No doubt fellowship plays an important role in the growth of the Christian and the glory of the Christ. In fact, while desiring basic levels of fellowship, I fear that we often underestimate the importance of a deeper relationship with our fellow believers. Specifically, we undervalue the need for personal discipleship for all believers.
Last week, I wrote about this need in greater detail sharing that the results of a discipleship relationship provoke change, promote christlikeness, and provide concord. Unfortunately there are many characteristics that seek to distract and detract from this great grace of God if we are not intentional in our desire and seeking after such an intimate relationship with our fellow believers. Previously I considered the external factors that if not confronted can depreciate the value of discipleship. Therefore, there are some external steps that we must be intentional about implementing which include the following:
- Prioritize the Importance
- Initiate Contact
- Initiate Contact with Someone You Know
- Be Consistent
- Incorporate Scripture
- Don’t Make It too Complicated
- Don’t Make it Too Easy
These are important aspects, however they are not the only characteristics to be considered. Rather than restate the details of last week’s article, you can read more of that by clicking here. Instead there are the characteristics of the individual to consider.
Interestingly people are quick to share extremely personal details in a very public way (just check your recent Facebook feed to confirm this). Yet, when it comes to sharing in a very real way that seeks to examine the source of life’s dilemmas, or at the very least our response to those dilemmas, we quickly learn the virtue of silence. The truth is, we would rather transform others rather than transform ourselves, and as long as our grumbling and protesting give the appearance of making others conform, we’re content with that. However, our work is not to change others (although certainly teaching the truth can have that impact, but that’s not our work, but the Lord’s through us as we teach). Our focus is to allow God to transform us. Our inability to be personal is perhaps the greatest barrier of all.
God has given us a great tool in discipleship and through it His grace for growth prevails. Therefore, we must consider the hindrances that impact us. While having already discussed external factors, the following are some internal factors that we can be put into place to aide in process:
- Be Humble: Humility is key to all of our relationships: our relationship with God our relationship to our spouse and children, and our relationship to others whether believer or unbeliever. How relevant then is it to the relationship between discipler and disciplee. Humility will impact the implementation of the remaining characteristics.
- Be Loving: Our command is to love others (according to God’s definitions and standards). Like humility, lovingkindness impacts every other characteristic. The discipleship relationship is one that increase vulnerability and confronts sin, and if not done in a loving way, with humility, there is a greater risk of damaging the relationship, the person, and the testimony of God.
- Be Vulnerable: By nature of what it is, discipleship is meant to be more intimate than a typical relationship. It requires vulnerability, sharing struggles and strengths, fears and failures, and joys and journeys. Only when one is vulnerable can the relationship thrive. However that vulnerability comes responsibility of love, respect, and care.
- Be Confrontational: Confrontational does not mean controversial. Discipleship should be confrontational in that it challenges our mind and our heart compelling us towards conformity into Christ’s character. Without this confrontation we remain content in our sin.
- Be Unconditional: By its confrontational nature, the discipleship relationship is hard. When confronted with our sin we are quick to shut down ourselves and shut out others. However, you cannot make discipleship conditional upon its circumstances. One must be unconditional, a point that is easier when the relationship is characterized by humility and love.
These five points work together to maintain a relationship that will edify and build-up one another.
We should be working to make discipleship a prominent part of our Christians lives. Together with the external factors previously mentioned, these five points help to create a discipleship that is directed towards God and functioning to create one response: transformation. These points aren’t about a process, but about the nature of a process. Discipleship must be a principle aspect of our Christian walk and we must be intentional in making it so.
Not sure where to start? Below are some good resources geared towards developing godly character that can be utilized in a discipleship setting (some are geared specifically for men or women, but most are geared towards all).
Kent & Barbara Hughes
J. Oswald Sanders
There are plenty of resources specific to certain situations as well. If you want recommendations to address specific issues, please feel free to use the contact me page and I can try to come up with some specific resources for you.