In this post, I’m going to focus on the process of discipleship. That is, over time, what does the relationship look like in stages. This is the basic pattern subscribed in The Master Plan of Evangelism by Robert Coleman, which is an excellent book I would recommend to anyone.
When I am beginning to consider another discipleship relationship, I am specifically looking for faithfulness, humility, availability and teachability.
There is a principle in church planting movements that is often counter-intuitive, but I believe it holds true in most contexts: disciple the receptive. That is, invest in people who demonstrate the characteristics I mention above (2 Timothy 2:2), as they are the most likely to reproduce disciples and continue the chain of reproduction.
I generally look for individuals who have been serving faithfully over a course of about 6 months within an area of ministry that I am leading, and also who have demonstrated a willingness to put into place teaching they have already received from other sources (pulpit, equipping classes, etc.).
I intentionally begin spending time with the people I am interested in discipling, and early on spend time with them in groups and as individuals. I generally try to get them more involved and leading in a ministry I am involved in, as it provides the opportunity to be in proximity.
Secondly, I like to have groups meet in our home, that way they have the opportunity to see my family interact, and also makes my home a place that people have in common and are more likely to spend time there.
This is an official time where I formally commit to the person, and ask them for a formal commitment to discipleship with me. With college students, I typically ask for a 6 month commitment, at which point we will re-evaluate the relationship. With non-students, I have asked for a year long commitment, followed by re-evaluation.
I focus primarily on the Doctrine and Life/Character components in this phase. I tend to teach doctrine, and focus on the disciplines of prayer, reading of Scripture, and evangelism. With my most recent group, we began by implementing the daily discipline of REAP, studied through SHAPE material, and then proceeded to Systematic Theology.
With groups, I also like to develop ministry together, as it gives the opportunity to discover individuals giftings, as well as unify around a common objective.
I’ll finish with the latter part of the process in a post soon…