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38. What Are We Working Toward?

Purpose: The purpose of this session is to help the disciple understand more clearly the process and goals of this discipleship ministry.

Objectives

1. The disciple will see important aspects of true discipleship and reaffirm his own commitment to Jesus Christ.

2. The disciple will understand that what has been happening to him is perhaps the most important thing in his life. It is working toward fulfilling the Great Commission.

3. The disciple will understand the goals of discipleship as he begins to work with a new disciple.

Scripture Memory

Then he said to them all, “If anyone wants to become my follower, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow me.

Luke 9:23

Agenda

1. Prayer together for life and service.

2. Discuss paper “Commitment; a Burning Issue.”

3. Discuss the worksheet material.

4. Review Scripture memory.

Commitment: A Burning Issue

As I begin to write, I recall the cliché, “Fools rush in where angels fear to tread.” My subject — commitment — and the way I am about to expose my position, could be hazardous in academic circles. But write, I must, for the concept of “commitment” has been a banner over me for more than twenty years, and I must speak and declare my feelings related to this concept.

Twenty two years ago, during a period of ontological despair, I committed my life to Jesus Christ and claimed Him as my Savior and Lord. This commitment became the directional force of my life. It seemed to satisfy an insatiable longing heretofore experienced. Goals for my life — purpose in all of its happenings, appeared immediately available to me.

Three years ago, I was interviewed by the faculty of the College of Education at Arizona State University for admission to the doctoral program in Counseling Psychology. In the process of this interview, I was told by one of these esteemed interviewers to be prepared to “lose my faith.” I was led to believe that I would need to revise my earlier commitment to this Person.

Today, I stand near the end of this rigorous program. I have tenaciously scrutinized and evaluated this commitment. I have grown in personal adequacy. I am becoming more open. I shun dogmatism. I must say also that I have found nothing that can represent a higher and more satisfying commitment. I remain committed to Jesus Christ.

The Nature of My Commitment

Gordon Allport has indicated the necessity of commitment as he couples it with tentativeness. Alone, tentativeness leads to disintegration. Yet one must be tentative in his approach to all of his beliefs. In this way, he resists encapsulation. One also needs the integrative factor of commitment. The two together comprise what Allport calls the “half-sure, whole-hearted” man. Commitment implies resolute abandonment.

When I speak of commitment, I am not speaking of agreement with principles, ideas, or procedures. It would seem that commitment is a vital and serious matter that involves the movement of our life’s direction, and if commitment is real, it is not simply a matter of convenience.

Commitment Leads to Appropriate Behavior.

It is foolish to talk about commitment without considering the behavior that is involved as a natural consequence. If, for instance, one is committed to the perpetuation of a certain type of social order, he will act in ways that enhance its continuance. If he committed to man as highest ideal, he will treat men with dignity and honor. Again, if man’s right to make his own choice is of supreme value, and if one is committed to this ideal, he will never deny another his right to make his own unique choice. It follows that commitment should produce behavior commensurate with the commitment itself. If one is committed to a person, action will follow that will be such as would enhance the relationship desired with that person. Though one may fail, there is an ever pressing on toward the goal of his commitment.

Commitment Becomes the Reorganizing Core of Life.

When one is committed, this commitment brings direction to all of his life. It becomes the directional core of his behavior. It is indeed central in one’s philosophy of life. Because man is capable of reasoned contemplation — awareness of the future —he needs purpose and direction. Commitment relieves the ambiguity of a directionless life. Life is more than a grasshopper dance off to oblivion. It is characterized by conflict, pain, and disappointment, as well as peace, joy and pleasure. Commitment can give purpose to the totality of these experiences.

The Object of My Commitment

As I evaluate the commitment just mentioned — the commitment that is uniquely me — there are certain characteristics which need to be described.

My Commitment is to a Person.

Throughout history, men have been committed to ideas, principles, human beings, etc. My commitment is to a Person, first and primarily. By virtue of my commitment to Him as a Person, I am also committed to many principles and ideals.

I wish to elaborate this point. Being well aware of the philosophical controversy that permeates the field of psychology today — the controversy of relativism as opposed to absolutism — I must say that concerning this Man, I find Him flawless — impeccable! I will expand this in the next section. I also consider the dignity and worth of man to be an absolute, as is love. In terms of understanding truth, though such exists as an absolute in nature and in revelation, I can only approach it relatively. Concerning moral truth, there are many shadows today. In every society, taboos exist that are unique to its existence. There are certain environmental factors that create particular perceptions unique to every individual. In consequence, whatever approach one might have epistemologically — truth as existing “out there” to be discovered or, truth being those unique perceptions of a person at a particular moment, we can say that for man in his existential plight, it is relative.

The Uniqueness of this Person.

As one observes his fellows, he soon learns that all greatness has been marred by littleness, all wisdom possesses a flaw of folly, all goodness is tainted with imperfection. Yet in whatever portrayals of Jesus are available, He seems perfect in His Person. He was perfectly human — one with man, with all the qualities of manhood, yet with the perfections of womanhood as well. Farson has dared to write an article describing the feminine qualities that must be present in an effective counselor — qualities such as tenderness, love, and compassion. These qualities were present in the personality makeup of Jesus Christ, coexisting with His strength and manhood.

How often He has compassion — the “multitudes without a shepherd,” the hungry five thousand, and those who sorrowed at the death of a brother. These are just a few examples. He seemed to be compassionate without respect of persons, and even His method reinforces this. An example is His confrontation with the leper. He identified with this outcast — this dehumanized man — by touching him.

Gentleness is another characteristic of His Person. When He discussed personal problems with the woman at the well of Samaria, He pressed ever so gently the great ulcer eating at her heart. He addressed the woman taken in adultery with the same word “woman,” with which he spoke to His mother from the cross. His chief trophy at His crucifixion was a miserable dying thief.

I do not desire to belabor my argument and yet wishing to elaborate on the unique aspects of His character as I see Him, Jesus demonstrated uniqueness and perfection in the equipoise of His various perfections. Every quality of His unique character was in perfect balance. His gentleness is never weak—His courage never brutal.

The Breadth of My Commitment

Being committed to this man, I am therefore committed to His concerns. Jesus stated His mission in terms of “ministering to others” rather than being ministered unto. I feel that commitment to Him involves commitment to a “helping” relationship.

Jesus speaks of and demonstrates love. He urges us to love our neighbors as ourselves. The counseling relationship is one in which the client is to be loved. Commitment to Christ is a commitment to love, both in and out of the counseling relationship. Jesus is the most brilliant example of this. He demonstrated the principle of acceptance as He moved among social outcasts and related to them in personal ways.

The worth of man is a commitment one shares with commitment to Christ. That Christ was committed in this direction is a truth that naturally follows all we have already said concerning Him. The crowning evidence of this, however, was His death—the offering of Himself for every man. To Him, not only the masses, but individuals were important, and He gave Himself freely to every person who ever sought Him. Commitment to Him makes commitment to man my commitment as well.

In truth, I can say that if William Shakespeare, Sigmund Freud, Saint Thomas Aquinas or Socrates would approach me, I would stand and honor them. But if Jesus Christ should so come near me, I would fall on my face and worship Him.

The Practicality of This Commitment

By way of personal reference, and after twenty-two years, I must say that this man has never failed me. In Him, there have been no disappointments, nor have I felt in evaluating other commitments there might be one superior for me. I have found in Him an adequate solution to the problem of existential guilt and anxiety. He offers a unique adequacy that becomes personal as one becomes one with Him. Notwithstanding Feuerbach’s concept of alienation through submission to God, it has seemed to me that my commitment has been a deterrent to alienation, for this commitment is one for which I have been made.

Thank you for allowing me to develop as a counselor. I am equally pleased that I can write in this somewhat fragmented way of my personal commitment. I have allowed evaluation and encouraged actively a personal scrutiny of my own commitments. These are yet with openness as much as my perceptions allow me to be open. At this point in my development, I counsel from a theistic-humanistic frame of reference, if I can be allowed the privilege of combining two of Lowe’s basic value orientations. I desire commitment to be real for me, yet I desire equally that I shall always possess the quality of tentativeness or perhaps flexibility.

Thoughts on Discipleship

The purpose of this reading is to draw together some thoughts that can be used to present a challenge to others in the making and perpetuating disciples. These are not intended to be a scholarly presentation of the subject, but a drawing together of random ideas that will be useful and encouraging to others.

I. Discipleship is involved in the great commission of our Savior before He ascended into heaven, Matthew 28:19, 20. This passage has been used to call the church to its work in the mission of propagating the Gospel throughout all nations. But the implications involve more than simply sharing the gospel — it says we are to make disciples and teach men and women.

II. What is involved in discipleship?

A. Discipleship includes the ability and desire to help someone come in contact with and know the gospel in a very personal way. We believe that salvation comes through individual faith, rather than faith in an organization or family relationship, John 3:16. It is therefore important to help a person understand the Gospel clearly. If I am to disciple, I must know the Gospel in a clear communicable way so I can readily share it with another.

B. Discipleship is the process of helping another grow. This growth is to the end of spiritual maturity. The most fundamental aspect or basis for spiritual maturity or growth is involvement with the Scriptures, the Word of God. Babies are made men by the milk and meat of the Word, 1 Peter 2:2-3. The Word makes the difference between mediocrity and productivity in our life.

C. Discipleship demands a willingness to share your life with another, 2 Timothy 2:2; 1 Thessalonians 2:7-8. Jesus certainly illustrates this in His life spent with twelve disciples. He, above all, was willing to share Himself!

D. Discipleship demands an exemplary life, Luke 9:23; 1 Timothy 4:12-16. I will probably never be able to help a person walk any more effectively than I walk myself. Water never runs higher than its source.

E. Discipleship demands long commitment, Luke 9:62.

“The essential thing in ‘heaven and earth’ is... that there should be long obedience in the same direction: there thereby results, and has always resulted in the long run, something which has made life worth living.” F. Neitzche.

Commitment involves resolute abandonment, tenacity, singular goals, appropriate behavior, and the reorganization of the core of one’s life. The reason we have failed in the evangelization of the world is probably related to our lack of commitment to the principles of sharing the Gospel in a way that will truly produce disciples. May God help us to no longer be slack in our calling by majoring in the minor.

F. The ultimate goal of discipleship is to produce a spiritually mature individual who is himself reproducing. There should be:

1. Consistency.

2. A well-rounded devotional life — reading, studying, prayer life.

3. A strong grounding in truth:

a. The nature of God — His attributes and triune nature.

b. The Person of the Lord Jesus — hypostatic union and virgin birth.

c. The Person and work of the Holy Spirit.

d. Christ’s Lordship.

e. A clear understanding of the gospel and its presentation.

f. Assurance of salvation — how I know I am a son of God.

g. The nature and importance of the Scripture.

h. The reality of the two natures in the believer.

i. The second coming of Christ — the believer’s blessed hope.

4. Emotional maturity and psychological well-being.

5. A quality life in Jesus — spiritually and psychologically.

6. Reproduction, 2 Timothy 2:2. Every disciple is to engage in a life long ministry of discipling others as a lifestyle. Doing it “one-on- one” will be the biblical way to reach the world.

G. The joy of discipling is beyond compare, 3 John 4. Think of the joy that can be ours through bearing spiritual children and seeing them repro-duce! You may never know the joy of becoming a parent or grand- parent in the physical sense. But you can have innumerable children in the spiritual sense, as well as grandchildren and great grandchildren.

How to Set Your Thinking

It is important to remember some basic principles as we begin the process of discipling another person. The following thoughts are to help you know these things. Keep them before you, and pray about them.

I. Discipling is learning how to be with another person significantly. Many things can be involved in this.

II. Being with another person in a helping way is actually the gift of exhortation, Romans 12:8 (the word used is paraclete).

III. We do not have to do a session in sequence that we have planned to share. It may be that the session will only focus on current events and prayer with review of Scripture memory.

IV. Sometimes what we can most do for another is just listen to them. If you have not learned to listen at this point in your life, learn now! Somehow sharing your life as a listener can have a renewing affect and can truly help your person spiritually.

V. Trust the Holy Spirit in the person you are discipling. In reality he belongs to the Lord and the Holy Spirit before he belongs to us. Follow the promise of Philippians 1:6 and claim it in relation to your “Timothy.”

VI. Remind yourself that you are never going to quit discipling. What you have will continue as a lifestyle. Who knows, you might disciple a Paul, Dwight L. Moody or a Billy Graham. Only eternity will tell the ultimate affect of what you do on a “man-to-man” basis.

VII. Be wise as well as gentle. Your person may truly have a unique problem that hinders his progress. Follow the example of the Holy Spirit’s commitment to each of us, as you follow through with your commitment to the one you disciple.

VIII. Show him how to do things. Go places with him. Let him see how you function as an individual. Model effectively what you want him to learn to do.

IX. Remember to continue to talk about the ultimate goal of discipleship and the necessity of doing quality work in the case of every person you work with. Pray for your disciple. Committed to the total evangelization of your local area. Don’t let zeal be blunted, your enthusiasm dulled. Christ would never have given us the command to do this without the possibility of doing it.

Follow-Up: What We’re Working Toward

The following are some of the goals related to the “follow-up” of another person.

I. A well-rounded devotional life, including:

A. Journaling.

B. Daily Bible reading and systematic study.

C. Active reading of books.

D. Prayer.

E. Taking sermon notes for critique and understanding.

II. Commitment to Christ as Lord— consistency, dependability, steadfastness, and ultimate faithfulness, Luke 9:23f:

A. Persistence without the need to be pushed, Job 23: 12

B. Dependability in attendance, giving, and service with respect to the local church, Hebrews 10:25.

C. The kind of steadfastness that will never leave a person in doubt concerning spiritual life, Galatians 4:19,20.

III. Well-grounded in the teaching of Scripture, 3 John 4; Ephesians 4:14:

There are multitudes of false teachers in the world. The growing disciple should be able to defend himself against the onslaught of error, Acts 20:29, by knowing well these important truths.

a. The nature of God — His attributes and triune nature.

b. The Person of the Lord Jesus — hypostatic union and virgin birth.

c. The Person and work of the Holy Spirit.

d. Christ’s Lordship.

e. A clear understanding of the gospel and its presentation.

f. Assurance of salvation — how I know I am a son of God.

g. The nature and importance of the Scripture.

h. The reality of the two natures in the believer.

i. The second coming of Christ — the believer’s blessed hope.

To be astute in these areas does not come easy. It is my responsibility to help my disciple become aware of the truth of these doctrines and to have a working knowledge of them.

IV. Emotional maturity and psychological well-being:

While the Lord has not made us all psychologists, there are things I can do to help others become more emotionally stable. An important thing is to enable this person to learn how to practice spirituality and how to be effective in that process so he can grow to maturity.

V. A fruit-bearing life of reproductive service is a chief goal:

It is the will of God that this person be active in the Body of Christ somewhere, as well as committed to a life of discipling until Jesus comes, 2 Timothy 2:2. It is the will of the Father that we bear fruit and that the fruit should continue on, John 15:16. I need to help him learn how to disciple another.

VI. Quality life in the Spirit, practicing spirituality and growing in holiness, Proverbs 4:18:

“The path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, that shines brighter and brighter till the full day.”

These things are to become a reality in terms of the uniqueness of each individual, not in terms of how I would shape him or want him to be. I must always remember that this person is a child of God with his own uniqueness. His development must be uniquely his, not mine. .

Worksheet

Some have no “game plan” when they meet to disciple another. It seems that this is either negligent or slipshod, and only on rare occasions should a meeting be simply for the purpose of “visiting.” The purpose of this worksheet is to help you think through some specific reasons for meeting with individuals in a more global sense. What are we trying to do with the disciple when we meet over a long period of time? What are we working toward? What do we want to see our disciple become?

1. Before you look further, list some things that you have had as minimal goals as you have begun meeting with another person.

a.

b.

c.

d.

e.

2. Now look up the following verses and see if they tell you anything about the goals of working with another person.

a. Job 23:12

These words tell us that the person speaking had a certain attitude toward the Scripture that seems to be unique. What was this attitude?

How could we possibly build this kind of an attitude into a disciple?

What is there about Scripture that would assist in this?

b. Luke 16:10

How could you assist in this characteristic becoming real in a disciple?

c. Galatians 4:19,20

d. Ephesians 4:14

Describe a person who would be firm in doctrine.

What truths would be necessary to know in order to be firm as de-scribed in this text?

e. 2 Timothy 2:2

John 15:16

This is what discipling is most concerned about and these things are very central. It is the goal of any discipling ministry that men and women become .

3. It is the goal of a discipling ministry to enable the individual who is being discipled to experience “grace” in a very practical sense. This will cause him to grow emotionally and psychologically. “Grace” in this sense is to provide him an atmosphere of acceptance which would facilitate his growth.

a. Proverbs 4:18 gives an interesting description of the life of the “righteous.” What do you see in this passage of Scripture that would be a possible goal of a discipler?

Write a paragraph on your personal goals in discipling another believer.

Questions for Review and Discussion

1. What has been the most significant aspect of your discipling to this point?

2. How would you describe the nature and degree of commitment in your life at this moment?

3. How would you handle someone who was consistently late for meetings or was slipshod in memory work?

4. What doctrine(s) do you feel weakest in at this point?

a.

b.

c.

5. What personal variable would most likely cause you to “take your hand from the plow and look back?” (Luke 9:62 paraphrased)

6 Describe the greatest fear or point of weakness you sense in yourself as you have begun to disciple.

7. What is your greatest joy in doing this work?

To Perpetuate and Multiply Emphasize These

1. Being a disciple of Jesus is a lifetime choice. Commitment to being a servant—a disciple—- is something that one must see as a permanent commitment. Jesus said, “no one, after putting his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God,” Luke 9:62.

2. To disciple effectively and see the results of discipleship is the greatest joy possible for a Christian. This joy is greater even than introducing one to the Savior. The greatest joy in my temporal life is not to bring a child into the world, but to rear the child effectively and see his life become productive and useful. 3 John 4 says. “I have no greater joy than this to hear of my children walking in truth.” There is no joy like that of experiencing the faithfulness for God in the life of one I have discipled.

3. Discipleship involves the sharing of yourself— your life — with another person. It is not simply sharing the Gospel and Jesus. I Thessalonians 2:7,8 speaks of Paul being such an example. He was willing to share not only the Gospel but His own life also. Just as Christ gave Himself, so are we to give ourselves. One who is not willing to be with another person — to share his life with that person — will never be fully effective as a discipler.

4. Don’t let your head run away with “adding” to your discipleship ministry more people than you can effectively handle. An occasional group is all right, but our work loses power as we cease our individual work. The world will never be reached by “adding,” but it is possible through multiplying. You will always do best as you share your life with one person individually. This may be the only time in that person’s life that he has the complete attention of another person. The power of this surpasses our comprehension.

5. Do thorough work. Do not be involved with the link that breaks the chain of ultimate and total evangelism. Do not become the breaking link yourself. See to it that your person has the best you can give him. None of us are experts. We all are learning. We will be sharpened as we work and learn. Be thorough! If you need to spend more than fifteen months and considerable follow-up with a person, be willing to give it. Make this your primary ministry on earth.

6. PLOD, PLOD, PLOD! The ultimate goal is to reach your area and the world. Pray for the Lord of the harvest to grant us wisdom as we try to keep on schedule. “The Lord is... not wishing for any to perish, but for all to come to repentance.” 2 Peter 3:9

A Summary of an Article by Gordon McDonald on Discipleship Abuse
The Discipleship Journal, Issue 30

Gordon McDonald says that in a discipling relationship, there is much potential for harm as well as for good. This is a summary of an article published in 1985.

There are many kinds of abuse known in society today. Child abuse, police brutality, and others. The author speaks of a type of abuse not often spoken of today. We thought this article is appropriate for our discipleship manuals as a warning to the discipler. This is a type of abuse that all of us could be guilty of and we should be aware of it.

1. The danger of corrupted intimacy.

Disciple making or “person growing” is a relationship that has profound intimacy. Be aware that it can become sour and carry much abuse.

2. The five dimensions of discipling.

  • The calling/commitment encounter where the relationship begins. In this period we should not seek to dominate or control a person, but to grow him. This desire to control can happen easily and we should avoid it.
  • The mentoring process where learning takes place. The stated goal of healthy discipleship is to point the person toward spiritual growth that is measured by Christ-likeness. Abuse happens when the person doing the mentoring does it to make the disciple like himself.
  • The broadening effort in which the discipler opens new opportunities by exposing the disciple to responsibilities. In the broadening effort, there has been much abuse. This happens when the discipler attempts to exercise control of all that the disciple does. The leader feels that he must approve everything. This can happen unnoticed when we pressure the person to do this or that to please us.
  • The releasing dimension in which the formal discipling process is terminated. The releasing/sending period is also a time when abuse can occur. It occurs when the disciple-maker refuses to let go of the disciple. An example in another relationship is that of children and parents. Some parents find it extremely difficult to let their children go.
  • The affirming dimension in which the formal discipling becomes long term friendship. The final stage as discussed by Gordon McDonald is that of confirming affirmation/appreciation. When we are finished with the formal discipling, we should keep in touch rather than to drop out in silence that hurts the new disciple. To simply disappear from the relationship causes much pain and can be abuse.

In each of these dimensions there should be great care shown in order that the process does not become people-crippling.

How to avoid disciple abuse...

  • We must realize that the disciple possibly sees much more meaning in your life than you ever realized. You as his discipler have given something that most never get.
  • We must remember that we are not out to change people but to grow people; to present every man complete in Christ, Colossians 1:28.
  • We must be the temporary conveyer of the words, “well done thou good and faithful servant.” Christ will ultimately say this, but in the meanwhile, we must say of them.

Optional Additional Reading: Disciples are Made —Not Born, by Leroy Eims

Reread Born to Reproduce, by Dawson Trotman, in Session 1

Related Topics: Discipleship