Discipleship Methods – Discipleship Series Part 2

15 01 2008

drillsgt_moves_troops.jpgNow that we’ve defined Christian discipleship as “A defined training process that continues until the disciple’s life is brought into conformity with Christ’s teachings” from the elements of the Great Commission (click here to read more) let’s get practical and describe methods.

The first thing that must be said is that the prevailing definition seems to be that discipleship is any conglomeration of activities that might grow a Christian (sermons, relationships, small groups, books, seminary etc.). NOTHING has been more destructive to the creation of a real and effective discipleship process than this self-serving definition of discipleship by serendipity (happy accident). The reason for this (as I’ve described here and here) comes from a backward approach to mission and method (designing one’s ministry around a method or model instead of a mission). What church leaders and planters do is first determine their methods (creating a hip weekly worship service for example) and then try to accomplish the mission (discipleship) with this ineffective tool or with whatever is left over. And despite the enormous resources of Western Christianity we simply can’t disciple our congregations (much less the nations) while using less than 1% of our time, energy and money on the development and execution of an intentional, discipleship process.

So what methods fit this definition? To understand all the possibilities simply undertake this experiment. Ask at least 15 people you know (preferably a mixture of Christians and non-Christians) to describe anytime they were effectively trained in their life (don’t mention Christianity specifically) where they began not having a skill or mastery in an area and afterward had attained this and it changed them. Further ask them to identify what elements about that training they found to be particularly effective. I’ve asked more than 50 people this question and I can’t remember anyone mentioning Christian training (maddening considering this IS our mission and most of those I asked were committed Christians). What I have found is that almost everyone can remember effective training in the secular world whether in the military, nursing or even as a barrista in a coffee shop. Over and over the following elements were mentioned as essential (below is only a partial list) –

1. Intentionality – They showed up specifically to be trained (changed) and for that reason alone.
2. Commitment – They had made a decision to be trained in this area and had alloted the time, money and energy required.
3. Scope of Time – Each skill had a reasonable amount of time associated for mastery which was told to the trainee in advance so they could plan.
4. Outcome Defined – The trainee clearly knew what the training was expected to produce to greatly focus both the trainee and trainer.
5. Skilled Trainer – Some people have amazing gifts as trainers and when these people are the ones made responsible the outcome is vastly improved.
6. Clear Process – The steps to the training explicit and followed so successive progress can be monitored.
7. Group Learning – While individual attention can enhance training most find a group experience designed to not let anyone slip through the cracks most effective.
8. Interaction – Since the outcome is clear and successive steps can be measured interaction is essential to know where everyone is at at all times and to facilitate the possibility of group discovery.
9. Respected Models – While trainers are one kind of models, having access to many models you respect and can relate to gives trainees a clear picture of where they are headed.
10. Encouragement – Change requires us to be pushed and pushed people must also be encouraged to maintain the requisite energy and interest to complete the process.

Have you been through a process like this? If you’re like the random group of people I’ve asked most of you have but not within the church. We are all familiar with effective training methods, we simply fail to see their relevance to our Christian ministry (can you see how absurd this detachment is considering the Great Commission?). In later parts of this series I’ll describe our method and how we’ve incorporated these elements but there’s nothing revolutionary about what we’re doing. All we have done is actually attempt to train Christians with the methods that generally work.

One call in this series is to say that, before we do anything else, before we plant any more worship services ministries or start another Christian small group we must do at least the bare minimum to ensure that EVERY Christian under our care has access to a clearly defined process that will take them from wherever they are to an increasingly radical state as a disciple.

You may see how these elements can work well with training in a finite skill but how are they adapted to changing the way we live.

Check out Discipleship Part 3 – Distintives of Christian Training.

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4 responses

15 01 2008
What is Discipleship? - Discipleship Series Part 1 « From Eden to Zion

[…] Click here for Part 2 – Discipleship Methods […]

26 01 2008
Distinctives of Christian Training - Discipleship Series Part 3 « From Eden to Zion

[…] – Discipleship Series Part 3 26 01 2008 We’ve defined discipleship and unearthed training methods but what elements must be a part of Christian discipleship? Below is a list of seven that have been […]

24 11 2010
French Women

my sister and i loves to read christian books because it inspires us to live life in its fullest ,.`

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