The Stages of Discipleship

The life of a Christian is not static. Often people both in and out of the church want to view making Christians as a simple yes/no position. Is the person saved? No. Get them saved. Are they saved? Yes. The work is done, move on to the next person. This tends to be the attitude of many Christians and even non-Christians. Despite this thought process, most church leaders at least recognize this part is just the first step in creating a disciple. This first step is either called any number of things such as winning the lost, a declaration for Christ or any number of other factors. Earley and Dempsey describe this as embracing the cross. They describe embracing the cross as saying not to our self, and surrendering our lives to Jesus so that we may follow Jesus wherever he leads ( Earley, Dave & David Wheeler, Evangelism is…:How to Share Jesus with Passion and Confidence, Nashville: B&H Publishing 2010, 87-89). Following Jesus is what we have to do as a Christian no matter where He leads.

We know the Christian should not stay at the point where they are when they are won to Christ, but how the growth process works is up for a bit of debate. Christ has instituted leaders of the church for the purpose of taking care of the church and helping the body of Christ grow. Also referred to as development or any other name relating to growth. The growth of the overall body of Christ and of local churches rests on the disciple leader. But on an individual level, “the responsibility for spiritual growth never rests on the disciple maker alone. We often tell people that there are three parts to the discipleship process. There is my part (the disciple maker), their part, and the Lord’s part. I can’t do their part, and I cannot do the Lord’s part. I am only responsible for my part.” (Putnam, Jim et al, Discipleshift: Five Steps That Help Your Church to Make Disciples Who Make Dsiciples, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2013. 59)

To facilitate with growth they do need to learn about Jesus, but more importantly, they need to learn how to apply what they learn and what God shows them to their lives. Part of this has to do with daily living, and most importantly, disciple leaders must give those being discipled “spiritual responsibilities, perhaps in a small group or in the church. This is what Jesus did with the disciples.” (“The Methods of Jesus.” Video Presentation. Discipleship Ministries 500 from Liberty University. Lynchburg, VA. 2014) this process of learning never truly ends no matter how long someone is with Jesus.

Once a disciple has been won and trained, the next stage is sending the disciple out into the world to disciple more people for Christ. Also known as deployment, this stage is not simply done at the end of discipleship training but should be done throughout the disciple building process. Many who come to Christ immediately want to go out and tell their family and friends about Jesus which is a completely natural reaction. While ultimately, “we do not bring the salvation of the gospel to our sisters and brothers who belong to our own people or to the Gentiles in foreign countries, for the sake of our own people or to the Gentiles in foreign countries, for the sake of our own love for them, no matter how great that love is. Instead, we do it at the Lord’s command, which he gave in the Great Commission” (Boenhoffer, Deitrich, Discipleship, Minneapolis: Fortress Press. 2003. 188) This obedience to Christ helps us to break from taking the gospel to our friends and loved ones to taking the gospel to everyone we know, including those who hate us or who hate Christ or who have wronged and continue to wrong the disciple.

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