Eliminate Barriers with this Simple 5-Point Discipleship Plan

Discipleship relationships can feel structured and demanding, which, I believe, is why so many men avoid them.

We didn’t care much for homework when we were students, and now we’re overwhelmed with overdue to-do lists from work. Some of those to-do’s feel burdensome, and others we enjoy, but they all take time and energy. Marriage, family, and church bring additional commitments, including, perhaps, a group Bible study or two. It’s all good stuff. But sometimes the last thing we want is one more “thing” that requires preparation and the burning of intellectual and emotional energy.

There are times when we want or need an in-depth study as a part of a discipleship relationship. The accompanying commitment and hard work are the only way to produce meaningful results. But there are stages in life when the best discipleship relationship is simple and has very few barriers to entry. So how do you make that type of relationship meaningful? After all, if it’s not producing spiritual growth, it’s not discipleship.

One option that’s worked for me is to provide a few basic talking-point options that can guide a discussion. For instance, here’s a five-point plan I’ve used:

  • A problem (some specific challenge you’re facing)
  • A promise (a verse of Scripture to which you’re clinging for hope)
  • A praise (something for which you’re thankful)
  • An action (something you are committing to do)
  • An insight (something you’ve learned that you’d like to share)

The group or individual commits to thinking through these and comes to our meetings ready to discuss at least two of them. Most guys can read over that list and come up with responses to all of them on the spot. It’s also an easy list to review throughout the week. Discussing these topics almost always leads to some deep and fruitful conversations, which, in turn, leads to spiritual growth.

If you’re looking for a simple structure that’s not a barrier to a discipleship commitment, perhaps this approach will help. Feel free to jot these down. Maybe take a photo and save it on your phone. Then, find someone you can discuss them with each week. And, if you use them, let me know how it turns out.

Simplifying Discipleship

Go and make disciples.

It seems like such a straightforward statement, and Jesus was clear in Matthew 28:19 that it’s not an optional activity. Yet the Church seems to struggle with the concept. When we take a fresh look at it, however, we can see that “making disciples” doesn’t have to be that hard.

I didn’t realize there was an issue until I began paying closer attention following a couple of conversations with friends. Six or eight months ago, I began praying about an idea I’ve had for a discipleship website that would provide a one-stop shop for resources, content and discussions on the topic. To vet and develop the idea, I started talking to people who are smarter than me. During one conversation, the guy across the table said something like, “Not many men are as involved in discipleship as you are.” He wasn’t feeding me ego biscuits; he was painting the bleak reality of how little is done when it comes to discipleship. And the more I’ve looked into it, the more I agree.

A month or so later, I mentioned my website idea to another friend. He liked the idea but said he probably wouldn’t use the site because he isn’t involved in discipleship. About a week later, however, he mentioned that he was coming back from an early morning Bible study where he (at age 59) had been the only guy not in his 20s. It had never dawned on him that spending time studying the Bible with those young guys was discipleship.

That’s when it hit me: Not enough men are involved in discipleship, and some are involved without even knowing it. In both cases, part of the problem is that too many people are intimidated by what they think discipleship involves. Most of them have over-complicated the definition.

So, here’s a simple definition of discipleship: Helping people grow like Jesus.

With that definition, discipleship can include evangelism, or what I call spiritually mentoring someone toward a relationship with Christ. For followers of Jesus, discipleship becomes all about sanctification – the refining process God puts us through until we join Him in heaven, or growing like Jesus. And we “make disciples” when we help ourselves or someone else experience that growth.

To become obedient to Matthew 28:19:

  1. Ask God to provide an opportunity to spend time with someone or a group of someones with the purpose of helping each other grow like Jesus.
  2. Act in obedience when (not if) that opportunity comes.

That’s it. It can be one-on-one meetings over coffee. It can be a small-group Bible study. It can be a discussion at halftime of a football game or while helping a buddy with a chore. It can look however you want, so long as it’s intentional and there’s an effort to teach obedience to the commands of Christ. (Matthew 28:20)

It’s really not complicated or scary. You aren’t responsible for the results – God is. And you don’t have to do it alone (because Jesus has promised to be with you). Can you ask for a better helper than God? So, go and make disciples. Let that step of obedience become the next step in your growth.

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Are You Equipped for Discipleship?

Do you have an equipment issue?

A friend and I once co-created a phrase that I’ve always found to hold true when facing a challenge: “It’s an equipment issue. And if you have the right equipment, you won’t have an issue.”

The thought came to us during a hot summer camping trip. We were sitting in our beat-up lawn chairs outside our hand-me-down tents, when we noticed an impressive camper pulling into a nearby site. It had bikes on the back. It had a satellite on the top. The owner soon unfurled a canopy that provided shade, and fans that produced a breeze. It had all the comforts of home. In other words, it had the right equipment, so the owners had no issues (at least when it came to comfort).

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I recalled this little truism again this week while hanging a new swing from a tree by our home. The first tree didn’t work out too well, so I was moving it to another that’s on the vacant, tree-covered lot next to our house. This tree was perfect, except for one thing: It had given root to a small but pretty tall tree at its base that was growing at an angle so that the top of it was directly under the limb from which I wanted to hang the swing.

So, the first order of business was to cut down this tree, which was, oh, maybe 6-8 inches in diameter. Since my chainsaw was in need of minor repairs, I was using a bow saw. It took a little effort, but down came the tree.

Next problem: That sucker was heavy and its branches were getting hung up in the brush when I tried to move it. After a few failed attempts to drag it away, I decided to cut it into smaller chunks. In the process, I broke my saw blade. After a few more failed attempts to drag it off, I used some heavy-duty loppers to cut away some branches and lightened the load enough so that I could move it.

In short, what would have taken me five minutes with a chainsaw took me about 25 minutes with equipment that wasn’t made for this particular job.

It doesn’t matter if you’re cutting a tree or climbing Mt. Everest, it pays to use the right equipment. And the same is true in discipleship.

If I want to grow like Jesus and help others grow like Jesus, then I can’t use loppers when I need a chainsaw. I have to put on the armor of God and prepare for the challenges I face. I have to read God’s Word and open my heart to revelations from God. I have to listen to godly pastors who teach truth. I have to act on the promptings of the Spirit. I have seek and heed the godly counsel my wife provides. I have to invest in the things that equip me for the life God has given me. And if I use the right equipment, there is no issue.

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The Role of Trust in Discipleship

One of the first lessons I learned as a new follower of Jesus was that we’re all called to discipleship. And this weekend, while sitting with my beautiful wife in the Chapel by the Sea, I was reminded of the role “trust” plays in that process.

Discipleship, of course, is something we “do” and something that’s “done” for us. We’re called to go and make disciples, which means we’re supposed to help others grow in their faith. And we’re supposed to grow in our faith, as well.

It all sounds very active. Read a book. Spend time with a mentor. Spend time with a protégé. Practice some spiritual disciplines. Go to a Bible study. Attend a conference.

So where does trust come into the equation?

Well, trust is the foundation for life as a follower of Christ. It all begins when we put our trust in Jesus. But too often we forget to keep trusting because we’re so busy doing.SouthPadre

Audrey and I just took an extended weekend vacation, and that’s how we ended up listening to Chaplain Sam Steele teach on this topic Sunday at the Chapel by the Sea. Perhaps you’ve been to the Chapel by the Sea. There’s one in Alaska. Several in Florida and California, not to mention in a dozen or so other seaside communities. We were visiting the one on South Padre Island, Texas.

The Rev. Steele was teaching from 1 Corinthians 3, where Paul was addressing some in-fighting in the church over who was better – those who followed Paul or those who followed Apollos. He reminded them that we all have different roles to play as “co-workers in God’s service.” Some plant and some water, he tells them, but God makes it grow.

And so it is with discipleship. Whether we are teaching others or learning something from those who teach us, there are things we can and should do. We plant. We water. We do the things we’re called to do so that we can help ourselves and those around us grow like Jesus. But that growth only happens by the grace of God. So as we go about the doing, we have to remember to let go and trust God for the results.

I struggle putting this idea into practice because I like to see results from my doing, and I like to see them quickly. Trust requires patience. It requires faith that God’s timing is what matters. It requires letting go of the human desire control things or to feed our ego with our good works.

Perhaps that’s why I’m so drawn to this quote from Oswald Chambers: “Trust God and do the next thing.” I’ve found it comes in pretty handy whenever I don’t know what else to tell myself or anyone else about how to deal with life’s challenges. Or blessings. In good times or bad, there’s always something we can do to grow more like Jesus. And it begins and ends with trusting God.