The Changing Landscape of Discipleship

In his recent book, The Shape of Faith to Come; Spiritual Formation and the Future of Discipleship, Brad Waggoner takes an in-depth look at the future of discipleship in the New Testament church. He suggests and provides a good argument for an effective model for disciple-making in today’s church:  intentionally mentoring believers one-on-one.  This tends to go against the traditional and accepted method of discipleship in many of our churches. The most familiar method is to place the process of discipleship in a classroom setting, hinged on coursework and lecture. The model of one-on-one mentoring and coaching is biblical It appears to be the preferred method of Christ during His earthly ministry. While it is true that Christ preached to and taught large groups of people, He intentionally  chose small groups to people to pour His life into. We can see this through His interaction with the twelve disciples He chose. Even in that group, there were one or two who were especially close.

Waggoner shares five principles for discipleship that clearly demonstrate the disciple-making process that Jesus used. These principles have the potential to impact the church today in its thinking related to making disciples. Consider these:

The Principle of Selection: Jesus selected certain people to pour His life into. He did not attempt to grow everyone at the same time in the same ways.

The Principle of Association: He not only chose these, but He called them to identify with His mission.

The Principle of Demonstration: Jesus modeled ministry for them. He not only shared verbally, but He moved them out of the “classroom” and showed them “how to”.

The Principle of Delegation: On the job training. He empowered them with the authority and opportunity to do real, life-changing ministry.

The Principle of Supervision: He was there with them as they went. He coached them and corrected them. One day He would no longer be with them.

I have to believe this model has the ability to change the landscape of disciple-making in our churches today. That model: One mature believer taking an interest in another believer and intentionally pouring their life into them with the goal of growth and repetition of the process. Discipleship, as I see it, is the ongoing process by which a believer moves closer to the heart of God; evidenced in their actions, attitudes, choices, and lifestyle. You don’t accidentally get there. Discipleship is intentional. Disciples are made.




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