Development in Discipleship
When I have had the opportunity to disciple young men within the church, at some point in the relationship, the conversation turns to the topic of how disciples are made. It is healthy for the disciplee to desire and think about investment in other Christians, especially since the model is clearly stated in the Bible. Paul said it well in 1 Corinthians 11:1 when he wrote, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.” There are many ways to conduct discipleship, but the goal is the same: model Christ while helping someone else become more like Christ. Whether you have just started discipling someone or have been discipling for years, we all need to grow in this area because the goal is Christ. And since Christ is the goal, we will never disciple perfectly. Therefore, we can always grow more like Him in the way we lead His people. That being said, here are five ways that Christ led His disciples that will help you to grow to be more Christlike in the way you disciple others.
Be gracious and truthful. Jesus is full of grace and truth (John 1:14). This was displayed throughout His ministry as He was gracious with the failings and immaturity of the disciples while speaking truth to them at the same time. In the same way, a disciple who follows Christ will be gracious and truthful to those he/she disciples. Grace is essential because we are sinful; therefore, we need help and direction from the Bible. Truth is essential because only truth will change people; therefore, Scripture must be at the center of our advice instead of opinion.
Love people. Jesus loved His disciples (John 13:34). He served and sacrificed for them. Love should also be present in our discipleship relationships. It is important to care for those we disciple and not view them simply as obligations so that we feel like we are being obedient to the command to disciple others. Instead, we should have genuine affection for them.
Pray for them. Jesus prayed for His disciples before going to the cross (John 16:12–17). He knew the power of prayer and requested that the Father would protect them in His absence. We must remember our disciplees in our prayers because ultimately it is God who will grow and protect them.
Be gracious when sinned against. Jesus did not forsake Peter even after Peter betrayed Him (John 21:15–19). Instead, Jesus trusted Peter with continued ministry. Jesus’ heart is displayed in this moment—He knew that Peter would deny Him, and yet He still invested in Peter. This can be difficult because sometimes we want to avoid both pain and the people who might hurt us. However, sometimes it is important to continue discipleship relationships even when the disciplee sins against you because the goal of becoming more like Christ is more important than feeling emotionally safe. (It is important to note that this is not absolute. Sometimes relationships come to an end. The point is that there is room for forgiveness in the discipleship relationship.)
Allow them to observe your life. The disciples observed Christ for years. They saw how He dealt with false teachers, the rich, and the poor. They saw how He lived for, prayed to, and trusted in the Father. They learned how to live a life that is pleasing to God by watching God live. We need to allow discipleship relationships to be more than a once-a-week meeting. Open your life to let people see how you live for Christ throughout your week.
If you are looking to get involved in discipleship, continue to look at Christ’s heart toward His people. By doing that, you can start to become like Christ in this area of life. It is a blessing to pour into other people–pour into them in the same way Christ pours into you.