5 Benefits of Discipleship
My wife and I enjoy being involved in a number of ministries at Lancaster Baptist Church, but most of all we enjoy one-on-one discipleship. Every Wednesday evening, several couples and individual gather to meet with their disciplers and cover one of 14 basic Bible lessons. The goal of this program is to instruct newer Christians in the basic teachings of the Bible and ultimately to involve them in serving in the church.
In the nearly six years of serving in couples ministry, we’ve been privileged to take several couples through the curriculum. Each time we do, we are reminded of the benefits of discipleship both for the disciple and the discipler. I want to share some of these benefits with you so that you can prayerfull consider getting involved in this awesome ministry!
Before we start, let me encourage you to check out the Continue curriculum available on the Striving Together Publications website. This book serves as the curriculum for our organized discipleship program. Included inside are many other helps besides the lessons, such as Bible reading schedules, topical verse lists, and daily devotions for the week between lessons. All together, the curriculum is designed to last from 14-20 weeks, allowing plenty of time for questions and building relationships.
If you’re interested in hearing what a lesson is like, I recently partnered with a podcast call “Real Christian Manliness” to teach through each lesson over a couple months of episodes. You can follow their Facebook page or listen to the podcast on Apple iTunes. The first half of the curriculum is posted and the second half will be posted over the next several weeks.
Now, the benefits of one-on-one discipleship:
1. Discipleship creates opportunities to share the Gospel.
On more than one occassion, we have started discipleship with a couple or individual who was not yet saved but desiring to understand the Bible. Within the first few lessons, the disciplee learns about the Bible, God, Jesus, and Salvation by faith. At the end of those lessons, the discipler is encouraged to ask point blank whether or not the individuals have personally placed their faith in Jesus Christ.
When considering who to encourage into discipleship, ask yourself this question: “Who in my sphere of influence isn’t saved but might be interested to learn more about the Bible?”
2. Discipleship helps you build strong relationships with newer Christians.
Some of our closest friends in the church are those we’ve taken through discipleship. It creates a bond between us that leads to a continued “iron sharpening iron” relationship. This is epecially true when your disciples go on to take another couple through the curriculum.
I liken discipleship to teaching a infant to walk. I’m so often amazed at my children and how they develop each year of their life. Sometimes they need a lot of assistance, then seemingly out of nowhere they “get it.” Some things take more time than others and some things require a greater amount of assistance in the beginning.
Every new Christian needs a mentor, a friend to come alongside and hold their hand as they grow in their newfound faith in Christ. We wouldn’t expect a newborn baby to feed, move about, and otherwise function without the careful attention of a loving parent. Unfortunately, we often leave a newborn Christian to themselves instead of nurturing them with grace and patience.
When considering who to encourage into discipleship, ask yourself this question: “Who is a new Christian in my church who could benefit from a friend and mentor to help them grow in their faith?”
3. Discipleship helps you learn to better teach basic Bible truths.
It is one thing to “know” the truths. It is something completely different to effectively communicate that truth to a new believer. Discipleship is just as much training for the discipler as it is for the disciple. The more we do it, the better we learn to answer questions and navigate the “rewiring” process of Holy Spirit transformation.
If you’re thinking about starting discipleship, don’t feel like you have to be Bible scholar. The Continue curriculum, for one, is designed so that you could easily study the lessons and even “read” the lessons with your new disciple. Yes, there will be questions to which you don’t know the answer. Just think about how much you will grow when faced with the challenge of answering a new Christian’s questions! I guarantee there is someone in your church (your pastor, in particular) who is more than willing to help you find the answers.
4. Discipleship helps you memorize Scripture.
I was raised in a church with an AWANA program. I loved the games, activities, and singing. Looking back now, the most valuable aspect of that program in my life was the Bible memory. Memorizing Scripture came so easy to me, so I was always trying to say the most verses and complete my book before everyone else. To this day, many verses I can say from memory I first learned in this program as a child.
Let’s be honest. A systematic, structured Bible memorization program is often lacking in our lives. We find it difficult to dedicate the time to developing and following a system. Discipleship, however, creates a weekly meeting where you not only hear your disciple say verses, but you’re also challenged to memorize verses with them. Of course, the more you teach the curriculum, the more you’ll find the verses are familiar and easy to recite.
5. Discipleship allows a friendly and safe atmosphere to address issues and answer questions.
Even though this point is last, to me it has been one of the most valuable aspects of discipleship as a connection group leader. Inevitably, as you reach people with the Gospel and they begin growing in the Lord, issues and questions arise. On more than one occassion we’ve started discipleship with a couple that was living together but not yet married. Instead of addressing that issue at lunch after their first visit to the church (and yes I say that to imply that it’s probably not a wise step), discipleship creates a safe environment where you can establish a relationship and the authority of the Bible before dealing with a touchy subject like this.
In one of our first discipleship assignments, we made it through a few lessons before coming to a lesson on prayer. One powerful truth taught in that lesson is that unconfessed sin is a hindrance to God answering your prayers. We had built a relationship with this couple and tried our best to be friends. During that lesson, God led me to directly address that they needed to get married. I wasn’t sure how it would go over or if they would simply brush it off. To our amazement and to God’s glory, the couple later took us to dinner and informed us that they had decided to get married. And what a happy day it was when they did!
Discipleship provides the foundation of a relationship to help new Christians through difficult growing pains. The transformative process of replacing the world’s thinking with biblical thinking is sometimes scary and tedious. Having a friend to answer your questions and ecnourage is often the difference maker in a new Christian’s life.
I would love to hear your discipleship stories! How has a personal, mentoring relationship helped you to grow as a Christian? How have you benefited from being a mentor for someone else? Leave a comment below!