Who are you discipling

Tim O’Neill, Exec. Chair
Exponential Australia

Who Are You Discipling?

Who am I discipling?

That was the question that was booming in my head as I read Steve Smith’s account of Ying Kai in the book “T4T: A Discipleship Re-Revolution”. I was both inspired and challenged.

Taiwanese born Ying Kai had sensed God was calling him into China specifically to make disciples who would make disciples. Ying Kai didn’t really want to go, but did so out of obedience. He had previously planted churches both in South East Asia and the USA but was frustrated that the result fell short of what he had hoped for.

Over time, Ying Kai developed a conviction about some key disciple making principles and practices and it was these principles and practices that he was heading into China to trial. What he was going to trial seemed so far removed from what was practised in the churches he had been involved in and yet they seemed so in line with the teachings of Jesus and the practices of the Apostle Paul. And so he was given a mix of highly educated college graduates and barely literate villagers to disciple, in turn showing them how to disciple others.

The result was incredible. Ten years later it was discovered that more than 1.7 million baptisms had resulted from this work.

Astoundingly over just five years one house church network Ying and Grace started reported eighteen new generations of Christians!

So what really is discipling?

Discipling is teaching people the words and ways of Jesus isn’t it? Actually it’s a little more than this. It’s one of the times when a little more makes a huge difference. It’s actually teaching people to follow Jesus. There really is a difference!

Jesus said that His disciples were to make more disciples not by teaching them all that He had commanded them, but by teaching them to obey all that He had commanded them (Matthew 28:19,20). That’s where the rubber hits the road, when we go beyond knowing what Jesus taught us, and we apply it by putting it into practice. And that’s when we move beyond knowing about Jesus to following Him as we apply His teaching in our life.

We’ve too often missed the mark in developed countries like Australia where discipleship has typically been “knowledge based” and we have often relied upon getting the right sermon series, curriculum or small group study to teach. Many a preacher or teacher has been frustrated when they deliver a knockout message with brilliant insights but it stays as information being appreciated but not applied.

There is a contrast with many disciple making and church planting movements often found in developing countries. Here discipleship is generally “obedience based” where the people being discipled are taught to obey or apply the teachings and commands of Jesus. And so they take Jesus’ Word as something to personally apply with the result that followers become fishers, new creations become ambassadors and Spirit empowered believers become witnesses. To put it another way, they become disciples who make more disciples. That sounds a lot like Jesus commands us to do.

What is the fruit of making disciples?

Obviously the fruit includes there being more disciples. Jesus commands us to make disciples of all people everywhere. And He wasn’t just referring to people who already followed Him but also to those who would come to follow Him. But there is also more fruit that can be briefly mentioned.

The lives of disciples will be transformed as they are shaped by applying Jesus’ teaching with the Holy Spirit bringing conviction and illumination. The new creations will actually be new creations, as their lives change, becoming different to the past.

Christians will be known for the way they love friend and foe alike. Jesus Himself said that when we love others as He has shown us, the world will see that we are His disciples. (John 13:34,35) In effect the love we demonstrate will be the proof that the world sees that we are Jesus’ followers, His ambassadors.

Jesus will build His church as He promised (Matthew 16:18) as we do our part by making disciples as He commands us to do. It’s so easy to get this wrong and think that it’s our responsibility to build the church. But it’s not. It’s His responsibility. He says so. And if we do what He asks to do, like making disciples and being known for displaying Christ like love, His church will be built; His way.

The fruit of discipleship should also be multiplication where disciples who make disciples who make disciples who… We catch a glimpse of this kind of multiplication in 2 Timothy 2:2 where Paul tells Timothy that the things he has heard Paul say he is to pass on to others who will also be able to teach yet others. We see four generations mentioned in this advice.

Five Simple Disciple Making Tools

There are many disciple making tools available to help you in discipling others. Some simple tools that you may find helpful include:

a. Discovery Bible Story. You can read about this in “T4T” or “What Jesus Started” by Steve Addison. I use it in small groups where we look at a story from the Bible and ask questions like “what did you like about this story?”, “What did you see Jesus do or teach?”, “How did the people respond to Jesus?”, “Is there a command to obey or a teaching for you to apply?”

b. Three Thirds Discipleship. This is a simple small group format that brings about gentle accountability to decisions made to apply the teachings. You van read about this in “T4T” and “What Jesus Started”.

c. 411. This is a simple disciple making toolkit. You can watch a video explaining this at https://www.movements.net/411

d. Life Journalling. Or SOAPing as some call it that results in journalling on scripture looking not just for what the scripture says, but for how you are to apply it.

e. Life application teaching preferably with time to discuss what the Holy Spirit is saying to you through the message and what the Holy Spirit is asking you to do. Ralph Moore who saw extraordinary success in disciple making and church planting used similar questions in his small groups, which met to discuss the weeks message.

Who are you discipling?

So the big question is, who are you discipling? This question stirred me and I hope it stirs you.

Perhaps there is a pregnant silence right now and you are thinking of responding by saying:

“I’m leading the team instead”,
“I’m already serving in the worship team”,
“That’s the pastor’s job, not mine”,
“I don’t know enough yet to be confident enough”,
“Why would anyone want me to disciple them?”,
“It’s not really my thing”,
“I don’t have time”, or perhaps
“no one.”

As Jesus followers, an unavoidable part of our “job description” is that we will be active in making disciples of others, teaching them to obey all that Jesus has commanded us to do. And as we do this, why not set multiplication in action by asking the people we are discipling “who are you discipling?”