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Seeing Our Spiritual Journey More Clearly

Updated: Feb 25, 2019

Helpful direction for thinking about disciplemaking in three stages

In the graph below, the first arrow shows what generally is being done currently under the label of disciplemaking, rare as it may be. The second arrow shows what is virtually nonexistent, but desperately needed; its absence is why there are so few mature disciples.

Two stages of common disciplemaking. The second arrow is rare and desperately needed.

These two arrows can be looked at from either the point of view of someone who is being discipled (a “Timothy,” if you will) or the point of view of the person who is doing the discipling (a “Paul”). Remember what we said about disciplemaking being different from the other four functions of the Church. I said disciplemaking inherently operates in two directions. Initially, I am to receive disciplemaking into my life as I seek and allow others to pour into me. This helps me to grow and be transformed into a true disciple of Jesus. Then, even as I experience this disciplemaking into my life, I eventually must also begin to give out disciplemaking into others’ lives as an overflow of my growing love for God. So stay alert to whether I am talking about a person being discipled (receiving disciplemaking) or the same person discipling someone else (giving out disciplemaking).

In the first arrow, disciplemaking is about the Believer being established in his or her faith. This certainly is the need of a new Believer; it may also still be the need of a long-time Believer who has acquired a good deal of information but never been helped to put the basics of his faith together in this way.

What is happening in this first stage of disciplemaking? The Believer is experiencing the friendship of an intentional disciplemaker or mentor and is establishing his trust in and surrender to Jesus. The Believer is learning his spiritual A-B-Cs and 1-2-3s. He is, so to speak, learning to tie his shoes and to “dress himself” with the full armor of God. In short, the Believer is becoming familiar with what I call the “Basic Doctrines and Disciplines” essential to growing as a Christian. Here’s how I picture it on our SM/T Graph.

Basic Doctrines and Disciplines only get us so far.

“Basic Doctrines and Disciplines” really are like our A-B-Cs and 1-2-3s. They are basic building blocks for everything that follows. They are indispensable for further spiritual growth. Every Christian needs them. I wish every person who sits in a church pew could have someone personally lead him through one of the several excellent resources that cover these basics.

But are the “Basic Doctrines and Disciplines” enough to say a Mature Disciple has been made? I think the answer is obvious if we consider the following questions:

  • Among people who have been through the basic doctrines and disciplines, how well are they applying what they’ve “learned”?

  • How many are living lives of true disciples – markedly different from the world?

  • How many go on to reproduce by discipling others, even though the call to do so has been included in the “Basic Doctrines and Disciplines?”

I'd say it's obvious this is not enough to make a Mature Disciple. We need that second stage to disciplemaking, as shown in the next diagram.

What does it take to make mature disciples?

This second stage intentionally seeks to grow the Established Believer into a Mature Disciple. This stage takes him or her beyond the Basics to a well-defined, essential minimum level of Maturity. In this stage, I envision the Established Believer is experiencing life transformation in a small group of fellow Established Believers, all of whom are being led by a more mature, intentional disciplemaker.

Finally, once the Established Believer becomes a Mature Disciple, he or she enters into what I have defined as Discipleship. This person continues abiding as a Mature Disciple, about which I’ll have much more to say in later chapters. For now, here is the summary of our spiritual journey after receiving Jesus Christ and the paradigm on which we’ll build as we rethink making mature disciples.

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