The main assumption underlying this discipleship course is very simple: Discipleship is a process rather than a status. This model of the discipleship path is a simple description of a disciple´s growth process in four stages.
- The first stage is about evangelism that leads people to conversion. A born again Christian understands the gospel, has personally accepted salvation through Jesus Christ and experiences the assurance of salvation.
- The second stage describes the spiritual growth of a disciple who lives a spirit-filled life, regularly prays, studies the Bible and experiences victories in his Christian life.
- The missionary and worker in stage 3 understands the basic principles of evangelism and has learned to lead people to Jesus. He can lead others to stages 1 and 2.
- The trainer and leader in stage 4 goes one step further and has learned to train people for service and lead them through all 4 stages of the whole discipleship path. Only when we have people in stage 4 can we experience a multiplication of disciples.
Of course, this model has its limitations and is only a simplified representation of reality because a new convert can start to share his faith right away. And this sharing has a lot to do with his spiritual growth, which never stops. But the discipleship path makes it clear that discipleship is not a status, but rather a process of ongoing spiritual growth with interdependent and yet different focuses.
It is crucial to understand that this growth process does not happen by chance, nor is it something that happens between God and the believer alone. No, the Bible makes it plain that this process must be intentionally fostered by disciple makers. This is what Jesus did with his disciples, what Barnabas did with Paul, what Paul did with Timothy and what Timothy did with others. Paul wrote to him: "And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also." (2 Timothy 2:2)
This discipleship course has been developed at Josiah Mission School, an evangelism training school in southern Germany. It reflects the four stages of discipleship.
- The lessons of Module 1 (Jesus, My Life) deal with the everlasting gospel and the experience of salvation from different perspectives. Even though newly baptized members have had Bible studies on salvation, it is very helpful for them to go through these lessons in order to gain an in-depth understanding of what conversion is and how it practically works. This will also help them to share the Good News with others. From my experience, long time church members definitely benefit from a study of module 1, too.
- Module 2 (With Jesus Ahead) helps disciples grow spiritually. It starts with 2 lessons of how to be filled with the Holy Spirit. Then it shows how to study the Bible personally and how to have a meaningful prayer life. The other lessons deal with different aspects of a victorious Christian life.
- Module 3 (My Life for Jesus) focuses on teaching basic principles of evangelism and ways to share Jesus in the context of relationships (friendship evangelism). In addition, it provides training on how to start and lead an evangelistic small group and give personal Bible studies.
- The lessons of Module 4 (Leaders for Jesus) deal with a thorough understanding of the discipleship path. The goal of this module is to equip the members to start the process of multiplication by starting a new discipleship group in order to intentionally lead people through the 4 stages of the discipleship path.
Wherever you are in your ministry, you can ask God to show you people (newly baptized or long time members, young or old) to start this journey with you. On this journey you will see them grow in their love for Jesus and their everyday walk with Him. And at the end you will be blessed to see them become new workers and be richly rewarded yourself.
The best setting for studying these lessons is in a discipleship group, which is characterized by the following key elements:
- Consists of a small number of people (about 2-6) who commit to meet once a week for 90-120 minutes for about a year.
- Creates fellowship through transparent, open, highly accountable relationships. This fellowship is not confined to the weekly meeting.
- The members commit themselves to memorize a Bible verse each week and review them regularly. They test each other in the group meetings.
- The members commit to study the discipleship lessons in advance and come prepared to the meetings.
- A discipleship group also makes a list of people they want to pray and work for and reach out to.
- A discipleship group meeting is also a prayer meeting. The members pray for each other and for the people they want to reach.
- The clear goal is to start a new discipleship group and/or start an evangelistc small group.
- The members hold each other accountable to follow through on their commitments.