A disciple is a person who in every way is becoming more like Jesus.
Being a disciple of Jesus begins by responding to his invitation to “Come! And follow me.” The journey continues as we obey his command to “Go and make disciples.” Disciples take seriously Jesus’ words about himself “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.”
To discover more about how to grow as a disciple visit:
Australian Union Conference Discipleship Site
New Zealand – Pacific Union Conference Discipleship Site
In Mark 4:26-29 Jesus used the organic imagery of the Harvest Cycle to describe his movement.
This model applies to the work of growing disciples in the context of church community, nurturing young people in their faith, making new disciples within secular culture, and developing missional leaders.
The harvest is multiplied by continually fostering and expanding the steps of the harvest cycle.
- New disciples become disciple makers.
- Mature disciples become leaders.
- Established churches become sending sponsors.
- The church is the body of Christ. Ephesians 1:22-23
- The church is a gathering of Jesus’ disciples. Matthew 18:15-20
- The church is to have the attitude of Jesus. Philippians 2:1-11
- The church has the keys to the Kingdom. Matthew 16:13-20
- The church has been given its commission. Matthew 28:16-20
- God’s kingdom is like the harvest process. Mark 4:26-29
- Disciples multiply in relational streams. Luke 10:1-9
- Evangelism and church are Holy Spirit activities. Acts 1:1-2:4
Scripture is the foundation of discipleship because Jesus is at the heart of the Bible. The Bible is the handbook or manual for Christian life and mission. It reveals the message, model, and method of discipleship particularly revealed in the life of Jesus and the early Christian church. In private devotion and small group Bible study people should prayerfully engage Scripture through Discovery Bible Reading.
Steve Addison has identified 5 characteristics of Movements that Change the World.¹ These characteristics are essential for healthy local churches, ministries and movements:
- White-hot faith – believers encountering and surrendering to God.
- Commitment to Jesus’ cause – disciple making, church planting and movement.
- Contagious relationships – where gospel seeds are sown and disciples made.
- Rapid mobilization – of new disciples in disciple making and church planting.
- Adaptive methods – with functional, flexible and reproducible structures.
Discipleship ministry specialists assist church administrators, department leaders and pastors to appropriately foster these dynamics in their church and region. The South Pacific Division promotes a change or shift towards a greater focus on discipleship.
Like the early Christian church, Adventism began as a dynamic Spirit led movement. As a well-established organisation we now face challenges in fulfilling our primary mission. Some of the things which reflect our maturity, have aided our growth, and appear to be strengths and achievements, now threaten to become obstacles to fulfilling the commission of Christ. Success, comfort, consumerism, institutionalism, complexity, events, organisational structure, and funding may threaten the vitality of Adventism as a pre-advent disciple making movement.
Tim Keller suggests that the church is called to be “an organised organism,” finding the creative tension or balance between structure and local and individual action. The discipleship ministries team works with and through church structure to align and position it to facilitate and support a movement of revival and disciple making.
Jesus talked about seeds sown and crops harvested. He talked about trees and vines that did or did not bear fruit. Another way to think about the roots and fruits of growth is lead and follow indicators. These are metrics for discipleship and church ministry.
- Lead indicators are those things that are preconditions of the growth or change we anticipate.
- Follow indicators are the results or outcomes.
- Natural Church Development identifies some of the lead indicators that are associated with growing churches.
Likewise we would anticipate that regular time with Jesus through prayer and Bible study would be lead indicators of personal growth. While measures of loving relationships or generous giving would be follow indicators as a person changes to become more like Jesus. A church intentional about understanding, connecting and welcoming its community could identify lead measures to see how effectively it is doing that. While the number of baptisms and growth in attendance, small groups or evangelistic Bible studies could be follow indicators.
The model of Jesus was that of the Rabbi. He came along side them. People spent time with him and learnt from his words, his example and his assignments in the context of every day life. Jesus did not run seminars. He took new disciples fishing, encouraged them to pray for more harvesters (Luke 10:2; cf. Colossians 4:2-4), and trained them to do three things to connect with others (see Luke 10:8, 9). Jesus instructed his disciples to connect with people in three ways:
- Eat their food – and listen to their stories.
- Heal their needs – praying and sharing a little of your story of trusting God.
- Share God’s story – His care and love.
What do these principles look like in the context of your life, church or ministry?
Coaching and mentoring is one of the ways in which disciples are made, leaders developed and churches multiplied.
Emotional health and healthy relationships are vital to healthy disciple making communities and families.