As I have read and studied the content of Growing Up: How To Be A Disciple Who Makes Disciples I recall my early years as a Christian. I accepted the gift of salvation from Jesus Christ at the age of 10. The church I belonged to then was Pembroke Road Baptist Church in Miramar, Florida. Our church had a strategic plan in place to disciple new believers. As a boy I was encouraged to attend the Survival Kit discipleship class and I also participated in Bible drill. We never went to the competitions, but our teachers often drilled us in class just so we could sharpen our knowledge of the Bible. I believe this was key in my maturing as a Christian and is highly responsible for me serving in the ministry.
Not everyone who grows to maturity as a Christian will end up serving in full-time "professional" ministry. However, EVERY Christian is a full-time minister and is given the responsibility, by the Holy Spirit, to grow and prepare for every opportunity to share Christ. This is why I am sharing this book with. There is nothing magical about THIS book. It simply provides a clear-cut, easy-to-follow plan for discipleship. This week I will highlight the third and fourth chapters. You can view part one here and part two here.
Chapter three outlines the structure and purpose of a discipleship group (D-group). As I mentioned above, we are expected to grow and help others grow. The "professional" ministers are not the only ones expected to carry out the work of the gospel. This is why personal discipleship is so important. The only way you can help others grow is to grow yourself and then bring others along with you in the Christian life.
So many people still attend church out of a religious obligation rather than from a spiritual desire or even responsibility. Many of us are simply checking off our "obligation boxes" for the week. It is much more important for us to set spiritual goals to attain. Dr. Gallaty builds a convincing case for the value of goals in every area of life, but especially in the spiritual arena.
One misunderstanding church-goers have is what a discipleship group is. Many think that Sunday School or the video-driven Bible studies count as discipleship. These can contribute to discipleship, but so often they do not issue a personal challenge with accountability. They do not offer personal feedback and encouragement along the way.
As you read this chapter you will find a clear contrast between discipleship and other Bible study groups. You will learn that a D-group is a closed group, which means only a few people can join and it is by invitation only. It is also a group of believers that desire a deeper, closer walk with Christ. Instead of a lecture, each member contributes to the group with the leader facilitating the discussion. When everyone has input, it also lends to the accountability relationship. You can challenge others, but you also must be ready to be challenged by others as well. The key is to make sure it is exercised in love and concern with the goal of helping and encouraging rather than "catching someone in the act" or administering a "gotcha" moment.
Next, Dr. Gallaty emphasizes the importance of trust within such a tight-knit and personal group. This trust demands confidentiality, provides permission for godly confrontation, and assures security for confession. These three elements are necessary for a successful D-group, but cannot be effectively achieved if there is no trust between the members. Time is spent in this chapter clearly defining what each of these means so there is no mistaking the expectation that a member should have of his or her fellow group members.
Finally, we read about the suggested structure of a D-group as demonstrated in the life of Christ. Jesus ministered in varying group sizes: large groups (hundreds and thousands), small groups (twelve) and intimate groups (three). All of these are important, but this chapter teaches why an intimate group of no more than four is necessary for D-groups. Also, wisely noted is the need for these groups to be gender-exclusive (men meeting with men and women meeting with women).
Chapter four emphasizes the importance of spiritual exercise. The Christian life is one that must be strengthened. In the scriptures, new or immature Christians are equated with babies (1 Corinthians 3:2, Hebrews 5:12, and 1 Peter 2:2). We all know that babies are not born with the ability to walk or even with the ability to control the movement of their limbs. A baby must gain strength. This takes time, but moms and dads try to make the conditions right for positive development. As a matter of fact, when a baby is not progressing, this is a cause of concern and the parents usually contact the doctor as soon as the lack of progress is evident.
At the beginning of life a baby is helped, but there comes a time when that baby gets big enough that he or she no longer wants help saying, "I do it myself!" Sometimes they even try things that are too much for them. However, if it is safe to do so, a wise parent will allow a baby to try something that is too much because that too assists in the learning process. Often, times like these are even cute to watch. However, there comes a time that it is no longer cute. When a child reaches a certain age, such as the teenage or adult years, it is no longer cute to watch them falter and fail. It can even be embarrassing for them and for those associated with them. This may seem like a harsh way to think, but the reality is that if we are not growing stronger as Christians, we are going to get to the point in which we "embarrass" the name of Christ. We must continue to grow daily in our knowledge, commitment and service to the Lord in order to know how to more accurately reflect His glory to a watching world.
This is the reason for the spiritual disciplines outlined in this book. Discipleship is like going to a spiritual gym. You build on what you learned the time before and it makes you more effective and efficient as a follower of Christ. This discipline should be measurable and new goals ought to be set each time the previous goal has been met. Or...if a goal is missed, perhaps a new, more attainable goal needs to be set with the idea of working back up to the original, lofty goal. The ultimate goal is godliness (to be made more like God). This is not something we can attain in our own strength, nor can we attain it all at once due to our finite nature. It is something we attain in the power of Christ through faith, which He also supplies.
In this chapter, Dr. Gallaty describes the three primary change agents that God uses to produce godliness in us. Two of those agents are external, but the one he focuses on is internal: spiritual disciplines. This is the only agent that God has given into your hands for your use. The point to note is that He has left you with the freedom to choose whether or not to use it. You must decide whether or not spiritual disciplines are important enough to move you into committed and consistent action. The next six chapters of this book will provide you with the equipment to develop your spiritual disciplines. The question is: Will you use them?
I hope you will!
Let me remind you: what I am summarizing here is not enough to get you started. Please consider purchasing a copy of Growing Up: How To Be A Disciple Who Makes Disciples and begin implementing the tools that are provided (it is available digitally as well). You can find more resources at http://replicateministries.org/resources/. Set your personal spiritual goals, but also make it your goal to begin discipling others so that the gospel message will be multiplied!
For God's Glory,
Chris S. Sweet