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Discipleship and Growth

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You disciple everyone around you. Whether you mean to or not, inevitably and invariably, your actions and words affect people in your world. You assist them in moving toward righteousness or wickedness.

That’s true whether you are three or thirty, a senior pastor or the office intern. Yes, people higher on the totem pole make a bigger impact. They have more social leverage. But everyone leaves some dent on others. Human beings are impressionable, mimicking creatures. That’s how culture works. One person speaks or screams, dances or dresses, jokes or prays. Other people notice. Then copy. And culture spreads.

“Bad company corrupts good character,” Paul says (1 Cor. 15:33 NIV). Proverbs offers the takeaway: “The righteous choose their friends carefully” (Prov. 12:26).

The question for you every morning is, what impact will you make today? Because you will make an impact. A Christian answers that question by saying, “Today, I want to help others follow Jesus.”

There you have a definition of discipling: helping others follow Jesus. I get it from Mark Dever’s book Discipling: How to Help Others Follow Jesus. Dever got it from Jesus (see Matt. 28:18–20).

Helping others follow Jesus should be the goal of our formal discipleship relationships. Yet it should also be the goal of every waking minute: when you say good morning to your spouse, drive the kids to school, interact with colleagues, write that memo, or balance that budget. All our life and work should be done “unto Christ” so that people see our good deeds and give praise to God (Matt. 5:13–16; 1 Peter 2:12).

Here are five tips on discipling:

(1) Discipling begins with love. Have you ever noticed how much Paul loves the churches? “I wrote to you . . . to let you know the abundant love that I have for you” (2 Cor. 2:4). We follow the people who love us.

(2) It works through instruction and imitation. “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ,” Paul says (11:1; see also 4:16). Speak the truth in love so that it edifies and gives grace (Eph. 4:15, 25, 29). Watch your life and doctrine (1 Tim. 4:16).

(3) It affirms differences. God made some an ear and some a nose, “each one of them, as he chose” (1 Cor. 12:17–18). The call to imitation doesn’t smother God-given differences. It helps people discover them.

(4) It is churchwide. Every member of the body needs the whole body. “The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you,’ nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you’” (1 Cor. 12:21). None of us has everything other believers need. Every member of a local church adds their little bit.

(5) A goal of discipling is to equip for discipling. Listen to Paul again: “What you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also” (2 Tim. 2:2). Want to help people follow Jesus? Help them to help others follow Jesus.

First published in Tabletalk Magazine, an outreach of Ligonier. For permissions, view our Copyright Policy.