“Like newborn babies, you must crave pure spiritual milk so that you will grow into a full experience of salvation. Cry out for this nourishment, now that you have had a taste of the Lord’s kindness.” – 1 Peter 2:2-3.
Living things grow. That’s what they do. All believers are defined by a common desire—a desire to grow in the understanding of Christ and His Word. This desire for a deeper, growing knowledge of Christ is so basic that Peter compares it to an infant’s natural desire to be nourished by his mother’s milk.
New believers have an immediate need to be nurtured and trained as soon as they initially trust Christ and then as they grow in their faith. The term discipleship is used as a catchall term for anything from mentorship to small-group discussion, to meetings at a coffee house, to the title for a conference. However, it is best to understand discipleship as the deliberate process of moving Christians forward spiritually.
Jesus is our model for creating God-honoring, life-changing disciples. When He began His earthly ministry, He could have spent all of His time preaching to thousands. This might seem like the most efficient method of gathering followers. Instead, Jesus invited twelve ordinary men into a community to learn and grow together as they followed Him. Rather than mass-producing disciples, Jesus chose to invest deeply in a handful of people, thereby developing committed followers. Since it is Jesus who has given us this command to “make disciples” and since disciples are followers of Jesus, I think the important question we need to consider is “how did Jesus go about making disciples?”
Jesus was a mentor to the twelve – a personal trainer, tutor, and teacher. He lived and traveled with the twelve; His life was intertwined with theirs, and theirs with His. Essentially, He lived life with a group of people for several years. He taught them all the time, not simply in formal settings, but also in how He modeled life for them in their day-to-day interactions. He focused on going really deep with a smaller group (of 12) and especially with an even smaller group of 3. He certainly taught large groups, but the bulk of His time seemed to be spent pouring into the twelve. He also sought for His disciples to live transformed lives of love and submission to God. Ultimately, Jesus made disciples who multiplied. Jesus’ followers multiplied from several dozen men and women meeting in a room after His death to a global movement spanning 2000 years and unknown millions of people.
We should actively seek out new believers in the Christian faith and make ourselves available to help them grow in their faith. Help new believers understand not only the essentials of the Christian life but also develop an understanding of the Christian faith by helping them to understand the assurance of God’s salvation and forgiveness, the significance of prayer, the life-changing power of the Word of God, and the ongoing presence of the Holy Spirit in the life of every believer.
1. What is the role of the believer in disciplining others?
2. What would we need to do differently to disciple like Jesus did?