This essay will reveal a common weakness in most “discipleship” at churches today. By delving into Ephesians, you’ll learn what it takes to create successful and fruitful disciples. Warning: while we provide a way that makes it easier to build a strong foundation, you may not like what I am sharing.
Here’s the video:
The model discipleship is based on the Ephesians:
And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the [b]edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ— from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love. (Ephesians 4:11-16)
This works as a model for discipleship, which can be a one-on-one relationship with someone else, or more likely, within a small group and initially led by a trusted experience leader.
Let's first review the five primary spiritual gifts that come into play. As we go through them, you'll soon see why I believe a one-on-one model may have limits in the short term.
The five gifts as: Apostle, Prophet, Evangelist, Teacher, and Shepherd. A single session of discipleship can go through each of those forms of “gift” or “grace.” Because successful growth “grow up in all things into Him” depends upon all five, trying to do so with a limited set introduces risk and limitations to effective discipleship.
This cannot be emphasized enough: why bother with discipleship based on a flawed foundation?
So the first is the Apostle, which means the “sent one.” Often this word is put in the context of a physical journey to another land or to a location to reach a specific, unreached people's group.
But Christ's relationship with each one of us is total captivity of your thoughts:
We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5)
All of our thoughts are meant to be taken captive. We often think of thoughts as one big blob. But really there are many “territories of thoughts.” These thoughts are segmented and often siloed. There are some who have their “Sunday thoughts.”
It literally is a set of thinking that they take on Sunday. But those thoughts different on the other six days of the week. Those thoughts are different.
Setting the days aside, you have different slices of thinking: you have thoughts about work and money, thoughts about parenting and marriage and relationships. Thoughts about yourself, your goals, your purpose, your past, your hurts, your present, your parents.
All those are different types of thoughts to which you want to have an Apostle-type relationship with Christ, where He is the “sent one” into all of those thoughts. He takes them captive through the Spirit, through the Word, and ideally the one you have a discipling relationship with.
A lot of times we have barriers to other thought lives. Those barriers lead to wall to our actual lived lives. And if we don't allow those thoughts to be penetrated, then there will be no growth and will not mature fully in the likeness of Christ.
This is one of the critical ways the spiritual gifts lead to “edifying of the body of Christ.”
After all, it is through sharpening our thoughts through both spiritual discipleship and discipline that we are able to renew our mind. This is a core practice of being a Christian:
Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Romans 12:2)
Next comes the Prophet, which is speaking a truth that leads to metanoia, a repentance, a return to God's law, and to turning away of sin.
This is form of grace in discipleship is so critical. It is also the primary reason I don't believe it's effective initially in one-on-one relationships within your church. Most Christians are too weak in the Word and in conviction, such that they they can't have a strong prophetic conversation.
Those who do have a willingness and solid ground to speak the Truth often lack sufficient love to do so in a way that can lead to repentance instead of resentment.
This isn't true just for newbies.
Sadly, this extends all the way up to eldership (which is why, as part of this, I have a separate program dedicated to solid eldership foundations).
This is why I feel it's easier and healthier to outsource Prophetic grace in the beginning to an external source that's constantly being vetted by other mature Christians in a public and transparent forum. It should also be designed such that there's no place to really hide because everybody being discipled knows they are being subjected to this same prophetic truth.
It will feel too harsh if it comes from the mouth of an individual without validation.
Without bad news, there is no good news. The prophet delivers the “bad news” -- which inevitably is linked to our sinful, rebellious nature.
Fortunately, growth comes when hearing “good news” and that comes from the grace of the Evangelist.
The Evangelist is powerless when there is no bad news. And so that's why the Prophet is a linchpin in this discipleship process.
Even here, I believe it benefits many churches to offload the clarity of this message externally at first. Far too many churches do not understand how to apply the full gospel, and as a result, damage their entire local body.
The next comes the Teaching. The bar remains very high:
My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment. (James 3:1)
While effective and solid teaching is a requirement for eldership and leadership in the church, most elders and leaders don't have this skill.
Teaching isn’t just exposition. We’re in a discipleship relationship.
In that context, teaching means guiding someone along the path to life based on God's word. The different between a good and bad teacher is a bad teacher imparts information. A good teacher facilitate revelation (as well as joy and transformation).
The last part of a Discipleship process is the Shepherd.
The Shepherd walks alongside, caring, loving and supporting. Many churches mistakenly believe this is Discipleship in total. It’s important. But a caring relationship is insufficient.
If you're missing any of those five in a discipling relationship, you will not grow “to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.”
“But not everyone has all of the gifts! So therefore we can grow without all of them.”
I don’t read it that way. If Christ did not need all of them, he wouldn’t have listed all of them. Which of the Five is not actually critical?
The real way to solve is not to water-down your Discipleship.
It’s to seek a solution, a Discipling, where all five are there. And, as a result of this, develop all five spiritual gifts within your church.
If you're interested in see how it gets applied and developed, it's part of this training on eldership. It also is part of the development for men's discipleship training.
And it also is the core of the training on marriage and how that cycle needs to go through with a group set of discipleship.
If you are the head of your church, and are interested, then add your email and you’ll receive a link to schedule a live call.
If you are reading this and not the head of your church, please meet with the head of your church, your head pastor, and discuss with them the urgency that at the very minimum, the elders and those who are discipling other participate in this program.
Why risk the growth of your church, your leaders, your entire flock to a faulty Discipleship foundation?