Christ that many Christians describe, especially in Muslim contexts. Many of my friends felt that they belonged to the community of the church before they believed the gospel.
The need for belonging is part of the image of God in us. In fact, one way to describe the Trinity is in terms of union and uniqueness. The Father, Son, and Spirit are each unique persons and yet they are in perfect union as the one true God. We recognize those characteristics in ourselves as well. We have a longing for union, or belonging. It is a longing that is perfectly met in God, and the church is part of the answer to how the meeting of that need is worked out in real life.
We also have a longing for uniqueness. We want to be recognized as distinct. We don’t want to just be lost in the crowd or to be thought of as an anonymous number. We want to be seen and heard and known, even though we might also have reflexes and defenses and anxieties that make it difficult for people to get close enough to actually see us. Recognizing people for who they are and seeing their uniqueness is another essential role of the church. We should be incorporating disciples into the body of Christ in a way that will ensure that they are seen and heard in genuine ways.
Apart from the broad context of the church meeting, creating meaningful connections in smaller groups can also be a valuable way to encourage this kind of relational belonging and recognition. Ministry teams, Bible study groups, home gatherings, etc. have been fruitful approaches even in diverse contexts.
In some contexts identifying with the church is risky, because new believers might be recognized and targeted for persecution. They may be reluctant to publicly meet with other believers. In some of the places we have served, the number of people who identify as Christians, but who are trying to live out their faith in isolation is at least as high as the number of believers actually meeting in churches. The temptation not to identify with the body of Christ has always been present in Christianity. We need to be sensitive to individual situations, and to the needs of the culture around us. There are no simple answers to this issue when so much is at stake for believers who may be rejected by their families or lose their jobs or homes, etc.
There are also often situations where a person is the only Christian in their area, so gathering with a church community in person isn’t possible. Thankfully, opportunities to gather online have multiplied, the idea of virtual community has lost some of its stigma, and creative expressions of church online with real connection between people have emerged. This isn’t a solution for everyone, but it has definitely changed the way that I approach discipleship with people who can’t gather in person.
In response to another trend that still persists, especially in Muslim contexts, we should resist strategies that downplay gathering believers together into diverse church communities as an initial part of discipleship. The kingdom of God is demonstrated in multi-generational, multi-cultural, church communities that transcend the existing social networks around us. That has always been a key part of God’s strategy for reaching the world.
Learning about God is an important part of our discipleship, and many new believers have a season of passionate interest to grow in that kind of knowledge. As we come to terms with having an encounter with God, we naturally want to know what God is like and we want to believe the right things about him.
Helping people acquire knowledge about God and helping them navigate the questions that arise in this process is an important part of discipleship. As a general approach, I have found theological education to be much more valuable when it doesn’t just attempt to communicate what we are supposed to believe, but when it also gives us the tools to explore the issues for ourselves.
Having one-on-one input or small group interactions can be a very valuable format for transmitting this kind of knowledge. During an initial discipleship phase, for example in preparation for baptism, we often use a one-on-one approach. For more advanced teaching and ministry training, we usually prefer a small group format.
During an initial discipleship period I use a curriculum of seven basic topics: 1) Overview of the Gospel 2) What is God like? 3) Introduction to the Bible 4) The Identity and Work of Jesus 5) The Doctrine of Salvation 6) Christian Living: Worship, Love, Humility, Forgiveness 7) The Nature of the Church. Of course discipleship is much broader and deeper than a short list of teaching topics. In fact, I think that discipleship can include any field of study, based on our calling and desire to pursue depth in those areas.
As people begin to pursue knowledge about God, it is natural for questions and objections to arise. It can be fruitful to adopt an approach that takes people’s questions seriously and that also recognizes the importance of focusing on the broader picture. I think we should try to answer questions as they arise in as satisfying a way as possible, and sometimes it is helpful to say that certain issues will become clearer as the lessons progress.
Many new believers eventually find themselves in a stage of growth that is marked by a desire to make definitive decisions about theological topics and systems and they sometimes want to know which people and sources are the “right” ones. I often find people in this spiritual season sensing a need for strict “black” and “white” answers to all of their questions. Similarly, in this stage believers sometimes want to make strong statements of allegiance to particular denominations, teachers, authors, or theological systems. I think this is a natural stage of spiritual growth, and we should respond with grace. However, I think it can also be helpful to help people to see and accept the diversity in Christian thinking, and to value love and unity over dogmatic assertiveness, especially on items of faith that are beyond the core of essential doctrine.
On the other hand, I think it is also important to resist the anti-intellectualism that sometimes surfaces in the context of discipleship. Christians are called to love God with all of their minds, and we honor God by exploring the intellectual depth of his world. If we downplay the intellectual depth and sophistication of
the faith, we cut our disciples off from the richness of the gospel and we only do a disservice to future generations of Christians who will continue to inherit a view of Christianity which is based on supersition and hearsay and at odds with the life of the mind.
Finally, in this area, I think it is important to introduce disciples to a broad spectrum of Christian resources. Help them to find books, websites, apps, podcasts, YouTube channels, etc. that they can explore on their own. And direct them to a diverse array of authors and teachers and perspectives. I don’t think that is helpful to the cause of the gospel for us to only cater to the lowest common denominator in our teaching and preaching and disciple-making. Our goal should not be to just get our people across a minimal threshold of understanding. Our goal should be to introduce them to the vastness of God and help to give them tools to explore his depth.
Of course discipleship doesn’t consist primarily of attaining knowledge about God. The gospel is a way of living in the kingdom of God, according to the example of Jesus and by the power of the Spirit. That way of life includes acquiring new disciplines for remaining connected to the source of life in God. Our discipleship should include helping people to think about discipleship in terms of actual practices, not just doctrines.
And of course, throughout the Bible we see the people of God practicing spiritual disciplines. I won’t try to
teach the disciplines in the paragraphs that follow, but I will try to give a brief introduction to some of the basic disciplines that we can incorporate in our disciple-making.
Prayer— I almost always begin teaching about prayer by walking through the meaning and the context of the Lord’s Prayer, including an introduction to the concept of of the Kingdom of God that is central to that prayer. I invite students to adopt the Lord’s Prayer as their own and to pray it regularly. And I describe prayer as a mode of relational connection with God. It is an opportunity to communicate our praise, thanksgiving, requests, and confessions to God. In prayer we seek to internalize deep truths about God and to hear from God as we create opportunities for listening.
Bible Reading — We read the Bible not primarily for information, but also for transformation. Through the message and the story of God that we find in the Bible, God is changing and renewing us; he is calibrating us for participation in his kingdom. We need to learn to read the Bible well, paying attention to the literary and historical context and seeing the grand story expressed through the individual episodes. But, we don’t have to wait to be professionals before we start reading and absorbing the Bible. I spend time describing the nature of the bible as a book, then breaking it down into its natural divisions. We don’t have to be legalistic about a daily “quiet time” in order to recognize the value of reading the Bible as part of our regular Christian practice.
Fasting — Many of my Christian friends from a Muslim background describe an aversion to fasting because of the negative associations they have of it from their previous faith. But fasting is an essential form of worship. It may be important to distance fasting from the unhelpful images that is has attained. Fasting isn’t a hunger strike or a credit system. We aren’t trying to earn points with God or force him to action by starving our bodies. In fasting we learn the lesson that our lives depend on God, we experience a strengthening of spiritual focus, and we grow in our awareness of God’s worship worthiness. You might encourage new believers to practice fasting — giving them some practical guidelines, or even joining them in the fast.
Worship — Worship has a broad sense and a narrow sense. Broadly, all of life is worship for the Christian. We live our lives as dedicated to God, so that everything we do is part of our worship. However, in the context of the church, we gather to join our voices as an offering to God. By singing together we are declaring truths about God, trusting that the Spirit is moving us toward those truths. We aren’t summoning spirits or trying to manipulate God with compliments. Rather, we are recognizing what is already true
about him so that our lives can be shaped by that reality. It is a corporate offering that we participate in because we are moved by God’s goodness. And it is an opportunity for relational connection with God who is genuinely present with us. We should encourage our disciples to think about their lives as worship and also to engage in the corporate worship of the gathered church.
Service — We don’t serve so that God will love us, or so that we can earn points with God. Rather, we serve as a response to the goodness and love of God. Service (or ministry) is not something we engage in because we have earned a status or a position with God. Rather, ministry is a privilege, a gift that God give us. He allows us to participate with him in the renewal of all things, by working to see that God’s will is done on earth as it is in heaven. In serving we also demonstrate the humility of Christ, who washed his disciples feet without using it as a display of his greatness. We are invited to serve for the same reasons and with the same attitude. We can create practical opportunities for disciples to serve in the church and in the community. We begin to exercise significant spiritual muscles as we learn to find the needs around us and meet them in whatever ways we can.
Meditation— Learning to focus deeply on God and on the truth of scripture and creating space in your life for silent listening is a discipline. I might be able to acknowledge the truth of a particular verse or a thought, but in meditation, I let it sink more deeply into my heart. And the restful self-awareness that can serve as a secure foundation for living well also has its source in that kind of meditation. It is in those moments that we can clear the regular noise of our inner world enough to hear the voice of God who affirms that we are essentially a child of the father who loves us. Leading disciples through guided meditations, setting aside time for silence with them, or just giving them some guidelines and recommendations can be helpful for introducing them to this basic discipline.
The transformation of disciples of Jesus toward Christlikeness is an aspect of the coming of the Kingdom of God. The Spirit’s work is to cultivate new longings and values in us as we make every effort to participate with God in that inward growth. I have found the trajectory of spiritual growth outlined in 2 Peter 1:1-11 to be especially helpful for introducing this truth. Peter highlights that the gospel is not just information about Jesus that we are intended to keep in our heads so that we can go to heaven when we die. We aren’t trying to escape this world, rather we can “escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires” by moving along the road of transformation that Peter describes.
One of the most profound lessons that I have learned in my spiritual life is that I don’t have to be a passive victim to my current longings. I’m not just “stuck” with all of my desires in whatever broken state they happen to be at the moment. We don’t have a direct control over our motivations and preferences and longings, but we can participate in their transformation. It is possible to set myself on a trajectory that will lead to the maturing of my heart so that I can gradually learn to want what God wants me to want. One of my mentors in philosophy, John Hare, in describing the philosophy of Duns Scotus writes that this is “recapitulating in our will God’s will for our willing.” It is possible to learn to want better things. As you can imagine, if what we wanted was identical to the will of God for our lives, then we would be able to experience genuine satisfaction.
This kind of perspective also depends on our believing that Jesus actually knows how to live in this world. He isn’t just issuing commands at a distance to make our lives difficult or to test us to see if we are good enough for heaven. Rather, he is present with us, teaching us how to live and empowering that way of living. He wants us to live well, which includes having the right priorities, ordering those priorities wisely, and wanting the right things.
It is certainly possible to outline some of the values and priorities that characterize Christlike living. In fact, much of the New Testament is devoted to itemized lists of those qualities. Paul’s description of the fruit of
the Spirit is a famous example. In the gospels Jesus consistently emphasizes the values of forgiveness, humility, and the kind of love that transcends societal boundaries. And it is also helpful to remember that our fruitfulness is not dependent on our remaining committed to a particular list of values; rather it is dependent on our remaining connected to Jesus himself. He is the true vine; he is the source and the goal of our transformation.
I have found that the kind of character growth that I am describing doesn’t happen primarily in the classroom or in a church service. It happens in community. I can give an important and completely true lesson about forgiveness, but the listeners haven’t learned to forgive by listening to me. They have only learned about forgiveness. We can’t learn to forgive until we have been offended. The same is true of so many of the values associated with Christlikeness. It is when I am in committed relationships with my brothers and sisters that I have occasion to learn humility, love, submission, generosity, reconciliation, honesty, sacrifice, etc. So this dimension of discipleship should include teaching about the values of Christlikeness, but we should also encourage deep relational connections with other Christians in order to cultivate the conditions in which these qualities can emerge in our lives.
Another concrete practice that I have found helpful in this dimension of discipleship is to create opportunities for confession, repentance, and reconciliation. Sometimes we need to ask hard questions of the people we are discipling to encourage them to experience the crucial role of confessing our sins and seeking support to overcome areas of difficulty. Of course, the more we can model vulnerability in this area, the more effective our teaching will be.
If our Christian life is first characterized by an encouter with God, and then by belonging to a community, growing in knowledge of God, acquiring new disciplines, and pursuing new values and longings, for many people what follows is a stage of committing to some kind of ministry. Some believers experience a sense of anxiousness about what they are actually doing about the truth they have discovered and begun to implement in their lives. This “activist” impulse can be healthy as long as it finds sustainable expressions and is well integrated into our spiritual lives. Becoming a source of life and blessing for others out of a growing capacity to love is a natural and necessary dimension of our discipleship.
As I described above, as Christians we don’t serve so that God will love us, we serve becauseGod loves us. We can invite believers to reflect on the love of God and on the example of Jesus as true sources of motivation for ministry. It is a privilege to participate in the coming of the Kingdom of God. That realization also gives us hope. All of the work that we do for the kingdom will last forever. God is genuinely doing something good in the world. He is making all things new, so we are guaranteed that our contribution isn’t wasted on a hopeless cause.
Paul gives us a two-fold criteria for ministry as part of his response to the problem of false apostles in 2 Corinthians 4:15, “All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people will cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.” We serve for the benefit of people and for the glory of God. If our work doesn’t benefit the people that God has given us to serve, we should stop doing it. And if it doesn’t glorify God, we should stop doing it. We can ask ourselves whether the communities where our churches are located are better because of the presence of the church there. If they aren’t, we are doing something wrong.
As I encourage disciples to engage in ministry, there are a number of practical suggestions that can be helpful. I think that a basic discipline of ministry is to find a need and meet it. We look with love at the world around us and we ask God to show us the needs that exist, then we we seek to find ways to meet those needs. We might begin by tackling very concrete, practical needs like cleaning the trash from the streets in our neighborhood or setting up a food or clothing collection for people in need. As we practice
finding and meeting needs, our capacity to identify the deeper needs around us is growing, and we are learning valuable skills along the way.
Of course we can also find ways for disciples to serve in our church services. We might ask people to share a testimony, a prayer, a reading, or to help give part of the sermon. We can also find ways for people to help with cleanup or set up or with some other dimension of the church meeting. And there might be other ministries or dimensions of church life that a growing disciple could participate in. Finding the right opportunities as we get to know people in our community is a significant part of helping them discern their spiritual gifts. I have found that people often need to be challenged to take on jobs or roles that they don’t yet feel ready for in order to help them grow into their capacity.
One of the results of disciple making should be the emerging of colleagues and equals in ministry and leadership. We aren’t just looking to create a loyal crowd of subordinates; we want to see people develop so that they can surpass us in fruitfulness and in leadership capacity. Keeping this in mind throughout the process can help to orient us to a proper perspective and avoid the traps of empire building and manipulative control.
Henri Nouwen describes a helpful metaphor based on the Parable of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15. As new believers we relate to the younger son; the father has received us home with grace despite our unworthiness. And while we should always be able to relate to the younger son, later in our spiritual journey we also come to relate to the older son, who has been doing the right things all along. We recognize the insecurities and envy in our hearts; we compare ourselves with others and harbor resentments because we haven’t actually come to terms with the depth of God’s grace and love.
Eventually, we can feel the draw toward the role of the father, however. We are invited to love the way the father loves, and to begin serving in the role of the father in our Christian lives. We grow in our willingness and in our ability to care for others, offering what we have to contribute to their growth, making ourselves vulnerable to disappointment and even taking risks on behalf of the people that God gives us to serve.
Disciples are intended to become disciple makers, although I am often put off by descriptions of “church growth strategies” or “multiplication” principles as if our primary aim is to boost our numbers. The victory of the Kingdom of God in the world isn’t dependent on outnumbering the rest of the world. And we aren’t trying to perfect a clever sales presentation of a religious product to make it go viral. We are engaged in the long, slow work of transmitting a way of life to the people around us through our example and teaching.
There are times when I must give way to those that God is bringing up around me. And if I am not willing to open doors for them, my own fruitfulness will likely be limited. So, I should maintain an awareness of the tone that I use when I speak with disciples, avoiding a condescending attitude. I should invite real input and participation in ministry and church decisions whenever possible. I should seek to share authority with the disciples that are being raised up, and recognize and encourage leadership potential. Sometimes that means helping disciples find opportunities for further training outside of our local context, and sometimes it means encouraging them to pursue ministry or leadership opportunities in other churches or regions.
A final thought about this dimension of discipleship has to do with the proliferation of literature about “leadership development.” I have what I think is a healthy suspicion of that genre of literature and the type of approach that accompanies it. I generally prefer an approach that seeks to equip people for serving more broadly. In my experience, if you seek to train servants, leaders will inevitably emerge. But, if you seek to train leaders, you might not get servants. In any case, we need to model and teach the central truth that in the Kingdom of God, leaders are servants.
Throughout my life I have tried to be as thoughtful and intentional as possible when it comes to making disciples. However, I also recognize that some of the best fruit of my ministry has been as much the result of God’s providential timing and graciousness as it has been the product of any strategizing on my part. I want to trust God to guide me and continue growing me. And I want to trust God on behalf of the disciples he gives me to serve. I think that these seven dimensions represent a well-rounded approach to disciple- making. They are all rooted in the example of Jesus and have been vindicated by long centuries of Christian history. But strategies and programs don’t make disciples; people make disciples. More specifically, people empowered by the Spirit make disciples of Christ as God honors our best attempts to serve him faithfully in this way.
Here is a short summary outline of the seven dimensions described:
- Encountering God
- New believer experiences God
- Our experience needs to be renewed,
- We shouldn’t be imprisoned by experience
- Help people understand the role of suffering and the dark night of the soul
- Belonging to a Fellowship
- Sometimes belonging comes before believing
- People have a God-given need for belonging and recognition
- The church has a central role in the plan of God for the world.
- Many of the core spiritual disciplines are corporate, not individual
- Growing in Knowledge about God
- Some one on one input is especially helpful during the first part of our spiritual growth
- Follow a curriculum of basic Christian doctrines, initially. For example, Doctrine of God, The Bible, The Identity and Work of Jesus, Doctrine of Salvation, Christian Ethical Principles, The Church, etc.
- Explore the intellectual depth of Christianity, giving them room to be challenged and to respect the diversity of Christian thinking.
- Introduce people to online resources, books, authors, etc.
- Acquiring New Disciplines
- Prayer as a set of diverse personal and corporate disciplines
- Reading the Bible for transformation
- Fasting as a form of worship
- Worship as all of life, and as the narrower corporate activity of the church when we gather
- Service as a gift of God and as part of the regular Christian life
- Meditation as a way of internalizing deep truths
- New Values and Longings
- Identify some of the qualities of Christlike character that the Spirit is moving us toward.
- Take seriously the role of Jesus as our teacher for living.
- Passages like 2 Peter 1:1-11 can help us think about the trajectory of our growth.
- Emphasize that our longings can actually grow and change.
- Create opportunities for confession and repentance.
6) Becoming a Source of Life for Others
- Spiritual maturity includes being increasingly committed to want what is best for the world around us.
- Give people practical opportunities to serve in the church and outside the church.
- Be honest and encouraging about the gifts and potential that you see in others.
- Taking responsibility for others
- We should be aiming to raise up colleagues and equals, not just loyal subordinates.
- Help people to see how they can move into the role of “father,” seeking to care for others rather than just to be cared for.
- Create opportunities for ministry and leadership together.