This series of articles explores twelve (I added one more) 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.
- Participation or Proximity 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.
- Platform or Presentation 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
THE IMPORTANCE OF PRIVATE DISCIPLESHIP
Private Discipleship may be the most important method of disciple making. It involves all that the Christian does privately for personal spiritual growth such as prayer, Bible reading, Christian meditation, solitude, journaling, fasting, conscious Scripture application, and private worship which certainly is a part of all on the list but may stand alone also. Private Discipleship serves as a catalyst to all of the other discipleship methods. It is most effective because of the work and presence of the Holy Spirit. The problem is that in post-modern times Private Discipleship has fallen on hard times.
THE DECLINE OF PRIVATE DISCIPLESHIP
Never before have we had so many distractions. Sites such as The Bureau of Labor and Statistics tell us how people spend their time and the time at the computer is increasing exponentially:
- The average person spends 7 hours a day watching TV. This totals 11.5 YEARS in a life time.
- On average a person spends an estimated 45 to 62 minutes waiting every day.
- Average time spent on social media is 7 hours per month.
- On average people spend 7.7 hours per day sleeping.
- On average people spend 24 minutes a day shopping.
- According to Barna Research, the average Christian spends only 1 minute a day in prayer.
Of course the audience that is asked the question makes some difference. One secular site asked the question, “How much time do you spend in prayer each day?” Here were some of the responses:
- Less than zero times infinity.
- Exactly 0 seconds.
- 0 Hours 0 Minutes 0 seconds
- Little good it’s done me
- Zero. I’d rather be proactive and actually DO something helpful instead of sitting around thinking good thoughts. Prayer is inaction.
- I’d have more time if time wasn’t money……. get it?
The responses are rather telling as they reflect an attitude that prayer is a waste of time and energy. It is likely that the responses reflect more about attitudes of the under 50 generations about church and faith than we want to know. Evaluation of the responses also indicates that Private Discipleship has been 1) crowded out by other activities; 2) it is regarded as unimportant; and 3) many Christians are substituting a myriad of other things for perhaps the most important spiritual growth discipline.
TWO BIBLICAL EXAMPLES OF PRIVATE DISCIPLESHIP
The Private Discipleship of Daniel
Chapter one of Daniel provides an example of Private Discipleship. As a young man Daniel was taken captive to Babylon to serve King Nebuchadnezzar. As they began a three year training program instituted by the king and Daniel concurrently spent much time in private discipleship. It began with one of the most remarkable truths in Scripture from Daniel 1:8
But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s delicacies, nor with the wine which he drank; therefore he requested of the chief of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself. (NKJV)
The principle is clear…in order to engage as a disciple into serious spiritual growth one must “purpose in his heart” to obey and avoid defilement—obedience and holiness. We need only to read the rest of the book to see the results. Observe that the Daniel 1:8 heart principle is consistent with all that Jesus Christ said about values beginning in the heart.
The Private Discipleship of Paul
Galatians 1:17-18 tells us that the Apostle Paul went to Arabia for three years as a new Christian presumably to seclude himself with the Scriptures (OT). Guided by the Holy Spirit, Paul spent intense time with the Lord for a concentrated time of growth.
17 nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me; but I went to Arabia, and returned again to Damascus. 18 Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and remained with him fifteen days. (NKJV)
These passages provide vivid examples of the effectiveness of private discipleship in the life of a believer.
ENCOURAGING PRIVATE DISCIPLESHIP
Simply telling people to grow spiritually does not make it happen. Consider whether Daniel would have become a great prophet if he had enjoyed freedom in his homeland during all of his life. Likewise, would Paul have become such a great world-changer for Christ had he not spent the three years in Arabia? However, there are five ways to motivate private discipleship.
- Encourage people to read the Bible through: This may be the easiest way to encourage private discipleship. Each year it is encouraged and supported several more people will join the effort. Use creative ways to encourage the project. One church launched a Read the Bible Through project by giving special Bibles to everyone, coordinated preaching through the Bible, a Bible quiz over the last week’s readings, and a gas gift card going to the winner of the quiz. Amazingly, attendance increased as many wanted to participate and see who won the quiz.
- Provide spiritual retreat opportunities: While few people can arrange a three year retreat in the desert with their Bible in hand, many can plan a weekend retreat that encourages private discipleship. In preparation or during the retreat teach, demonstrate, and mentor how private discipleship is done and then provide times for the people to do it.
- Teach spiritual journaling and provide materials: Few Christians understand how to do spiritual journaling.
- Form a prayer partner ministry: Invite people to find a prayer partner of the same gender and kickoff the ministry by demonstrating principles such as how to pray together and hold one another accountable.
- Encourage young people in private discipleship: Be sure to use creative ways to include children and youth in the efforts. Discipleship practices are best solidified as soon as possible after a person receives Christ and these practices may help churches retain young people as they mature. Barna Research confirms that personal practices that encourage spiritual growth and maturity begin early.
Church leaders should understand the stages of spiritual growth and teach these principles. Barna Research released a troubling report saying that few church leaders can adequately define biblical discipleship and average Christians are in the dark regarding expectations and spiritual growth.
Simple Discipleship offers two series sets that can help with teaching biblical expectations and the stages of spiritual growth.
- Great Expectations: http://www.simplediscipleship.com/Store-SD-Expectations.html
- The Stages of Spiritual Growth: http://www.simplediscipleship.com/Store-SD-StagesofGrowth.html
Church leaders must not underestimate the power of private discipleship where the Holy Spirit is the teacher, mentor, and coach. Private discipleship may be at least as effective as an equal amount of time in Bible college or seminary and the spiritual growth lasts a lifetime.
- Evaluate the effectiveness of private discipleship in your life.
- Grade your church on how effectively private discipleship is encouraged using a scale of 1 to 10.
- This article lists five ways to encourage private discipleship. What would you add to the list?
- Can you list the stages of spiritual growth with biblical references?
- Ask the people (back row Christians) to define the church’s discipleship process and to identify ten biblical expectations for growing Christians.
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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