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DISCIPLESHIP PLAN

© Carlos Padilla,  March 2021

In previous studies we dedicated to stand out the primacy of the Great Commission, which is no other than to make disciples. For that it is important to have a good discipleship plan. However, being this the main mission of the Church, after its main purpose which is to glorify God, we see that Discipleship in the Church in general is suffering a crisis of vision, which affects its mission and purpose, as well as its values. The success of the Great Commission will be impacted in a great manner if the plans of discipleship would adhere to the Simple Church system, which is, to focus on the basics of how to make disciples, how to make them mature, that they become members who are part of the family of the church, how to make them become members leaders, and how to prepare them to become missionaries, that they reproduce. For this the church must leave the superfluous, the packed agenda full of meetings, classes, and special events of infinite ministries that oppress the new disciples, stress the members and defocus the pastoral vision and the purpose of the church as a whole. All this which the church of our time has adopted produces the overflow, the sickness and the lack of hope, not only of the members, but of the pastors, which results in a dying church. If the church does not embrace the simple, the effective, and implants a discipline in this method, it will not able to be effective, and it is doomed to failure. From my point of view of my personal vision, present context, use of Internet, I propose a discipleship plan that may be adopted by churches. The purpose is no other than to make disciples, in the way that the Master taught us, calling them, showing them, living with them and training them.

 

Investigation of Discipleship Systems

We know the systems of discipleship are not as effective as they should be due to the amount of members and the low impact in the society in which we live. The aim to growing in numbers has left behind the growth in spiritual depth and maturity. The church seams to live in a kind of ghetto, but Jesus – Yahshua commission us to go to the world and make disciples of all nations (Matt. 28:16-20).

The existing separation between the leaders with much knowledge, and the assisting members of the church is notable, because some of the first do not know how to do like Paul[1] in the church when he asked to be imitated. These teach, but they lack to live before the second, inviting them to unite in the way of life of Jesus, as Hebrews 13:7 recommends. These pastors are frustrated because they see no fruit.[2] Some are learned –many of them with theological degrees- but they lack living what they teach inside the congregation, and some get to be similar to the scribes and Pharisees of the times of Jesus. Not all are in the same line of thinking, nor seek the same purpose. In many, discipleship has no method to follow. The Lord lived with the disciples and showed them how He treated people and their problems, as well as preaching them the answers of the Gospel to their lives. Without a vision, values, a common mission, and a declaration of purpose that all have interiorized, the result if failure, without a discipleship plan.

Another of the problems is the lack of cultural knowledge where the mission is carried out, cultural anthropology of the church, and surrounding. Most do not read nor study Scripture, and those who can, pay the tenth, and expect to attend on Sunday to a service where all is done for them by the pastor for their blessing, without participating in the church, nor in personal growth, which avoids being capable of helping others, or testifying and wining souls. The serious part of this matter is that it’s usually the leadership´s fault who wants to do everything. This is something curious, because individualism is common in many Spanish speaking nations, but also in other cultures. On the other hand, another problem is the lack of evaluation of the growth of the disciples, and of the results of the mission, the conversions, the maturity and growth of the new disciples. In Christ there will be persecution coming, not prosperity, it will not be easy, but hard, a cross. You don´t fight against the false “gospel of prosperity” in the pulpit, but in discipleship.

 

Discipleship Plan

Once we have analyzed those areas of discipleship that don’t produce an effective discipleship, following I propose the Discipleship Plan that I consider more effective. But before it is necessary to define what is a disciple, what is the type of disciple that we are looking to make from the necessary Declarations of Vision, Purpose, Values and Mission, and how to apply the Five Phases as routs of growth, with the Three Elements of capability for the spiritual growth that will produce fruits for God.

 

What is a Disciple? And, What Disciple do We want to Make?

First of all, we must define what a disciple matheteusate is: Some describe a disciple is a Christian identified with Christ, obedient to His Word, and who bears fruit in the work of Christ. The type of disciple that we must develop according to the Bible (Matt. 16:24), is a born again person, with an intimate relationship with Christ through spiritual disciplines, who adopts the deep convictions of Scripture, which allow him to defend his faith successfully before the philosophies of the world. Can defeat Satan, and has renounced his will to do God’s will, is full of the Holy Spirit and faithful servant in the church and in evangelism, who relates with others offering wisdom and the love of Christ, and does good deeds. Someone we consider a trustworthy brother, affable, knowing the Bible, and who knows how to live amongst brethren, a friend in Christ, (Ga. 5:22, 1 Ti. 3:8; Jam. 2:14; 2 Pt. 1:5-7).

Vision Statement

We dream of a local family church, with a consolidated membership and leadership, that can serve a multitude of people who want to know Jesus, so they know they have a house of Christ in the city, and that take the Gospel to other countries, to other cities, to their families. To consolidate a gospel choir for an event every summer, when thousands of foreigners come to rest and that it impacts their lives in Christ.

Purpose Statement

First of all, to glorify God. Second, to make disciples. To disciple a person is to help the other discover the true significance of his existence, the plan of God for his life. That they advance in an immediate existential relationship with the Word of God. And third, to live in community and participate in its more profound act: to worship God together.

Values Statement

Love expressed in words and works. To be a Christian family fraternity. Preaching and teaching of the sound doctrine. Integrated program to make mature and reproductive disciples. Simple structure that facilitates the process of discipleship with useful ministries. Vision to the outside to reach the lost even through Internet.

Mission Statement

To glorify God, fulfilling the Great Commission that Christ commanded under the power of the Holy Spirit. In special, my ministry has the mission of fulfilling the Great Commission where Spanish-speaking people have no Biblical churches in these end times of the era of Internet, and to connect them with brothers of their country, city and Biblical faith.

 

Discipleship Plan Application

The Discipleship Plan, is formed of phases and times, and in each the disciple must know, be and make in each area of discipleship concentration and to apply the route of growth. The discipleship Plan has four approaches: instant discipleship (we train to act according to circumstances as they appear, like Jesus did), capacitating discipleship (training areas like evangelization, preaching or teaching), progressive discipleship (like Jesus and His apostles did, through living experiences with God and the people, which are enriching and that prove God’s love, like John 3:3 where we apply the Routes of Growth), and support discipleship (in the church, in small groups to help in: marriage relationships, with parents, with children, etc.). Foreigners visit the city and have tome to rest and to know Christ.

Our church is small and simple, based in houses on brethren, in a city of about 120 thousand residents, many change cities, and many foreigners who spend periods, reason for a variable attendance, something frustrating, but that must be accepted. In our congregation we take into account that the dominant culture is catholic in the older, and postmodern relativist in the younger, some animists are south American immigrants, foreign European protestants, and a mixed cultural level, therefore we use a universal simple message, as the Lord did. We emphasise personal treat as we represent Jesus, welcoming the new with that in mind, and in the sharing with the brethren of years, as we are a family of Christ. We visit the sick, help those in need, we care, we take with us the new disciples to pray, help, and give example with the life of each member, and of the leaders and their families, in the daily living. But were we see how each of us makes progress is by the work of the Holy Spirit, is He who calls, unites, trains, grows, places the compromise in the heart and equips for the work of each one in each phase, for that we pray and that we expect, so that the glory is of Christ. We do few events and in base to the liturgical calendar, Easter and Christmas, but with continuous evangelization in daily life, and in events, giving triptychs, gospels, and conferences. To the new visitors we invite to participate in the first phase of Knowing Christ 101, where to see how our church and family in Christ is. Those who stay and are genuine are invited to a small group of about ten people, one afternoon, during the week to the phase of Compromise with Christ 201, where they can mature with study, prayer and fellowship. The phase of Growth in Christ 301 for the more mature who want do discover their ministry, with the leaders, and it is suggested the possibility to carry seminary studies. 401[3] Preparation for the Mission of your life, in contact with missionaries. A fifth phase is the one of leadership in our church, where the pastor and the elder promote a good relationship with the mentors of the small groups, and we prepare theologically and practically. In each phase we evaluate the growth and maturity from the way of life, the obedience, the disposition to serve and the manifestation of gifts. The logistics is organized between the elder, and it varies according to the income of donations and tenths, to evangelize and help in good deeds, giving account of all. Giving a triptych, t-shirts to where in the promenade, road panels, web-seo, youtube, gospel choir for evangelising with income for the poor and the church, and known plans of the city. We pray for the call to missionaries, that they may comprehend the missiology and meet brother’s missionaries.

Small groups twice a week, in which we use discipleship course books, and one for the young, plus Sunday for the service and worship. To strengthen each phase we make emphasis in Spiritual Disciplines, prayer, fasting, time with God, help the brethren. These forge the discipleship, and the Bible study, the relationship between members of the church, between each of them and their families, evangelism to win our city, and worship. The ministries are: pastoral, prayer, expository preaching, Biblical study, evangelism, good works, worship, the administration of the church, all focused in discipleship. My ministry in Internet is of international missionary character, teaching the Bible and spiritual growth, even through video in discipleship classes, and connecting those Christians with churches of their country and with missions for those in need; like the project of the Billy Graham Association.[4] With a strong emphasis in the fact that it is imperative to spend time with God on your own, pray, meditate, seek lowliness with Him in silence and quietness, and in learning and knowing Scripture.

In the leadership group we understand discipleship like a process of imitation, and it is an mistake to believe that because one has done a course now all will make the changes, only by knowing, but practice is needed and its implantation, bit by bit and in a progressive way, especially when they observe the life we are living, the deeds. Disciples learn to walk with God every day, what we do in public life, clean conscience with God, without hiding anything nor manipulating or pretending. The wife and children are a reflexion of our leadership and spiritual life, we must be imitable. We reproduce what we are, not what we say –we only follow those we admire. We share the experience with God with others, leaving a mark on them, so they may influence others. We have an intimate circle of trustworthy brethren and we share the ministry abilities. Those of us who pastor give the tone and character of the congregation, God’s love,[5] the vision, an atmosphere centred in God, Christ-centred, a vision to the outside of the building of the church, like in a birthday in a house and use it to preach and discipleship. The concept of simple church, already adopted, avoids the saturation of programs. If there are many small groups ¡may God want! then plant a new church further. Avoid problems making clear where the limits are in behaviour and to provide a job description for each position, and the support they may receive from the church, to inform of the expectancy to be received by the congregation, like a salary or voluntaries, a clear communication before hand, with confidence avoids many conflicts, misunderstandings, and reproduces leaders. Yearly evaluation of the process and of the church SWOT: Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats, to add, take off or improve any ministry for the discipleship, where all may participate, provide knowing they have made of themselves the vision like “us” not “I”. The ministry team[6] is chosen with wisdom and prayer; the Lord prayed all night before choosing the Twelve. They must have the DNA of the mission, to respect and follow the leader. To finish, a brief resume of the targets of the Five Phases.

Targets of the Five Phases

Phase 1: Conversion. This is the phase of knowing Christ, the one of conversion, baptism. The purpose is that it becomes of Christ, and the target is that the new member of the church becomes a disciple, “come and see” (Jn. 1:39).

Phase 2: Communion. This is the phase of living with Christ, that of communion and compromise with Christ. The purpose is that the disciple cultivates an intimate relationship with Christ, “come and follow me” (Matt. 4:19).

Phase 3: Growth. This is the phase of maturity with Christ, that of growth in character. The purpose is that the disciple matures in character through the fullness of the Holy Spirit, “come and be with me” (Mark 3:14).

Phase 4: Compromise. This is the phase of serving like Christ, the one of preparation for ministry. The purpose is that the disciple compromises in serving in his ministry, “First go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matt. 10).

Phase 5: Commission. This is the phase of leading like Christ, the one of involving in the Mission of God. The purpose is that the disciple becomes reproductive, “Stay with Me and bear fruit” (John 15:4-5).

 

Conclusion

Love God, love your neighbour, and serve the world. This is the simple base of the best Discipleship plan, the one of Jesus. But we saw that the majority of believers today, instead of being able to be called disciples, are consumers of a product, not active ministers that they seek emotion on Sunday service and spiritual discipline is left aside. Burned pastors with finance matters, doing too many activities which avoid remaining centred in the disciples, their growth and capacitating to make more disciples and plant new churches. But if on top of that the discipleship plan is only centred in growth in a police manner like the model of competence, or missional which focuses in such a preparation that is never reached, or limited to the model of neighbourhood, or of world vision which seeks more the knowledge, like the one of laboratory, without targets for the disciple, what is needed is the model of discipleship of Jesus. The main purpose of the church is the glory God. Fellowship, Biblical teaching and worship are fundamental, but to glorify God is the priority, always. For that to be obedient to God’s plan to redeem the world in the Great Commission of making disciples. There is power in Jesus for it, which has been placed in His church. To have a clear vision, the values, the purpose and the mission with foundation on personal relationships, to give example of discipleship life, to have firm convictions in Scripture, joy and hope in the Kingdom of God each day. But, how will they bear fruit those disciples who are sick, wounded, ruined, and full of problems in their lives? The answer is Jesus – Yahshua, who lived amongst people, was with them and helped them in their lives, called, made and sent His disciples; that is the foundation and the example to follow. Discipleship is not a course, is a way of living in Christ with faith, humility, trustworthiness, fraternity and love of God, for the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ.

You can also read the Bible Study: Go and Make Disciples!

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[1] Holy Bible, King James Version (United Bible Society, 1993), 1 Corinthians 4:16.

[2] Thom S. Rainer & Eric Geiger, Simple Church: Returning to God´s Process of Making Disciples (Nashville, TN: B&H, 2006), 4.

[3] Rick Warren, The Purpose Driven Church (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1995), 343.

[4] Search For Jesus, Billy Graham Association (Access 8th of March 2021), https://searchforjesus.net 

[5] Ken Blanchard y Phil Hodges, Lead Like Jesus (New York, EE.UU.: MJF Books, 2005), 40.

[6] A.B. Bruce, Training of the Twelve (Christians Classics Eternal Library, Grand Rapids: Michigan, 1871), 27.