Discipleship: Returning to the Fundamentals

It seems that people want to make more out of the discipleship process than what it actually is. Certainly, there are various phases of discipleship depending upon the spiritual maturity of the individual. How does one get to be spiritually mature. Discipleship. Discipleship is a process and it doesn’t happen overnight. Jesus invested about three and a half years into His disciples. How much time was invested into you by someone else in the discipleship process? How much time have you invested in others to disciple them? My own answers to those questions are quite simple and embarassing. Exceedingly little time was invested in me in my discipleship process. I had to dig and get it basically on my own. As far as how much time I have invested in the discipleship process of others is concerned, I confess that it is probably far too little as well.

What is the discipleship process and why is it seemingly so difficult? We have all seen it whether we want to admit it or not. We see some poor soul wrecked by conviction of the Holy Spirit come forward during an invitation and give their life to Christ. Perhaps they even made it as far as being baptized into the church family. Far too many times that is where they are dropped cold. If there are discipleship classes, the “Christianese” language is never explained and they just don’t “get it”. Frustration mounts and too many times the new convert just quietly slips away to never be seen again. Why does this happen?

You would be surprised at the number of Christians that really have no idea about how to pray according to God’s will. You would really be surprised at the answers you get when you ask Christians what righteousness means. The truth is that discipleship has faltered to the point that many of those teaching discipleship in our churches don’t really understand what they are teaching. I am not intending to be discourteous or disrespectful in any sense. I am merely stating what I have observed in various church settings throughout my fifty one years.

To disciple a new convert, teach them to pray. Teach them how to pray. Teach them that while petitions are to made to God in prayer that there is much more to prayer than just telling God what you think you need or what you want God to do for you or give to you. Teach the new convert why it is important to pray. Prayer is not merely a religious activity. Prayer is a spiritual necessity.

James 5:16 (NASB95)

16  “Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.” (the bold emphasis is my own)

What does it mean by “effective prayer”? It means prayer that is according to God’s instructions in the Bible. What does “righteous” mean? I give you the opportunity now to decide for yourself what it means before I give you the correct answer. Ready? Okay. “Righteous” is a legal term meaning to be put in a right, legal standing. Speaking from a biblical view, it means to be put in a right, legal standing before God. That’s what Jesus did for us. He died on a cross that was rightfully meant for us that we may have life abundantly in righteousness before God. Teaching the new convert (and the not so new believer) to pray effective prayers in a righteous state “can accomplish much” is a good thing to do. If they don’t know to pray or how to pray, how, then, will they communicate with God?

One of the hardest things to get the new convert to do in the discipleship process is to open their Bible and read it. Certainly, it will seem confusing at times. However, these new converts are “Babes” in Christ. They will gather information, knowledge, and understanding just as the infant learns and  grows into a toddler then into early stages of pre-school development. It is not all gained over night. It is our job to be available to answer questions and, if necessary, to ask questions that will make them search for greater truths and answers. Bible knowledge and understanding should only be “spoon fed” for just so long. At some time the individual has to desire to dig into the truths contained within God’s Word on their own. However, until that time is reached, it is necessary to guide the new believer in their study.

Discipleship include prayer and study. But where to start? I like to get people started with two books of the Bible. In the Old Testament I like Proverbs. Tons of wisdom and instruction about how to conduct ourselves. In the New Testament I like to start with the Gospel of John. The Book of John is written in regards to Jesus’ deity. It is more about Jesus the Son rather than Jesus the man.

Discipleship is rewarding and one of my favorite things to do in my Christian walk. Don’t believe that discipleship is prosperous? Jesus spent three and a half years with twelve men, eleven of them worked the rest of their lives to change the world. We all know how Jesus met Paul on the road to Damascus. Paul worked the rest of his life to disciple others and indeed the world did change.

God Bless!
In His Grip,

Lonnie Richardson

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