Posts Tagged discipleship

The Discipleship Square (Apprenticing)

By Paul Wilkinson

A part of ministry is reproducing yourself. Essentially, we want to work ourselves out of a job by replicating ourselves. It’s no different for group leaders. Breen’s discipleship square is a helpful way to go about developing an apprentice. The dream is that every leader would have at least 1, preferably 2 apprentices at any given time with the ultimate intent that the group will be left to the apprentice as the original leader moves on or that the apprentice will be commissioned to his or her own group.
The square consists of 4 parts: Direction, Coaching, Collaboration, and Empowering. At the outset, notice that “we talk” is a part of each aspect. Debriefing is essential for developing leaders. In the Direction Phase, the leader doesn’t ask for input, help, or advice. The leader says: here’s how I do it and here’s how you should do it. This part may look like: 1. Read the Bible this way, e.g. use cross-references, use hermeneutical circles; 2. Lesson plan this way: use this kind of outline, write out transition sentences, list the discussion questions; etc. We show them what we do.
In the Coaching Phase, the leader asks for input from the apprentice after teaching, e.g. did you notice how I transitioned from the introduction? did you notice how I cut such and so out of my outline to let that person share what the Spirit put on their heart? Or perhaps you give them your outline and ask for a critique, explaining why you did this or that. You are still doing the teaching and leading, but you are pulling the curtain back a bit to show more of the conceptual thinking behind what you’re doing. The apprentice is learning why we are about the task of teaching. This stage is often the toughest because the apprentice comes to see what it actually takes to lead God’s people and repeatedly regresses in discouragement. The key words for the leader here are: grace, time, and vision.

In the Collaboration Phase, you put the apprentice to work. Have your apprentice make outlines even if he or she is not teaching. Have them write out an introduction illustration or the like. And then let them teach. It is crucial that you continue debriefing in this stage: here’s what went well; here’s what you could do different; here’s how I dealt with such and so an issue; etc. During this time, you must guide the apprentice in prayer for who he or she is called to lead.
In the Empowering Phase, you either leave the group in the hands of the apprentice as you move on to launch a new group or you commission the apprentice out to whomever they are called to lead. We revel in the joy of watching a leader that God allowed us to pour into as they disciple others. And we continue to talk as iron sharpens iron. Ideally, this pattern will continue for generation after generation as God glorifying discipleship family trees are developed, illustrated by the image below:

Jesus led His disciples this way.

  • Stage 1: In Mark 1:15-20, Jesus calls the disciples telling them about the great kingdom of God and the good news to come. I can imagine their incredible excitement: here’s the Messiah and we get first dibs on the kingdom!!
  • Stage 2: In Luke 12:32-34, Jesus tells them the cost: sell your possessions to give to the poor, your treasure is in heaven, not to mention the rocks hurled at them and their leader and the vitriol poured out at Jesus. I can imagine them thinking: this ain’t the kingdom I had in mind!! Imagine their discouragement and recognize why Jesus needed to minister to them personally for over two years: He had to establish them.
  • Stage 3: In John 15:12-17, Jesus is speaking to adult disciples, metaphorically, as He gives them the vision of loving one another by washing their feet.
  • Stage 4: Finally, Jesus gives them the Great Commission: I’ve given you all authority, go reproduce yourselves!

Prescriptive Discipleship

By Paul Wilkinson

A few weeks ago, I set up the differences between description and prescription while arguing that both bring enlightenment to the discipleship enterprise. Prescriptive discipleship would give obligations and duties that make one a disciple. Or, perhaps better stated, prescriptive discipleship would prescribe what one ought to do if one is, in fact, a disciple of Jesus. To that end, an interesting exercise is to sketch through the Gospels the conditions that Jesus puts on discipleship understood to be radical submission in following Christ. Here are some of those prescriptions:

  • If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow me. – Luke 9:23
    • We see here the radical submission of disciple to rabbi. A disciple, who already knew the Hebrew Scriptures, would submit his own will, desire, and interpretations to the rabbi’s authoritative word about how the Scriptures apply to worldview and life. Likewise, Jesus gives us the authoritative word about His creation: a kingdom has been inaugurated through Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection, and this kingdom will be actualized in a New Heavens and New Earth at Christ’s ultimate return. May we live now as citizens of that kingdom.
  • If you continue in My word, you really are My disciples. – John 8:29
    • Jesus just taught his Messiahship and necessary suffering. We must remain vigilant to have the crucifixion, resurrection, and kingdom as our filters for life. The Scriptures are our guide. We come to learn Jesus’ worldview through understanding the Bible.
  • By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another. – John 13:35
    • The context here is that the disciples would love one another. We must care for those who are a part of the kingdom of God, that is, believers. We must minister to believers in a supererogatory way; a way that will make unbelievers notice the love we have for one another, perhaps even desiring such love for themselves.
  • If you love Me, you will keep my commands. – John 14:15
    • Obedience and duty are not always the most exciting words in modern faith movements. Nevertheless, John loved to point the children of God to obedience, both in the Gospel and 1 John. We must obey through the power of the Spirit. Our obedience will reflect for society the good design God has for them, their families, and their futures.
  • My Father is glorified by this: that you produce much fruit and prove to be My disciples. – John 15:8
    • Disciples are multipliers. Fruit here refers to new believers. Christ is the main branch of the grape vine, and as we believers are offshoots, we must produce grapes, that is, new believers. We do this through proclaiming the kingdom, sharing our story of transformation, and serving others. Invite unbelievers into your lives and live obediently in front of them. Be explicit why you do what you do: because Christ has redeemed me!

As leaders, we must be models of these five conditionals as we demonstrate for our group members what it means to be a follower of Christ. We must be intentional and we must saturate these foci with prayer. My we abide in Him so that He may abide in us for the sake of giving Him to those who are lost and searching.