Everything we do is done in stages. As an example we learn to crawl before walking, and walking before running. The point of a stage is to prepare for something more difficult in the future. It is the same with discipleship. In discipleship, there are three stages which are evangelize, disciple, and train. These three steps, and following them to their fruition, help build on fire disciples that set the church ablaze.
The first step is evangelizing because we are unable to disciple someone if they have not yet accepted Christ. Dr. Earley states “Having such information does others no good unless, or until, we share it. We have to proclaim the good news ”. This can be a time consuming step, and we will do well while remaining patient. Not everyone accepts the Gospel the first time they hear it, in fact it may take several times. We must remain obedient and plant seeds even though someone may be doing the watering. Keep that person in prayer and pray for them by name. This is very powerful and will keep the Holy Spirit moving in their life. Remember that Satan is always trying to keep them from conversion.
The second stage is that training disciples. Jesus states in Luke 9:23 “If anyone wishes to come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.” Jesus is saying here that we must die to ourselves and pursue him. Kyle Idleman writes “When Jesus says ‘Come after,’ he is describing a passionate pursuit of someone you love. So the best way to understand what Jesus is wanting from us as followers is to compare how we pursue him to how we would pursue someone with whom we want to have a romantic relationship .” I have a question for those of us that are married. Are we pursuing Jesus the same way we pursued our spouses? We are willing to pay the ultimate prices for our spouses, support them in everything they do, we tell them our inner most secrets, and listen for ways to make our own lives better. We should do the same in following Jesus, and also do the same as we train disciples. Making disciples was also the last command that Jesus commanded of us in the Great Commission.
The third and final stage is training disciples to go out into the world to make more disciples. The Apostle Paul is a great example of what it means to train disciples. This great man of God evangelized almost everywhere in the known world, established churches, taught new believers the faith, and trained those newly trained disciples to go out into the world and do the same things he did for them. Paul writes to Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:2 “And the things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses. These entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach other also.” The Apostle Paul “serves as a paradigm for the third and final goal of a disciple maker: to multiply disciples to be disciple makers .” To do this we must know the teachings of Jesus, select our own faithful people from among those being disciples, have a regular time to meet with them and mentor them, show them how to do ministry, let them do ministry on their own after proper instruction, and keep them focused. My pastor is bold and will call people out during his sermons to tell them what ministry he thinks they will be good in. I asked him why he does this and he said “The Holy Spirit has been asking them already. I am just doing his bidding.” Some respond and some do not, but for those that do he coaches them personally. He studies with them, meets with them, and goes to the group meetings so the people do not feel that they are in it alone. When he feels they are ready he releases them to do the same thing.
I think a problem with the church as whole is that we are stuck on stage one.
1. Earley, Dave, and Rod Dempsey. Disciple Making Is…: How to Live the Great Commission with Passion and Confidence. Nashville: B&H Publishing Group, 2013, 130.
2. Idleman, Kyle. Not a Fan. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011, 130.
3. Earley, Dave, and Rod Dempsey. Disciple Making Is…: How to Live the Great Commission with Passion and Confidence. Nashville: B&H Publishing Group, 2013, 157.