If we are to copy Jesus’ total ministry, then the Church must reach out both in evangelism and in the establishing of converts. As the converts grow, they, too, can be taught how to equip and train other believers who in turn will reach others through the process of spiritual multiplication.
Churches with an overemphasis on baptisms and programs must reconsider Christ’s command to make disciples. Saving souls and building disciples are inseparably linked in Scripture.
In reviewing my motivation to disciple others, I remember how someone cared for me—and how my life was changed by that loving care and the subsequent flow into my life of what he had learned from God.
I have observed that the results of disciplemaking are consistently better than anything I have experienced in thirty years of working with people. There are several reasons for this.
Discipling is one of the most strategic ways to have an unlimited personal ministry. It may be done at any time, by anyone, anywhere, and among any age group.
Discipling is the most flexible of ministries, since it need not be done within any time frame or organizational structure.
Discipling is the fastest and surest way to mobilize the whole body of Christ for evangelism. The goal of discipling is not just more disciples, for a club comprised of saved souls will soon die without effective penetration into the lost world. Making disciples in all nations becomes both a result of evangelizing and a means to the accomplishment of world evangelization.
Discipling has more long-range potential for fruit than any other ministry. The Lord wants us to be rooted and built up in him and established in the faith. This takes time and care. Caring for people is the essential component. Follow-up is done by someone rather than something.
Discipling will provide the local church with mature lay leaders who are Christ-centered and biblically nourished. The pew warmers are many; the laborers are few. Laborers are a product of Spirit-guided discipling in the church. Building into the lives of others is God’s plan for raising up new deacons, teachers, and other church leaders. The nominating committee’s appeal for workers will become a shout of praise to God when church members are multiplying Christ-like disciples.
One-to-one, or in a group?
Should this discipling take place in a one-to-one individual ministry, or in a group setting? It is not either/or, but both. Here are twelve reasons for the necessity of discipling people individually:
1. Anyone in the local church can do individual discipling. He simply shares with another what the Lord is doing in his life, and leads the other in the steps he has already taken.
2. Individual ministry already is modeled in the church by-personal counseling to the lost, the sick, the bereaved, and others with expressed needs. It is equally logical to give personal time to people who desire spiritual growth.
3. Christ’s ministry was to love his disciples and to lay down his life for them. Working with an individual reflects the kind of commitment Christ had for each of his men.
4. Few people have the time or capacity to be intimately involved in the lives of a large number of individuals. Anyone can make time for working with one person.
5. Individual discipling has the closeness of friendship and the precision of a teacher-apprentice relationship.
6. The method of individual discipling is flexible in schedule and intensity. Training and Bible study assignments can be paced according to individual needs. Spiritual growth is thus more rapid and effective.
7. This method of individual discipling is readily copied. We do unto others what has been done unto us.
8. Exhortation, correction, and admonition can be quickly and easily given in individual relationships.
9. The life of the discipler reinforces the truth of the message, and can be closely observed by the disciple.
10. The needs of the disciple come to the surface in the privacy of individual ministry.
11. Both the relationship and the results seem more lasting in individual discipling.
12. Discipling on a one-to-one level is the most rapid way I know to develop spiritual leaders who can multiply disciples.
Here are twelve reasons for group discipling:
1. Group ministry is the method most often used in the local church, so people feet at ease with it and expect its methodology.
2. It is a fluid method. An individual can move in and out of the group without destroying either the group or his relationship with those attending.
3. The group method allows people to participate without feeling put on the spot. Some people are not ready for one-to-one discipling.
4. A variety of teaching methods can be used in the group setting.
5. General doctrine can be easily taught to several people at once.
6. Bible study is highly stimulating as different members discuss together their research and application.
7. Momentum can grow in groups. A spirit of adventure and unity can eventually motivate those who are less eager at first.
8. Giving general correction and exhortation in a group is more subtle than directly confronting individuals.
9. A group counseling effect can result from people becoming interested in and praying for the needs of others.
10. Groups are effective channels for funneling people into a more intensive one-to-one relationship and training time.
11. The Holy Spirit can use the background and experiences of a number of people to teach each member of the group.
12. The spiritual gifts of all the members can collectively provide strength and ministry to the group.