Step 4: Improving Disciple-Making - Part 2

Selecting a Disciple

It is important for disciplers to seek out and select the best possibilities for training in discipleship. What kind of person is he or she now? How can that person be expected to most effectively assist others? Can they identify problems or hindrances? What are the do's and don'ts? Consider a goal sheet; also the living example of the Lord Jesus. Primarily, five things should be in view even if imperfectly developed.

1. Is this person "sold out to Christ," a committed believer with a heart for God?

2. How well has this person functioned in relationships, home and outside? Is this a "team person," pleasant, not hypersensitive, or overly critical, but a good prospect as a worker?

3. Is this person able to handle a reasonable workload and pressure without becoming "angered" or unduly frustrated? Can he be both diligent and calm?

4. Are essential leadership qualities evident? This will include decisiveness, initiative, getting things done (a "can doer") and ability to communicate ideas and visions to others.

5. Is there stability and dependability indicated in character?

The disciples must have goals for this relationship.

I. The Discipler Under God

We are called to be something before we share anything. To do otherwise is to be a hypocrite. Jesus Christ is our Lord, without reservation (John 20:28). We are called to be conformed to His image (Romans 8:29). We are subject to Him. We have a vital relationship to God on a daily basis and our body is presented to Him for whatever He pleases (Romans 12:1-2). Even a relatively new believer can have this relationship with the Lord.

II. The Discipler and Christian Basics

There must be doctrinal knowledge and practice of certain fundamentals. These are:
  1. Thorough understanding of the Gospel.
  2. Assurance of salvation.
  3. Consistent daily devotional life.
  4. Fellowship in the local church.
  5. Control of our life by the Holy Spirit.
  6. Effective application of the Word.
  7. Effective prayer.
  8. Obedience to God.
  9. Sharing our faith as a way of life.
  10. Effectively meeting temptation.
  11. Knowing the will of God.
  12. Developing Christian character traits.
The discipler must be consistent in the fundamentals. This includes a daily devotional time with God, praying in a meaningful way, applying the Word personally in Bible study, and sharing our faith with others as a way of life. Some doctrinal matters may be covered in basic Christian training classes. This will free us to work on other matters.

III. The Discipler in Relationships
  1. The godly person is certainly separate from the world, even though living in the midst of sinners. Such was the life of Jesus.

  2. The person God uses will certainly be active in the local church and contributing as a member of the body.

  3. He should be others-directed in his life, keenly interested in needs, which give him opportunity to minister.

  4. He seeks to find others with whom he can share Biblical life goals. He wants to share his life with those who are like-minded. He wants to be used by God as a motivator and to be able to transfer effective spiritual principles rooted in the Word. He seeks to find and make multipliers for Christ.
The discipler must learn to assist others in solving problems, while not making decisions for them. That is their job, not yours.

The golden principle in dealing with others as a helper is " speak the truth in love" (Eph. 4:15). The Lord Jesus did exactly that.

God's Word speaks of the necessity of warning (I Thess. 5:14: Acts 20:31,) admonishing (II Thess. 3:15; Col. 3:16), rebuking (II Tim. 4:2; Titus 1:13, 2:15), and correcting (Titus 1:9) those we are seeking to help. These are the principles used by God in chastening those He loves (Heb. 12:5-11).

There can be no progress to maturity without change and this requires discipline. We are to confront characteristics, which are detrimental in believers and seek to help them change. We should never minimize sin nor accept excuses for not changing.

The following characteristics should be deemed unacceptable:
  1. Lack of discipline, tardiness, and failure to complete assignments.
  2. Excuses, blame-shifting, dwelling on past influences or experiences.
  3. Talking about problems without acting, ventilating endlessly.
  4. Defiling habits, associations, retaining "grave clothes" of old life.
  5. Failing to obey God in areas of which they are aware.
  6. Talking about others, criticizing, gossip.
  7. Laziness, unwillingness to work.
  8. Anger, lust, gluttony (excessive overweight) ingratitude, pride.
  9. Talking about their feelings in place of actions.
  10. Self-centeredness, rather than being others-directed, Christ-centered.
Problem areas should be diagnosed at the root, not on details. Identification of these roots might be assisted by considering the following areas:
  1. Not truly committed to do personal discipleship in the first place.

    Perhaps they sought personal spiritual help in basics and did not intend to get involved. Perhaps they considered themselves inadequate (fear). It would seem that effective input can only be given to a person who is committed to effective output.

  2. Not functioning in spiritual basics personally (undisciplined life).

    If we are not effective in an area, we have nothing to share. Training in discipleship is not something learned to pass on to others while not living it personally.

  3. Failing to study and use the materials and training given (not listening).

    Some believers have not learned to listen and practice what they have been shown by experienced workers. They are familiar with concepts, but they do not act upon them. They set up their own patterns and ignore clear instruction.

  4. There is a need for further assistance but lack of effort to get it.

    Field practice in calling or personal evangelism, small group assistance and individual problem-solving sessions may help. If we need more direction, we must take steps to get this help and move out. There should be continuing interchange with a more experienced discipler. They are waiting when they should be taking action.

  5. There may be a need to simplify by doing fewer things and doing them well.

    We may be best at simple follow-up. We may need to work on our ability to share the gospel or study the Word for ourselves in a productive way. We can concentrate on these, one at a time. We can begin by helping someone else in an area where we have had a measure of victory and blessing.

  6. Failure to see that disciples are made by other disciples, not programs.

    It is possible to be a "paper disciple." Reading or listening to certain truths is not enough. Reading matter and talk alone will not do the job. One becomes a spiritual reproducer by the personal assistance of another reproducer. Are you moving to be a reproducer for Jesus?
How can the discipler further improve his or her ministry in this area? Begin by reviewing your past efforts with strict self-judgment. Any of us can do a better job at anything if we choose to do so.

Effective discipling necessitates regular meetings, assignments, progress towards goals, ministry effectiveness review. The following objectives will keep us "on the same page," even if our interchanges reflect our different personalities?

1. Establish a close, communicating, trusting bond with the person with whom we are working. We are not just "checker-uppers."

2. Model everything we teach in character, habits, skills and fruit-bearing.

3. Teach them by mutual sharing how to meditate on God's Word. Select and apply the Scriptures as God's Word to us personally.

4. Establish a mutual prayer list, which includes: (1) personal requests, (2) evangelistic prospects, and (3) progress in their ministries.

5. Produce a written set of goals (each should have a copy) for each man. Include a major character need, a ministry skill, and one other goal whose attainment would accelerate their progress.

Your men or women should be able to effectively disciple others, shepherd some of the sheep, do well in their ministries, maintain a solid devotional and family life.

In the course of training, some will drop by the side of the road. That is inevitable. Lets make sure the result is not because of failure or omission on our part.

Here are some do's and don'ts to consider:

Do's

1. Make the standard the Word of God and the Person of Jesus, not yourself. Yet remember Luke 6:40. The disciple will be like his teacher!

2. Give affirmative Scriptural and practical input concerning the way to grow and the way to correct our patterns.

3. Center on their needs, as God sees it, not your interests. Ask the Lord to enable you to reinforce what He is doing in them.

4. Make clear that you are interested in them as a person, not just as a spiritual project. You are concerned for them.

5. Be a real person who also has problems, conflicts, and failings. Yet refrain from unloading past or present details.

6. Express love. Listen thoughtfully. Do not interrupt, except by necessity. Respond at the points of their interests. Initiate follow-up inquiries such as, "How has your injury been healing?" "Have you received an answer to that prayer?"

7. Keep your word even in the smallest matters. Stress by word and example the need for them to develop the same character trait. Insist on their keeping their word to everyone, especially to God (Psa. 15:46; Num. 30:2). Your word should be your bond.

8. At times you may want to answer a question by a counter question, as so often did the Lord. Not everything needs a reply.

9. Plan for social or sports activities together to balance the relationship and change pace. Growth is needed in all areas.

Don'ts

1. Take people for granted. They need attention and reassurance.

2. Ask them to do things you are not doing. You are not just a "checker-upper."

3. Be hasty with your counsel, unless there is a dire emergency. Being "quick to speak" is when mistakes occur in judgment. Arrange to meet later. What is the hurry? Who is responsible?

4. Burden them with your misgivings, discouragements, doubts, and negative information concerning others.

5. Use your spiritual attainments as a standard. Live Christ before them. Point to Him. Stop talking about your life. Don't act as though you had "already attained" (Phil. 3:12).

6. Burden them with excessive correction or too much to do at any one time. Be sparing and gentle. The Lord's burden is light (Matt. 11:30).

7. Never violate a personal confidence.

Personal Goal Review Sheet

What areas need improvement in quality or time allotment? In what way?

Circle where growth is needed. Number growth needs in order of importance or urgency. Discuss with your partner.
  1. Personal devotional life with God
    1. The Word
      1. Regularity and time.
      2. Understanding, interpretation, specific applications rooted in text. Sensing that God is speaking.
    2. Prayer
      1. Consistency
      2. Worship
      3. Intercession (written list?)
      4. Thanksgiving
      5. Confession and Repentance
      6. Godly requests
  2. Family or Social Relationships
    1. With spouse, children, or parents
      1. Closeness and unselfish love
      2. Effective communication
      3. Time together
      4. Building up, affirming
      5. Family devotions
    2. With others profitably
      1. Christian friends
      2. Nonbelievers
      3. Contacts with opposite sex (wholesome, helpful)
  3. School, Job Performance
    1. Where improvement needed
    2. Effect on spiritual life or ministry
    3. Being in God's will in all aspects
  4. Ministry Skills
    1. Witnessing outreach
    2. Conversational ability
    3. Serving, helping
    4. Teaching (if involved)
    5. Study, reading
    6. Vocabulary, grammar use
  5. Character Traits
    1. Self discipline
    2. Speech, tongue (gossip, criticism, over-talking or argumentative, kind, helpful)
    3. Self-centered, introspective
    4. Fearful, timid
    5. Impatient
    6. Fruits of the spirit needed (Gal. 5:22,23)
  6. Other
    1. Physical condition
    2. Finances, debts, budget
    3. Leadership qualities