Spiritual Formation: Who Needs to be Discipled and How

Thursday is for Discipleship

“Technically, from the moment of spiritual birth, every Christian is a disciple.  Disciples are born by the Spirit to be made into mature reproducers, as described in John 15:7-17. They are to be made in every nation; therefore every person in the church is a disciple and has the responsibility and divine ability to be what Christ desires.”

–Bill Hull in The Disciple Making Church, page 20.

Everyone in the church needs to be discipled. Everyone needs to grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ (2 Peter 3:18). But different seasons in life demand different types of discipleship content and process. A brother or sister with a life absorbing sin (drug or alcohol abuse, 14 hour a day video -gaming, gossip, pornography, etc.) needs a total restructuring of their environment and habits in addition to a new interaction with and application of Scripture.

For our purposes, let me categorize five different types (not original to me) of discipleship that need to happen in any body of believers.

  1. Foundations Discipling — what we do with new believers
  2. Formation Discipling — what we do with all believers
  3. Leadership Discipling — what we do with emerging leaders
  4. Mentoring Discipling — what we do with young leaders
  5. Crisis Discipling — what we do in emergency situations

I have said in other places that “the material used is immaterial” and that it is the process that we need to pay more attention to when it comes to spiritual formation. By the way, all of these different types of discipleship or seasons of discipleship need to include training in and accountability for proclamation of the gospel. Proclamation is a non-negotiable growth process for the believer himself/herself as well as a necessary act of faithfulness to Christ.

But with these categories as a rubric, does the form of the church, i.e. Attractional versus House Church help us to do any of these better or worse than another? What think ye? Let’s share our stories and be iron sharpening iron in the task of making disciples.

Updated: 12/11/10

2 thoughts on “Spiritual Formation: Who Needs to be Discipled and How

  1. I feels a bit weird to be the first to comment on my own blog post but I just ran across a great quote from Kairos Journal. Here it is.

    Steady, Gradual Growth—Vance Havner (1901 – 1986)

    Vance Havner was a beloved and influential American preacher, known particularly for his pithy, insightful quotes. Of him, Billy Graham once said, “I do not know of any man in my generation who has stirred revival fires in the hearts of so many people throughout the nation as has Vance Havner . . .”1

    The following quote, taken from a collection designed for daily devotion, brings Havner’s sharp mind to bear on the problem of spasmodic discipleship. And though he was known as a revival preacher, whose meetings were marked by dramatic spiritual encounters with the Lord, it was his conviction that sanctification comes typically in orderly fashion.

    We do not grow in grace and the knowledge of Christ by leaps and bounds but some try. They bounce from one mountain peak of Christian experience to another. Every year or so they make a new start, turn a new leaf, have a new thrill. Children do not grow by suddenly gaining a few inches or adding a few pounds now and then. They grow gradually, daily, by food, rest, and exercise. Christian growth comes the same way by feeding on the Word, resting in the Lord, and exercising unto godliness. It has been said that nothing is more detrimental to Christian experience than too many Christian “experiences.”2


    1 See Vance Havner Website, http://www.vancehavner.com (accessed March 31, 2010).

    2 Vance Havner, The Vance Havner Devotional Treasury: Daily Meditations for a Year (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1976), 49.


  2. Here is a think…

    Leadership matters.

    What happens with discipleship is determined more by the leadership than the habitat. Good leaders develop a following. Their house church then starts renting space at noon at a local church or 9 at a local school. Not so great leaders meet for a time with 3, 4, or 5 neighbors or friends or aquaintances and all go their seperate ways after a time.

    Now to address the discipleship issue. If the leader is not discipleship oriented, then the church is not growing or will not grow because of discipleship. May I suggest that no church situation is static. Every church foundation, no matter what type or size, is becomming stronger or weaker over time because of the leadership.

    May I submit that the discipling leader must be wise and very tough skinned and Spirit filled. Having never filled the shoes of a pastor or ‘good’ leader, may I be allowed to submit that it is a relatively easy matter to be a leader and minister to another’s personal needs / cares when asked to do so. It is an entirely different matter to lead/nudge/shove someone past themselves into the world where: 1) time and treasure must be given in areas of compassion and service, and 2) when one is outspoken, he will be mocked, and be given varying degrees of retribution by some for the proclamation of Christ if he has really made the rounds.

    Sooo, me thinks leadership matters more than size or type of church….


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