Discipleship doesn’t happen in a vacuum, it requires a few things. There needs to be an intentionality for it, a desire to fight sin by going deeper into into the Scriptures, exploring not only our identity in Christ, but how to live out that identity in practical ways (part 1 here). It also requires a group formed to accomplish it (part 2 here). The final question that remains to be answered is to what to do? The answer is to go deep in the areas of sharing and studying.
I know what you’re thinking (especially if you’re a guy), “I don’t like to have feelings, let alone share them!” While feelings are part of it, it’s not all of it. Sharing requires us to be both transparent and vulnerable. This can be very scary to some of us, especially those who have been hurt in the past. But it shouldn’t be. The reason this shouldn’t be scary is because of the gospel. It’s through the gospel that we find ourselves in the same place, that of sinner/saints seeking a greater sense of sanctification. That’s part of discipleship, part of what we are trying to do. By allowing others in, we see ourselves (and thereby our sin) better. Which in turn helps us to fight sin and temptation better. It does this by exposing it to the light. It’s easy to hide our sin in the dark, when no one know about it. But when we expose it the light we see Christ more. It’s the seeing of Christ more clearly we are better equipped to fight against the sin and temptation more effectively.
The sharing I’m describing answers 3 basic questions:
- What is God doing?
- Where we are struggling how does gospel answer?
- How we can be praying for one another? (James 5:16)
It’s in the answers to these questions that the members of the group have to opportunity to encourage (1 Thes. 5:11) and exhort (Heb. 3:13) one another. These questions also lead naturally into accountability (the ability to check in and see progress).
Discipleship, at its core is knowing God better. The main, and dare I say only, way that happens is by studying His Word. It’s through the Word that we get a glimpse (and just a glimpse) of: “what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” (Eph. 3:18b-19 ESV – emphasis added) This is a life long pursuit of going both deep into the meaning and experientially in the application of that truth.
The studying side of discipleship is best accomplished, in my opinion, through the use of “helps”. A good commentary on the book of the Bible you are studying together, a systematic theology on a particular aspect of faith the group is struggling with, a book from a trusted author on an a topic of interest to the whole group desires to grow in, can be helpful. Again the goal is deepen both knowledge and experience.
So there it is, making disciples as disciples is accomplished through sharing and studying. It doesn’t matter if you’re the leader of the group or a participant, growth will happen. Yes, it takes hard work, both in being vulnerable and in study, but there is even greater joy and peace to be had, as well as greater fruitfulness to be gained as we draw near to God through Christ (Heb. 4:16; 7:19; 7:25; 10:1, 10:22, 11:6).