By Bobby Harrington
He is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ … Colossians 1:28
There is a traceable (and at times disjointed) growth story from the new birth to spiritual parenthood where the Holy Spirit leads us on a shared, formative journey.
When we started to take Jesus seriously as adults we often just assumed that true Christians automatically followed whatever Jesus taught right away. We are not sure where we got that idea? Was it from the Christians that we knew or was it the teaching that we received or was it that the emphasis of those around us on “living the Christian life” that led us to just assume it? We aren’t sure, but this idea is both unrealistic and unbiblical.
The discipleship.org definition of a disciple is a person who is following Jesus, being formed by Jesus, and faithful to the mission of Jesus? By definition, discipleship is a process because I must learn to follow, formation is a life-long process, and faithfully joining a mission requires understanding and developed effectiveness in it. The key words here are process, formation, journey, or your development story.
When guiding people along the discipleship journey it is important to consider our interconnectedness as we travel. While the disciple cannot travel the journey very effectively without help, the responsibility for spiritual growth must never rest on the disciplemaker alone. We teach, based upon Matthew 28:19-20, that there are three parts to the discipleship process. There is my part as disciplemaker, the disciple’s part, and God’s part:
The disciplemaker’s role: to make disciples of Jesus by pursuing, encouraging, teaching, and coaching a person in his or her spiritual journey.
The disciple’s role: to be a faithful disciple by learning and responding in obedience to the teachings of Jesus.
God’s role: God promises to be present in the disciple making process; He works in the process by his Spirit to transforms lives and bring change.
We can always trust God to be present doing his part, but we also need to remember that disciples need to choose the path of discipleship, as we choose to guide them, out of the love that God has shown us. I need to understand my responsibility as a leader in light of God’s role, learning to be patient and rest in God’s plan and timing while being alert to opportunities he provides.
Discipleship requires that we walk with people through the next step in their journey to be like Jesus. It is important to acknowledge that there is a traceable development path revealed in the Bible. Disciplemakers are conscious of this path and lead disciples accordingly. It is an incremental journey, with next steps for everyone along the path.