If you wanted to plant a vineyard, you wouldn’t buy some seed or some grafts and start sticking them in the ground everywhere. You’d need to think a little more strategically. You’d ask yourself questions like:
- What’s my ultimate goal?
Do I want to make jam? Grape juice? Are they for my own table? Am I selling them at a farmers market?
- What’s the growing season like in my area?
The length of the growing season where I live will affect my grape choice.
- Where is my best land?
My vines are going to enjoy the summer sun and benefit from good drainage. I need to make sure that the sunlight has no obstacles and that the grapes won’t be in standing water.
- What kind of pests are in the area?
Will I need protection like fencing or netting?
- What’s my soil quality like?
Ideally, I’m going to want a pH balance between 6.0 and 6.5. So, I’ll need to test my soil and make the appropriate adjustments.
When we are serious about an endeavor, we’re deliberate and thoughtful in the way that we approach it.
Why would we be any less intentional about creating disciples?
Creating disciples on purpose
A lot of churches have discipleship programs that consist of a handful of classes and studies. When you ask them what a disciple looks like and how those classes transform people into disciples, they’re not always sure.
Too often, we are so busy creating the assembly line that we haven’t thought about what we’re creating. Here are five questions you want to ask before you start discipling others. You’ll notice that I haven’t answered the questions for you. Instead of passively receiving the correct responses, sometimes it’s important to wrestle with them ourselves or with our church leadership teams.
1. How is a mature disciple of Jesus different from anyone else?
Obviously, we think it’s important to create disciples, but why? How is a mature Christian different than a non-Christian? What should the difference be between a Christian who has been discipled and one who hasn’t?
Answering this question will not only help you define what a disciple looks like, but it will also solidify the importance of discipleship. Because once you identify the differences between a disciple and anyone else, it becomes apparent why discipleship is necessary.
2. What does a disciple understand?
A lot of discipleship programs revolve around teaching, and that makes sense. Disciples should have an understanding about God and their place in the world that others do not have. But that teaching should be intentional.
Instead of taking a shotgun approach to theology, can you identify 10 important things a disciple needs to understand? By narrowing it down, you identify the most critical things which should be included in a 101-level discipleship course. From there, you can work on classes that build upon those fundamental teachings.
3. How does a disciple behave?
In the Great Commission (Matthew 28:16–20), Jesus tells the apostles to create disciples and teach them to do everything He commanded. How does that translate into a disciple’s behavior? Do disciples have specific moral expectations? How do they respond to others?
The point of these questions isn’t to enforce a new law on disciples. If we lay a laundry list of moral expectations on them, they’re going to start off frustrated and disillusioned. But if we can identify some reasonable expectations, the discipleship process can include discussions and guidance about why these expectations are appropriate.
4. What does a disciple prioritize?
When push comes to shove, this question gets at the heart of discipleship. How does a mature follower of Christ order his priorities? How should he maintain the balance of disciple with other important roles like spouse, parent, and employee?
Everyone is hard-pressed every day by so many urgencies. It’s one thing to tell them to put God first, but we also need to define for ourselves what that means. How can we empower potential disciples to live dynamic, liberating spiritual lives instead of laying vague expectations on them?
5. Is discipleship a one-size-fits-all affair?
We are all different. We have distinct motivations, and we’re called to serve in unique ways with a variety of gifts. Should we expect one discipleship program to create mature believers out every personality type? Is there a point where we need to take individual strengths and weaknesses into account when we’re creating disciples?
Coming to grips with the ways that God has created each of us can help inform our disciple-making process. It’s beneficial to identify the areas where our disciples need to be more uniformly equipped. This includes classes and studies that all believers should take. From there, you can branch off into intensive small groups, one-on-one discipleship, or specialized curriculum that’s tailor-made for personality types.
If you’re interested in learning more about the impact that understanding personality types can have on your discipleship training, download a FREE copy of "Becoming Like Jesus While Being Yourself." This discipleship guide will give you an in-depth look at the 16 Myers-Briggs personality types and how they respond to God and others.
We need to know what we’re making
If you want to make a bookshelf, you can’t just start randomly nailing wood together. You need to have a good idea what you’re building. This is going to help you know what you need, how to progress, when you can stop, and if you’re successful.
Disciple-making is even more involved and challenging. We need a clear understanding of what we’re doing before we start. Asking the right questions is going to prepare you to begin with the end in mind.
Discipleship can be challenging if we do not meet the believer where he’s at or if we do not understand the way he thinks. In addition to reading "Becoming Like Jesus While Being Yourself," reading the "We are all Missionaries" guide can help in preparing your to become a remarkable missionary.