Discipleship seems to be the topic of most conversations and conferences these days, which is fantastic! My husband and I have been passionate about making disciples for over a decade, and it brings us great joy to see so much discussion happening in the church today. Most believers have a genuine desire to participate in the Great Commission; however they aren’t really sure what to do and where to start. I hope this article will be helpful to you, no matter what stage of life you are in, as you pray about what God is calling you to do in the area of discipling.
Often, if we don’t know what to do, we do nothing at all. My husband calls this “paralysis by analysis.” We may see the problem, but if we don’t know how to practically solve it, we avoid it.
For many years we have thought discipleship is just learning as much information that we can about Jesus. Filling our heads with knowledge about Him. While growing in our knowledge of Jesus is certainly part of discipleship, it’s not all of it. Many of us are good at articulating and sharing the gospel, but we’re not good at sharing our lives. Yes, we learn information but if we never pass that on we merely become a gospel consumer and not a coworker. The truth is that the gospel came to you because it was heading to someone else.
We live in a society where we were taught that the pastors and elders of the church do all the ministry instead of equipping the saints for the work of ministry. Looking at Jesus as our example, we don’t see Him constantly inviting everyone to the synagogues to hear the Rabbi preach or teach that weekend; we see Him being the guide to a group of disciples on a daily basis and living life with them. He was teaching the disciples to follow after Him as He followed after God. That is discipleship.
Looking at Jesus as our model for the method of making disciples, we see that He was intentional in how He led them. He was always teaching them His Word. He taught them how to minister to others. He let them assist Him in doing the work of ministry until they were ready to be sent out to do ministry on their own. They weren’t “assisting” Him anymore; they were on the front lines themselves! Imagine the conversations that took place when they all returned and shared what God had done on their trips! Discipleship changes the “come and see” mentality to a “go and tell” one. True discipleship teaches you to live out your faith.
So, What is Discipleship?
It will be helpful to define some disciple-making terms before we discuss practical tips. Discipleship is intentionally equipping believers with the Word of God through accountable relationships, through the empowerment of the Holy Spirit in order to replicate faithful followers of Christ. Another term that will be helpful is a d-group. A d-group is what our church calls a discipleship group that is gender exclusive (men with men and women with women), consisting of 3-5 participants that meet together for 12-18 months for the purpose of spiritual growth and replication.
What is most important to consider is that you cannot make disciples if you aren’t one yourself. Discipleship is a lifestyle, not something we turn on and off one time a week when we sit around a table with a group of ladies. On a side note, discipleship happens around tables, not in rows. It’s not a lecture but a dialogue/discussion. A disciple is who we are every day, all day and using the overflow of our own relationship with the Lord to invest that into other ladies. If I am not spending time with the Lord, I have nothing to draw from in order to pour into someone else. My spiritual well would be empty and dry. However, if I am saturating myself with Scripture, I will not be able to help myself as I share that with others because my cup is full and overflowing! I need a d-group just as much as anyone else in order to continue being a lifelong learner.
I believe there are three major sources to draw from when investing in the lives of others—God’s Word, God’s Work, and God’s Wonder (the Holy Spirit living inside of us). God’s Word is the centerpiece of all that discipleship is! His Word is where we learn knowledge, wisdom, and truth. His Work is where we apply and live out the knowledge, wisdom, and truth we learn. And we do all this through depending on His Spirit living inside of us.
I wish I had the time to share some of the powerful ways God has helped me press on through His Word. I’ll share one that is near and dear. My oldest son was born with some special needs. He was first diagnosed when he was 4. This wasn’t something I would have planned or expected, however, it is where we found ourselves four years ago. I was in a d-group at the time and regularly reading God’s Word. At the time of his evaluations and diagnosis, would you believe that my reading in those days was Psalm 139! I mean really! I needed to be reminded that my son was knit together in the exact way God wants him. Needless to say, I was in tears reading and realizing all that God was doing. The power of His Holy Word! I tell the ladies that I have the privilege of meeting with that God’s Word is living and active (Hebrews 4:12). I drive this home and repeat it often—it is living and breathing and it is doing something! It never returns void and always accomplishes it purpose and shall succeed in the thing for which God sent it (Isaiah 55:11).
Let’s consider His work in our life. Often, women say to me that they just don’t feel confident that they can make disciples. I try to encourage and remind them that there is only one you. And God has given you a lifetime of lessons and experiences that only you can share. Nothing has happened by chance in our lives. God is very intentional and doesn’t make mistakes. If He has allowed something in your life, it wasn’t only meant for you to learn and grow but it was meant for others, too. Let me share a brief example. My husband and I lost everything we owned in Hurricane Katrina in August of 2005, which was 9 months after we were married. It was obviously a painful time of uncertainty as to what God was doing. I don’t have the time to tell you all the wonderful blessings God brought out of that situation, but we evacuated to my parents house who lived farther inland and ended up living with them for a few months. Fast forward to August of 2015—my parents lost everything in the tragic flooding in Denham Springs, Louisiana. Now the Lord is allowing me to help walk alongside them as they rebuild their lives. That is the beauty of the Lord! He allowed me to experience the same thing in order to help my parents. That’s what I am talking about. Remember what God has done, reflect on that, remind yourself if you need to and retell it.
The Holy Spirit is our constant companion and guide in the Christian life. Acts 1:8 says that we will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon us to be His witnesses. John 14:26 tells us that the Holy Spirit is our Counselor sent to us by God who will teach us all things and remind us of everything Jesus has said. Making disciples requires a dependence on the Holy Spirit. You need His wisdom and discernment throughout the entire process, and Jesus has fully equipped us to be coworkers in reaching the ends of the earth by sending us His Spirit.
When I meet with my ladies or even someone who comes up to me at church with a question, my mouth may be moving but my head and heart are praying for wisdom to address whatever is being asked. Living as a disciple means living with a constant dependence on Jesus. One of my favorite verses that I literally pray every day is Psalm 119:18-19 “Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law. I am a sojourner on the earth, hide not your commandments from me!”
Use the Word and the Work and depend on the Holy Spirit daily to invest in others!
How to Practice Discipleship
A few practical tips as you get started.
- Pray. Jesus prayed all night in before He called the disciples to Himself. Think about your areas of influence, where you are currently involved, the ladies in your Sunday school, small group, exercise class, your coworkers, etc. Write their names down on a list and pray over them and see if God would have you invite them to be a part of a d-group.
- Plan your process. It is essential to have a Bible reading plan to go through. Determine the time frame that you will meet (12-18 months). I live by this saying—if you fail to plan you can plan to fail. You need a plan in discipleship. What do you want to accomplish in the time you have with your ladies?
- Prepare for your group. Create a covenant of expectations so that everyone knows what is expected and what they are committing to. One of those expectations should be to prayerfully consider replicating the process upon completion.
- Pick a start date and proceed.
I hope these terms and tips are helpful to you and I pray that you will experience all that God has for you in your disciple-making journey. It has been my joy to share my passion with you in making disciples who make disciples!
Some resources that will help you in your disciple-making are Robby and Kandi Gallaty’s Foundations study for adults, teens, and kids. Lifeway Women Events that will dig deeper into how-tos for discipleship are YOULead and Women’s Forum.
Kandi Gallaty has been investing in the lives of women for over a decade. She believes that there are three major sources to draw from when investing in the lives of others: God’s word, God’s work in one’s life and God’s Spirit. She is passionate about cultivating a biblical worldview from the truths of Scripture and teaching women how to steward the life experiences and lessons God has allowed in their life. Kandi is the co-author of Foundations: A 260-Day Bible Reading Plan for Busy Believers, Foundations: Teen Devotional: A 260-Day Bible Reading Plan for Busy Teens, and Foundations for Kids: A 260-day Bible Reading Plan for Kids. Kandi and her husband Robby live in Nashville, TN and are the proud parents of two boys Rig (8) and Ryder (6).