What is Personal Discipleship?
A Biblical Model for “Spiritual Parenting”
1 Thessalonians 2:3-13 includes all the components of spiritual parenting.
(from Paul, with Silas and Timothy)
- THEY WERE SINGLE-MINDED IN PURPOSE
:3-6 … so we speak, not to please men, but rather God, who examines our hearts. For we never used flattering speech, as you know, or had greedy motives—God is our witness—and we didn’t seek glory from people, either from you or from others. Although we could have been a burden as Christ’s apostles, …
- THEY CARED FOR THE BELIEVERS AS A MOTHER CARES FOR HER CHILDREN
:7-8 … instead we were gentle among you, as a nursing MOTHER nurtures her own children. We cared so much for you that we were pleased to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own lives, because you had become dear to us.
- THEY BECAME “ROLE MODELS” TO THE NEW BELIEVERS
:9-10 For you remember our labor and hardship, brothers. Working night and day so that we would not burden any of you, we preached God’s gospel to you. You are witnesses, and so is God, of how devoutly, righteously, and blamelessly we conducted ourselves with you believers.
- THEY GAVE INDIVIDUAL ATTENTION AND INSTRUCTION AS A FATHER
:11-12 As you know, like a FATHER with his own children, we encouraged, comforted, and implored EACH ONE of you to walk worthy of God, who calls you into His own kingdom and glory.
- THE WORD OF GOD WAS AN ESSENTIAL COMPONENT OF DISCIPLESHIP
:13 This is why we constantly thank God, because when you received the message about God that you heard from us, you welcomed it not as a human message, but as it truly is, the message of God, which also works effectively in you believers.
01Paul’s concern for the believers went beyond that of just “a teacher”. He was committed to their spiritual welfare and growth.
2 Cor. 11:28-29 … there is the daily pressure on me: my care for all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to stumble, and I do not burn with indignation?
2 Cor. 2:4 For I wrote to you with many tears out of an extremely troubled and anguished heart—not that you should be hurt, but that you should know the abundant love I have for you.
2 Cor. 12:15 I will most gladly spend and be spent for you. …
Col. 1:28-29 … so that we may present everyone mature in Christ. I labor for this, striving with His strength that works powerfully in me.
2 Tim. 2:10 … I endure all things for the elect: …
A goal of the discipler should be to help the disciple (apprentice learner) to mature, function, be fruitful, and to spiritually reproduce. The benefits to the discipler are secondary.
02A discipler is a “model” (real, transparent) for the disciple. The goal is for the disciple to emulate the convictions and passion of the discipler.
1 Cor. 4:15-16 (Paul to the Corinthian believers) For you can have 10,000 instructors in Christ, but you can’t have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel. Therefore I urge you to imitate me.
1 Cor. 11:1 Imitate me, as I also imitate Christ.
Phil. 3:17 (Paul to the Philippians) Join in imitating me, brothers, and observe those who live according to the example you have in us.
Phil. 4:9 Do what you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.
1 Thess. 1:6-7 (Paul to the Thessalonian believers) And you became imitators of us and of the Lord when, in spite of severe persecution, you welcomed the message with joy from the Holy Spirit. As a result, you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia.
2 Thess. 3:7-9 For you yourselves know how you must imitate us: We were not irresponsible among you; … to make ourselves an example to you so that you would imitate us.
Heb. 13:7 Remember your leaders who have spoken God’s word to you. As you carefully observe the outcome of their lives, imitate their faith.
1 Tim. 4:12 (Paul to Timothy) … you should be an example to the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.
2 Tim. 3:10-11 But you have followed my teaching, conduct, purpose, faith, patience, love, and endurance, along with the persecutions and sufferings …
Titus 2:7-8 (Paul to Titus) … Make yourself an example of good works with integrity and dignity in your teaching. Your message is to be sound beyond reproach, so that the opponent will be ashamed, having nothing bad to say about us.
Luke 6:40 (Jesus said) A disciple (apprentice) is not above his teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher.
03A newborn child requires an extra amount of individual attention. As the child matures guidance can increasingly take place in a group setting. Since each child is unique, it should be expected that both group and personal attention would be needed on the road to maturity.
When you bring a newborn baby home from the hospital, you don't just set them down and say, "Welcome to the family, Johnny. Make yourself at home. The towels are in the hall closet upstairs, the pantry is right here, the can opener is in this drawer. No crying after 10 p.m. If you have any questions there are lots of people in the family who would love to help you so don't be afraid to ask.” You laugh and say that is ridiculous, but that is what usually happens to new Christians. Someone gets saved and starts going to church services, but never gets much personal attention. We devote 18 years to raising our children, but don't even spend six months helping a new Christian get started in understanding the spiritual world. As a result, many people have been Christians for many years, but have not grown very much. Hebrews 5:12 refers to this phenomenon. So, new believers need someone to give them guidance and help them grow.
(Above excerpt from http://bible.org/seriespage/stewardship-god’s-truth-through-discipleship)
“Until others learn to draw on the life of the Lord Jesus directly, they will have to draw on His life through you. You must literally be their source of supply, until they learn to take their nourishment from God. …” (Taken from My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers – Feb. 9 (c) l935 by Dodd Mead & Co., renewed (c) 1963 by the Oswald Chambers Publications Assn., Ltd., and is used by permission of Discovery House Publishers, Box 3566, Grand Rapids MI 4950l. All rights reserved.)
Notice what Paul states in 1 Thess. 2:7 … we were gentle among you, as a nursing mother nurtures her own children.
Some believe that a new Christian is not in need of individual special attention. If the Holy Spirit had not led Paul to include the idea of nursing it could be argued that this Scripture was referring to spiritual toddlers or even older spiritual children. But one must honestly ask, “How soon after birth does a typical baby need to be nursed?” When a baby nurses, as Oswald Chambers has correctly expressed, it is drawing nourishment through its mother. This would normally be expected to continue until which time it is weaned.
Paul recognized that each believer is unique and needs individual attention.
Acts 20:31 (Paul to the elders of the church at Ephesus) Therefore be on the alert, remembering that night and day for three years I did not stop warning each one of you with tears.
Col. 1:28-29 We proclaim Him, warning and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone mature in Christ. I labor for this, striving with His strength that works powerfully in me.
1 Thess. 2:11-12 As you know, like a father with his own children, we encouraged, comforted, and implored each one of you …
Jesus commanded us to make "disciples", not just converts.
In the Christian community there are many immature “converts”,
but very few disciples. (See also Lesson 2-4)
04Biblical truth is an essential component of Biblical discipleship.
A Christian cannot be spiritually mature without Biblical understanding, but a Christian may have much Biblical knowledge and yet not be spiritually mature.
1 Cor. 8:1-2 … Knowledge inflates with pride, but love builds up. If anyone thinks he knows anything, he does not yet know it as he ought to know it.
Eph. 4:11-16 … for the training of the saints in the work of ministry, to build up the body of Christ, until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of God’s Son, growing into a mature man with a stature measured by Christ’s fullness. Then we will no longer be little children, …
Col. 1:28-29 We proclaim Him, warning and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone mature in Christ.
1 Thess. 2:13 This is why we constantly thank God, because when you received the message about God that you heard from us, you welcomed it not as a human message, but as it truly is, the message of God, which also works effectively in you believers.
There are inherent problems with the commonly held belief that “presenting Biblical knowledge” equates to discipleship, and that the other components are “optional”. If the other components are not given proper importance in the nurturing process, the Christian being mentored will typically have a difficult time growing to a reproductive spiritual maturity.
- If Biblical Knowledge by itself were the key to spirituality, we should have the most spiritual generation of Christians in history. Christian Book Stores are filled with books on every Biblical subject imaginable.
- To propose that Biblical knowledge alone is the key to spirituality is akin to saying that “food” alone is the most important need of a child. Undeniably food is essential, but would it be accurate to convey to potential parents that love, commitment, nurturing, modeling, personal attention, etc. are somehow optional? Has God given us the process of raising a physical child as a model for raising a spiritual child? If so, should I not then ask, “how would a physical infant fare if left to tend for itself as the typical new spiritual child is?”
- Most Christians would agree that as the Holy Spirit draws unbelievers to Himself, He typically uses Christians somewhere in the birthing process. How can the same Christians then conclude that their primary involvement in the new baby Christian’s growth is mostly limited to setting spiritual food on the table, and that the Holy Spirit now prefers to work alone in the other areas where the new believer needs help to grow?
Making Disciples is more than a “Transfer of Biblical Knowledge”, it is a “Commitment to Spiritual Parenting”