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Facts of the Matter

A weekly letter of encouragement and challenge to business and professional men and women
Wednesday, September 7, 2005
Dear Colleagues,

FIVE ESSENTIALS FOR DEVELOPING MATURE, FRUITFUL DISCIPLERS:

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#1 Life Investment

: Discipleship is not a short term program of weeks or months. We tend to think in terms of herding people in mass through prescribed programs, expecting them to pop out the other end "mature" and ready to change the world. No, discipleship is more like a parent investing in a child as he nurtures him through the various stages of growth. "We were gentle among you, like a mother caring for her little childrenWe loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us. For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God" (I Thess. 2:7b,8,11,12a) Bringing a person to a healthy level of spiritual maturity where they will consistently bear fruit usually takes 3 5 years.

#2 Transferability

: One of the most challenging tests in the discipling process is to go beyond the first generation. Often the person discipled fails to catch the vision, or feels ill-equipped to replicate it in others. Note Paul, as he urges Timothy to reproduce his experience of being discipled, "The things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others." (2 Tim. 2:2b) As a discipler, I must guard against developing in my disciple an unhealthy dependence on me. One way is to view myself more as a guide than a teacher. Another is that from the inception of the discipling relationship I inculcate in him the idea that he is, at some future point to begin discipling another person.

#3 Purposefulness

: Measuring your disciples spiritual progress is difficult at best. If he is practicing the disciplines (consistent intake of Gods word, prayer, etc.), and applying Biblical truth that effects a change in lifestyle, it is reasonable to assume that he is growing. The process of discipling is best served when a prescribed set of materials is generally followed on a reasonably consistent basis. This gives the disciple a sense of progress and direction. It gives him material he in turn can use in discipling others. "The Lord will spell [His truth] out for them again, repeating it over and over in simple words whenever he can" (Isa. 28:13b)

#4 Flexibility

: Jesus metaphor of fishing for men (Matt. 4:19,20) suggests an art form requiring flexibility and creativity. As disciplers, we are co-laboring with the Holy Spirit in bringing this person to spiritual maturity. As such, we need to be sure we are tuned into how the Holy Spirit is currently working in his life. What issues is he grappling with? Where does he need direct help? What role am I to play? It important to bear in mind the fact that we are participating with God in crafting godly people, not religious drones.

#5 Life-on-life

: By its very nature, discipleship is best accomplished (in many cultures) through a fair amount of individualized attention. Paul to the Thessalonians: "We dealt with you one by one, as a father deals with his children, appealing to you by encouragement, as well as by solemn injunctions to live lives worthy ofGod" (I Thess. 2:11b NEB) Paul reminded Timothy of their intensely personal relationship, "You, however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance." (2 Tim. 3:10) Thus, it is essential that we engage our disciple at a level of relationship where true authenticity and transparency will transpire, both in his life and in ours, the discipler. The disciple also needs to observe in us a model of what he can become. Jesus, John, and Paul understood the force of example, "To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his stepsWhoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus didFollow my example, as I follow the example of Christ." (I Pet. 2:21; 1 Jn. 2:6; 1 Cor. 11:1)

1Some of the key ideas in this "Facts" were derived from Greg Ogden, Discipleship Essentials (Inter-Varsity Press, 1998) Appendage

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