This series of articles explores twelve major methods that are effective for making disciples. Keep in mind that in a ubiquitous (all encompassing, everywhere present) disciple-making process, virtually each method is not only encouraged but is planned into the church ministries. Here is a list including links to articles that have been completed in the series:
- Simple Discipleship: A Comprehensive Disciple-Making Plan- The Simple Discipleship Virtual Book Tour- (updated) originally posted in 2010
- DISCIPLESHIP BEST PRACTICES: 13 Ways to Make Disciples
- Passive Discipleship: the least effective method but essential to support other methods
- Private Discipleship: the Christian and the Holy Spirit (most effective but under used)
- Presence Discipleship: In times of crisis the disciple invests time, assistance, and prayer.
- ParticipationorProximity Discipleship: applies to all areas but most of all to giving
- Projected Discipleship: Actively but humbly projecting a Christian example of living Christ’s teachings.
- PlatformorPresentation Discipleship: preaching in church and lecture-style Bible study
- Program Discipleship: Pre-packaged materials delivered in large or small groups.
- Personal Discipleship: One-on-one discipleship (very effective but seldom used)
- Peer Group Discipleship: Bible study and Sunday School
- Practical Discipleship: Hands on service, evangelism, and missional projects
- Proficiency Discipleship: Leadership Development
- Proclamation Discipleship: Evangelism and preaching to unchurched
- Process Discipleship: All of the above delivered in a systematic way
Evaluate how you and your church are doing in the 13 methods of discipleship: Copy of 13 Ways to Make Disciples_Evaluation
WHAT IS “PASSIVE DISCIPLESHIP?”
When Jesus gave the Great Commission in Matthew 28:18-20, he said, “Go and make disciples …baptizing and teaching them…” Notice that making disciples by necessity includes both. Thus, for the purpose of this discussion, making disciples includes both evangelism and teaching, or discipleship. Passive discipleship may have various levels of passivity or activity, as it were. Many would agree that simple lifestyle evangelism is relatively passive in nature. Other examples of passive discipleship may be leaving a Bible tract at the restaurant table, having checks printed with a Bible verse, wearing cross jewelry, leaving a Bible in a hotel room, or drawing a Christian symbol in the sand to measure the receptivity of another person that might be present to see it. Passive discipleship is not necessarily silent but may employ various low level communications.
The “fish symbol” that originated in early Christianity under persecution is a good example of passive discipleship. When one Christian would meet a stranger and begin conversing, they might draw an arc in the sand. If the other person drew an arc that completed the symbol of a fish, called an “ichthys,” then they both knew that it was relatively save to discuss their mutual faith in Jesus Christ without fear. The fish symbol, or at least half of it, might attract less attention than the cross symbol.
A Google search for “passive discipleship” will clearly indicate that it is defined by a lack of specificity and the lowest level of disciple-making. In fact, the concept is little discussed and mostly ridiculed by Christians living in free societies. However, it should not be abjectly rejected as one of the weapons in the effective and intentional disciple’s arsenal. I contend that passive discipleship is essential in nations where people do not enjoy religious freedom. Ask missionaries serving in nations that are hostile to Christianity about how they feel about passive discipleship.
APPLICATIONS OF PASSIVE DISCIPLESHIP
- Passive discipleship is useful to affirm a new Christian as he or she begins walking as a believer and trying to learn how to share Christ and later to teach others. For instance, a new Christian may not have the confidence or knowledge to witness to someone, but they might have the fortitude to leave a gospel tract as a form of passive evangelism/discipleship.
- Passive discipleship may be useful to set an example and communicate in simple and often silent ways about one’s faith. Consider Daniel in the court of Nebuchadnezzar as a captive slave. It is likely that he was restricted from openly communicating his faith and teaching faith principles to Shadrach, Meshach, or Abednego. However, Daniel may have had the opportunity to passively pray for or teach his companions. Many Christians live in Muslim areas of the world today and must use the lowest level of discipleship—passive discipleship. By the way, readers from at least six predominately Muslim nations read this blog.
- Building on number 2, passive discipleship may attract others who are spiritually searching for God to seek further. When I served in the U.S. Navy, it was necessary for me to employ passive discipleship to the point where someone would observe that they wanted the foundation they had seen in my life. It was indeed a humbling compliment that reminded me that others were watching my personal witness. Of course their inquiry opened the door for me to speak to them directly about faith in Jesus Christ as Lord.
- Passive discipleship is useful to confirm authentic faith in Jesus Christ. One’s actions do not necessarily confirm faith but if one is a Christian, visible works should be present to confirm the authenticity of faith. Imagine if visible acts of love are absent from the life of a Christian in the workplace. That may be neutral, but consider that the same individual does some things that are absolutely considered contradictory to Christianity. Passive discipleship may certainly be used in the workplace and school as a quiet way of communicating faith and the application of faith principles.
- Building on number 3, if a Christian expects to go to an active or more direct level of discipleship, it is best if the subject has observed authentic Christianity, which is of course passive discipleship. In many cases passive discipleship earns the opportunity to active discipleship.
THE PROBLEM IS NOT “PASSIVE DISCIPLESHIP”
Christian leaders marvel at the passivity of Christians in nations that value freedom of religion and allow people to openly converse about their faith or lack thereof. Many Christians in free nations seldom witness to others beyond a passive level of discipleship. This of course reflects a lack of spiritual maturity and depth. While church leaders should not ridicule passive discipleship, we should teach about its proper application and use. Further, we must train Christians to more active sharing of faith and discipleship. The problem is not “passive discipleship” but the problem is applying it broadly and never building on the foundation that it may provide.
- How have you included passive discipleship into your witnessing arsenal?
- Have you ever been critical of those who employ passive discipleship?
- Name some examples of passive discipleship not listed in the article.
- List some additional applications for passive discipleship.
Dr. Tom Cocklereece, The Disciplist
Simple Discipleship: How to Make Disciples in the 21st Century was published by Church Smart Resources. To learn more about Simple Discipleship and to order the book, follow the link below:
Dr. Tom Cocklereece is Author of “Simple Discipleship,” and a contributing writer for www.Linked2Leadership.com Blogazine. He is a pastor, leadership coach, and ministry development specialist.
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THE LAWS OF DISCIPLESHIP
THE LAWS OF DISCIPLESHIP PROJECTBe a part of The Laws of Discipleship Project! Each law of discipleship reflects the light of Christ like a facet of a diamond. Tom Cocklereece is currently writing the manuscript for this upcoming discipleship resource. You are invited to participate. If you are interested, email tom@ simplediscipleship.com
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