I just finished a weekend leadership training and my topic was discipling women. We looked at what spiritual maturity looks like and how to disciple women into the future. SO, I want to ask you the question in the title. “Is discipleship optional?”
If you’ve read this blog for very long you may have seen me write about not being personally discipled when I became a believer as a preteen. I had no idea until my early 20’s that there were “NEXT” steps to take after salvation. These steps have nothing to do with receiving salvation and everything to do with understanding salvation and living for His purpose, not mine. Like me, perhaps you weren’t told what to do to grow deeper in Christ after salvation. Too often we’ve never been taught that discipleship is not optional.
What happens, as we begin to grow spiritually, is that when we study about Jesus, we fall in love with Him and stand in awe of what He has done and still does for us. When we fall more deeply in love with Him, our hearts desire is to obey His commands. And because we love Him and are obeying His Word, we are compelled to tell others…thus, we become not only a growing disciple of Christ, we now become disciple makers.
In Matthew 28:18-20 (also see Mark 16:15-16), we read Jesus’ final recorded instruction to His disciples. It occurred after His resurrection and prior to His ascension to heaven:
Jesus came near and said to them, “All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
I think we sometimes think being a disciple is only about our growth when in reality it’s also about teaching others what we’ve learned. Whether it’s to hundreds, a small group, or just one or two, we are to pass on what He has taught us.
I love this quote by John Amstutz, consultant for Foursquare Missions, founder Central Valley School of Ministry:
“Who a leader becomes and is as a person, is of greater significance than ability or accomplishments, for what we do flows out of who we are.”
Overflow ministry: we grow and we minister out of what Christ is teaching us. Not out of pride that we know something they don’t, but out of overflow…He has filled our hearts and we must pour the overflow out to others. If we aren’t continually growing deeper, we have nothing current to share about what He’s teaching us.
A verse that characterizes replicating disciples (disciples who become disciple makers) is 2 Timothy 2:2. Paul, the more experienced follower of Christ teaches the younger Timothy how to lead his church well:
What you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, commit to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.
It’s so simple and yet so profound. As we grow deeper in Christ, we are to DO something with what we are learning. Share it, pour into another who doesn’t know, live it out in a way that shows others who Christ is.
According to LifeWay Research, spiritual maturity as a disciple is most encouraged through Bible engagement…not Bible reading or even Bible study alone, but engagement. This means reading, understanding, and applying it to our lives as we obey it. This is the number one reason for transformation in the lives of a disciple according to these findings. Read and listen here.
So, how do we know if those we lead are growing more mature spiritually? We must have some assessment tools. And of course, as important, is to assess our own growth.
So let’s ask this question of ourselves: “Am I in the Word consistently and am I conforming my life to what I am reading?” Now, ask that same question to those in your life or discipleship group, those you minister to and lead.
In Romans 8:28-30 Paul answers the question about how we know we love God and His purpose for our lives:
We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. For those he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, so that he would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called; and those he called, he also justified; and those he justified, he also glorified.
What a beautiful thing when we conform to His Son Jesus and how more so when we share our walk with others and take them with us on this spiritual journey as we grow deeper daily.
Watch for more on the topic of spiritual maturity and discipleship as I continue to share some thoughts that I pray will be helpful for you.