Is This the Apostle Paul’s Discipleship Process?

Further thoughts on Philippians 4:9

Soul Formation 2

“What you have

learned and           sounds like a cognitive component
received and          sounds like an embracing of the truth
heard and              sounds like something being repeated over
.                                   and over
seen in me—          sounds like things that were modeled

practice these things …     sounds like “a long obedience in the
.                                                  same direction”

Soul Formation 4In most churches the “learning” is covered fairly well, the “embracing / receiving” perhaps less well, and the “repeating” still less well, but almost completely absent is the “modeling.” 

And it is this modeling for young believers that seems so necessary to Jesus and Paul.  Jesus called, “those who he himself … wanted that they might be with him, that he might send  them out to preach” (Mark 3:13-14)

Question:  Can you name five barriers to being close enough, long enough for effective modeling to occur?

10 thoughts on “Is This the Apostle Paul’s Discipleship Process?

  1. Great post, Brother! 5 barriers? Here are a couple to kick things off:

    1) Believers are too busy chasing the ‘American Dream.’
    2) Wrapped up in tremendous debt for this chase and now forced to spend every free minute working to pay for it.
    3) Lack of a defined time and process for commitment to get from being discipled to being a disciple maker.
    4) Too busy doing ‘church things’ rather than making disciples. i.e. we substitute our church doings for what Jesus actually told us to do.
    5) Americans bow down at the altar of independence and self-reliance, and fail to see our need for interdependent relations with both upward (a mentor) and downward (another disciple) associations.

    I’ll stop at that, but there are many more. And I’m not even sure I answered in the direction you asked. God bless…


  2. If we are assuming the “disciple” is motivated to practice, and has made the process a priority in his/her life, then one of the main things that gets in the way is poor time management, Consider these two well know sayings: “The biggest enemy of the best is the good”, and, “if Satan can’t make you bad he’ll make you busy”.


  3. One colossal barrier is all I will share; some may find it disturbing and others may bristle when they see where the finger is pointed. I believe it is time for those responsible to own their failures.

    Unfortunately, many who are leading the church have never been through an intentional and reproducible discipleship process themselves. Since they haven’t “learned, received and seen” they are incapable of “practicing these things.” They know theology, many can manage the programs of a church with amazing skills and many preach a powerful sermon. This may be the biggest barrier of all and part of the blame lies at my feet. And to my shame I must admit, I have not been consistent in my years of ministry in leading others in an intentional, reproducible disciple making process. May the next generation of leaders do better than mine.

    Making disciples for many churches is just another thing on the long list of “must haves to be a successful growing church.” I tremble within wondering how many churches don’t even have making disciples on their radar let alone on their list. I shudder to think, how many times have I led meetings of the church’s leaders and disciple making wasn’t even discussed or pursued.

    This isn’t taking pot shots at the church for me – this is the reality of the western church. If it isn’t so please point me to the multitude of churches that are making disciples who make disciples so that I may rejoice with you. Unfortunately, I stand at the front of the line of blame and I ask the forgiveness of my Father, my family and the people of the churches I have led.

    I weep at this “state of the church.” I weep for my failures. “Failure isn’t Final,” is more than a song title or nice christian cliché – it is a truth found in the heart of our God our Redeemer. Thankfully, God in His surprising grace has given me the privilege to participate in a ministry that trains leaders to see healthy disciple making/reproducing churches planted all over the globe.

    Marty, thank you for your heart for making disciples, who make disciples, for developing leaders who do the same and leading a church to have not just the passion for disciple making but pursuing it as your reality. May your tribe increase.

    Blessed to be your friend,

    steve howell


    1. Steve,
      I join with you in your confession. And yet … every generation inherits certain paradigms, procedures and approaches, certain understandings and assumptions, certain respect for those who led us (whether well or not) that lead us to do ministry in ways that initially are unexamined.

      Yet, the more we read, the more we pray and think and seek to be responsive and obedient to the Spirit, God begins to chisel off the dross and show us better ways.

      Let’s continue to pray and ask God to purify all our motives and methods for his glory and the joy of those who have yet to hear and those whom God will send to them.



  4. I agree completely with Steve. Yes, there are many things that can be cited as reasons for lack of disciples within the Church but they are only symptoms of the root. And that is the failure of the model adopted by most Western churches, a model that stresses teaching through preaching and programs rather than individual mentoring and discipling. Read Coleman’s “The Master Plan of Evangelism” for an analysis of Jesus’ hands on discipling of 12 men. As I look back over many years of association with broad spectrum of American congregations, I cannot think of a single one where the priority was/is on making disciples.The range, by the way, is from PB to RC.


  5. 1. Overcommitment to a wide array of activities with little thought to how being Christian informs participation in those activities
    2. Insistence on right to privacy
    3. Lack of biblical study producing a lack of knowledge on what to model
    4. Shallow prayers
    5. Consumer mentality in churches


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