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Regaining focus: Practicing disciple-making behaviors

“A disciple finds and teaches other disciples”—Bill Hull.

There is a disconnect in the church. Somewhere along the way, believers have replaced, or at least short-changed, obedience to fulfill the mandate the Lord gave to the Church of making disciples.

Believers talk of seeking to fulfill the Lord’s will but have accepted simple transmission of information over transformed living and advancing the Gospel. Recent Barna studies show church leaders highly value Biblical instruction in ministry, yet 51 percent of church members are not able to recall exactly what the “Great Commission” is. Close to home, students surveyed at Falls Creek indicate heavy involvement in weekly Bible study environments, value Scripture and hold that it is true in all its clams, yet would exhibit low, basic Biblical literacy and do not place the Bible or prayer among the leading factors in their own spiritual growth.

The lack of scripture memory, application and Bible integration tell a tale not of prioritized, thriving Biblical instruction, discipleship and disciple-making, but more of misplaced focus. There are holes in the pavement on the road to spiritual maturity, Christian development and the disciple-making process.

There is urgency in the task to make disciples. Many do not embrace disciple-making mandate because they have never been discipled themselves. It is hard to lead somewhere you have not been shown. Many believers who have had years of training are never released to fulfill the mandate. So, how do we begin to make disciple-making disciples? What are the reproducible behaviors in a disciple making relationship?

Focused personal devotion

The heart of discipleship and disciple-making is the personal spiritual life of a believer. Believers must aim to develop a reliance on the Lord by spending time with Him, steeping in the Word of God, approaching God in prayer, seeking Him in daily worship and pursuing Jesus through obedience and surrender. Devotion deepens through personal disciplines of the inner life that fosters intimacy with the Lord.

Intentionally-practiced spiritual discipline

In disciple making, primary attention must be given to the “sanctifying” disciplines most commonly mentioned in discipleship and disciple-making, including witnessing (evangelism), Bible study, Scripture memory, service/Gospel deeds, fellowship, accountability and giving (stewardship). “For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come” (1 Tim. 4:8).

Application-oriented life discussion

Obedience is the key to the living as a faithful disciple. Application is the key to obedience. Jesus did not say merely to teach disciples. He said that obedience was the end game of instruction (Matt. 28:20). Helping growing disciples transmit biblical truth into and through their daily lives is key in developing Christlikeness and in fulfilling the command of Jesus to make disciples. If you desire to disciple others, there is a benefit in improving skills in discussion. Discussion is a delivery vehicle for application of biblical truth.

Consistent relational investment and presence

Disciple making needs relationship. We are in relationship with Christ through salvation. Therefore, connection to one another in the church, and with a lost world, is primary. Relational interaction and collective growth are vital to the disciple-making process. Relationship is the environment in which growth happens.

Planned, ongoing, modeled replication

The church often overlooks closing the loop on discipleship due to a lack of planning. Investment in others should have in mind the result of maturity that repeats the process. Unless there is a plan to replicate and release from the initiation of a discipleship relationship, arrival at the desired destination is by accident. The created expectation in all believers is to make disciples and then provide others opportunities to do so.

How can you begin or improve a concerted effort to fulfill the mandate to make disciples? How are you practicing these disciple-making behaviors? Are you reproducing them in others?

If there is to be a turnaround in the way the people of God embrace the foundational charge to make disciples, the Church must begin to engage with the Gospel and develop them with disciple-making behaviors to the point of replication and release. What are you waiting for? Go ahead. Advance the Gospel. Make disciples.

Todd Sanders

Author: Todd Sanders

View more articles by Todd Sanders.

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