Appendix 1 - Goals for Discipleship
The following worksheet summarizes nine areas where we should look for improvement in disciples’ lives, as mentioned in chapter two. You can think through where your disciple stands on these issues, recording your impressions in the spaces provided. A full explanation follows the chart. If you don’t know where your disciple stands on a particular issue, just say “unknown” and look for an opportunity to explore that area later. For more information on any category look below to the corresponding text.
1. Law and Grace
- Knows how to confess sin and claim grace
- Able to set goals under grace, and able to shake off failure and carry on.
- Knows, articulates, and depends on God’s part in ministry.
- Has developed reasonable ethical priorities, in the sense that he/she knows what constitutes serious sin versus minor sin. The disciple is focused on the main issues in sanctification rather than “straining out the gnat and swallowing the camel.”
- Understands the true role of the law.
- Understands the true role of discipline.
- Consistently grateful to God.
2. Character change
- Understands his security in Christ, and how our actions should be empowered by God, not self-effort.
- Knows how to worship God in all ways, and with enthusiasm.
- Understands the process of spiritual growth verses quick fixes.
- Knows and practices the means of growth as a lifestyle.
- Able to withstand suffering with an attitude of faith.
- Obeys God much of the time.
- Victory over discrediting sin.
- Loyal to God over materialistic goals.
- Eternal values system.
- Convinced that self-giving love is the key to fulfillment.
3. Interpreting the Bible
- Able to articulate and defend biblical authority, inspiration, and canon.
- Knows and can use grammatical historical biblical interpretation. .
- Knows how to do inductive study.
- Knows how to use Bible study tools.
- Familiar with typical lines of attack on conservative biblical interpretation.
- Knows how to harmonize and resolve most problem passages.
- Understands salvation history.
4. Understanding God
- Knows how God’s attributes apply to personal trust, ministry, and prayer.
- Able to articulate and defend the Trinity.
- Understands how God’s image is reflected in humans.
- Able to correct common misconceptions about God and the Bible.
- Knows who Satan is and understands the angelic realm.
- Discerning about aberrant teaching on demons.
- Knows how to recognize, bind, and fight demonic attacks in self and others.
- Understands the “world system” and the proper response to it.
- Able to share own testimony.
- Able to witness and actively witnesses.
- Has learned sensitivity to others’ decision-making process.
- Has won people to Christ, or at least brought people to church services or a small group who received Christ.
- Conversant with the main world views opposing Christ in their culture and have at least some defenses for each.
- Understands and can effectively refute common misconceptions about Christianity.
- Understands and participates in world evangelism.
7. The church and ministry
- Active in body life at all needed levels (large and small meetings).
- Knows and embraces the importance of ministry.
- Understands what the church is and can distinguish it from the Old Testament covenant.
- Understands spiritual gifts, church offices, church discipline, and church finance.
- Has established a personal ministry within, and perhaps outside, the home church.
- Is a consistent giver.
- Has won another person into personal discipleship.
8. Personal relationships
- Understands biblical love and is able to maintain lasting friendships.
- Able to handle and resolve interpersonal conflict.
- Practices sexual self-control.
- If married, has adjusted to marriage and fulfills role as spouse and parent.
- Has developed relationship-related character qualities (patience, kindness, initiative, honesty, etc.), so that he/she is known as a loving person both inside and outside the church.
9. Teaching on the Holy Spirit and Jesus
- Knows what the ministries of the Spirit are and regularly depends on the power of the Spirit for living and ministry.
- Knows the difference between the role of the Spirit in the OT & NT.
- Ready to answer aberrant teaching on the Holy Spirit.
- Looks for where the Spirit is leading and responds accordingly.
- Knows scriptures and can articulate the uniqueness of Christ, His dual natures, His deity, His work, and His return.
Detailed explanation of the nine areas above:
1. God’s grace
Our disciples need to understand the central biblical themes of Law and Grace. God works with us through grace—meaning a free and undeserved gift. Both personal salvation and spiritual growth are to be accomplished through drawing on God’s grace, rather than through humanistic self-improvement.
A disciple who understands grace knows how to confess sin and claim God’s forgiveness and acceptance. How freeing it is to admit our failures to one another because we understand God’s forgiveness in our lives! We need to teach our disciples how to avoid alienation from God when they fall into sin. Knowing grace also means our disciples are able to set spiritual goals and pursue them under grace rather than in a legalistic way. Understanding grace will also enable them to shake off failure in their lives or ministry and carry on. Grace gives us the courage to fail, at the same time it gives us the power to succeed.
Understanding grace also means they need to know about God’s part in ministry—that he alone can empower us to win others and see lives change. Healthy disciples depend on God's power to come through for them when they go out to serve him.
We should also help disciples develop reasonable ethical priorities, in the sense that they know the difference between serious sin and minor sin. We want them to be focused on the main issues in spiritual growth rather than “straining out the gnat and swallowing the camel,” like the Pharisees did. When holding a legalistic mentality, people want to focus on minor, external issues in order to distract attention from their failures in major areas. We need to teach them that grace gives us the ability to be honest about where we’re failing in our growth—and be sure to show them grace when they confess! We may need to focus on sins of omission (like failing to love others, to serve, to pray, etc.) because these are important but are often ignored.
Disciples need a theology of law and the role it has played in salvation history and in becoming our tutor to lead us to Christ. Until our disciples recognize legalism in themselves and in others they will be unable to escape Satan’s accusations.
2. Character change
We pray our disciples will see their lives changed, and their character conformed to the image of Christ. We have to teach them how to live in their identity in Christ, rather than their feelings about reality, or their performance for God. Seeing real progress in character development is very slow and difficult. Negative habits may stand as key barriers to spiritual growth. Our disciples may have a habit involving sexual wrongdoing, over-eating, drugs, pornography, compulsive gambling, fits of rage, constant suspicion of others, lack of forgiveness, self-righteousness, or a host of other problems. We have to uncover the problems, and help them apprehend the power of God for change. Any of these or many other habits may completely block spiritual growth if left unresolved.
A key sticking point here is learning how to initiate and develop good relationships based on mature Christian love. Jesus taught that loving others is just as key to spiritual growth as loving God. (Mat. 22:36-40) But people come to Christ as selfish relaters with many false conceptions about how relationships should work. We have our work cut out if we hope to help a young Christian change from being a selfish love-demander or alienated non-relater to a warm-hearted, loving Christian who knows how to form lasting, quality relationships. Here is a typical area where only first-hand knowledge based on actually seeing how someone relates to others can hope to make a difference. Modeling is key. When younger believers see their discipler loving others, they come to realize what real love is. In this area, we see the superiority of personal discipleship over other forms of instruction.
Character transformation means not only loving other people, but loving God. A successful disciple learns how to worship God in all the ways named in scripture. This includes fully committing her life to Christ (Rom. 12:1), serving him in ministry (Rom. 15:), giving generously (Phil. 4: Heb. 13) as well as praising him consistently (Heb. 13:). All of these passages use the language of worship. People need help seeing how reasonable, biblical, and pleasurable worshiping God can be.
We need to convince our disciples that being conformed to the image of Christ is a process of growth, not a quick fix or shortcut. Many in the Christian world today advance miraculous shortcut approaches to sanctification that are actually pointless distractions.
If we want to help our disciples see change in their characters, we have to teach them to take advantage of key means of growth presented in scripture. They must learn the importance of regular times in the word of God, deep involvement in body life and fellowship, a consistent prayer life, and ministry, or service to others. God uses all these to transform lives, and missing any one of them will eventually block spiritual growth.
They must also develop the ability to withstand suffering with an attitude of faith and even thanksgiving if they are to move on to full maturity.
Eventually, growing disciples need to reach the point where they enjoy obeying God much of the time. We don’t expect they will ever obey him all the time, but we do hope to see them living a life generally centered in Christ, following his will, and free from discrediting sin habits.
Especially important in American culture is that mature disciples are loyal to God over materialistic goals. They will experience many trials where the world demands that they make and enjoy money and possessions. These demands will often conflict with God’s goals for their lives. To be victorious here, they must develop an eternal values system—a values system that sees how eternal things are much more important than passing pleasures. People with an eternal values system also draw their sense of security from their future with God rather than from laying up treasure on earth.
3. Interpreting the Bible
We have to equip our disciples to use their Bibles. Paul tells his disciple, Timothy, “Study to show yourself a workman approved, handling accurately the word of truth.” (2 Tim. 2:15 NASB) We should study why we believe the Bible is inspired, and why the books in the Bible are there. By the time we’re done, our disciples will hopefully be able to articulate and defend biblical authority, inspiration, and canon, because these issues come up often for anyone trying to witness or lead a Bible study.
They also must be equipped to interpret the text fairly. They will need to know what historical-grammatical hermeneutics are, and how they work. We think they should know how to do basic inductive Bible study. We should also familiarize them with Bible study tools, such as Bible dictionaries, concordances, word study books, background commentaries, etc. In our more advanced disciples, we like them to be at least familiar with typical lines of attack on grammatical-historical hermeneutics (especially reader-centered or postmodern schools of interpretation, but also allegorical and literalistic approaches) and have basic responses ready. (See Appendix 4)
We will typically have to spend some time showing them how to harmonize and resolve most key problem passages, because their future disciples are going to ask questions about these, and they should be ready.
Finally, to “handle the Bible accurately” people need to understand salvation history, and how progressive revelation affects the interpretation of the text in the New and Old Testaments. We hopefully will have them reading through the Bible, and most of these questions will come up in the course of their reading. A good discipler can excite disciples about the plan of God for the ages, and how that plan works out down to our present day, and into the future.
4. Understanding God
Our disciples need to understand who God is, and his attributes. This area of theology has great impact in every area of life and biblical interpretation. The fact that we can trust God, how we do ministry, and how we pray, are all based on the attributes of God as revealed in scripture. Our disciples should be able to correct people’s common misconceptions about God.
They need to understand the trinity and be able to defend biblical teaching on this key area against the many cult-based and New Age attacks they will encounter. Understanding God's personality and his moral attributes are also crucial for a correct understanding of humans created in God’s image.
Our disciples will need to know about Satan. Unless they understand who he is and how he works, they will be poorly equipped to wage effective spiritual war. They will need knowledge about the angelic realm in order to resist unbiblical teaching on angels and demons. Unless they know how to recognize and resist demonic temptation, accusation, and deception, they will continually be confused. They also need to understand the key area of New Testament teaching on the world system and how to respond to it.
We need to teach our disciples how to share their faith. Although some young Christians seem to have natural ability in this area, most do not. But we believe their Christian walk will be impoverished unless they have the opportunity to lead others to Christ. Christians who never lead others to Christ usually turn inward, and an inward version of Christianity will be a self-centered version. Besides, if they later lead groups, they will have difficulty leading those groups into victorious evangelism unless they have some success here themselves. We should try to go out with our disciples to meet their friends and show them in person how to share their faith. Or, we may have opportunities to do this when they bring friends to meetings and we get to talk to them afterward.
We need to see that our disciples have an ability to share their own testimony, to share the gospel message in a living way, and to be good listeners. Most important, we need to know that they actively witness. They need to understand how people make decisions, and be patient about leading people to Christ in friendship evangelism. To consider disciples “mature” we like to see that they have led someone to Christ, or at least brought people to church or Bible study who later received Christ.
We need to equip them with appropriate responses to the main worldviews opposed to Christianity in their cultural setting. Relativism, New Age spirituality, and naturalism (or practical agnosticism/atheism) are worldviews they will frequently confront in their efforts to share their faith. They should also be ready to respond to common misconceptions about Christianity.
Finally, we think God wants disciples to have a heart for world missions. We should try to inspire our disciples to participate in world evangelization, and have a general understanding of what missions are all about.
7. The body of Christ
Our seventh area has to do with the church and related truths. Disciples need to understand what the body of Christ is, and how they fit into that picture. (1 Cor. 12-14; Rom. 12; Eph. 4:1-16) The last thing we want to do is develop individualistic disciples who don’t understand that Christian growth is a corporate activity that cannot be attained in isolation. They should be active in Body Life at all needed levels—worship, group study, and small group fellowship—because only in small groups will they be able to develop relationships and use their spiritual gifts.
Besides knowing about the church, they need to specifically understand principles of Christian ministry. Until our disciples understand the importance of developing their own ministries, they will never grow to maturity. We find that when disciples become ministry-minded, their growth accelerates noticeably. We should help them develop a fruitful ministry of their own, including discipling others. Only when our disciples have developed defined ministry, and have served under our guidance and coaching for a good period of time can we consider them advanced enough to go out on their own.
Aside from these crucial areas, it would also be nice if we have time to make them aware of the main issues in church history including the early church, the medieval church, the reformation, the evangelical awakening, the rise of theological liberalism, and recent movements. Questions about these issues come up with some regularity, so the more we equip them here, the better; although this is probably one area we could skip if we have to.
They certainly need some training in biblical issues like spiritual gifts, church offices, church discipline, and church finance.
We also do not feel our job is complete until our disciples become consistent givers. Paul warns that leaders should not be “fond of sordid gain.” (1 Tim. 3:3) A Christian who is enslaved to materialistic avarice is ill suited to serve God. Jesus warned that unless we are faithful in insignificant areas like the use of our money, God will not entrust us with the greater riches of the church, such as caring for other people’s lives. (Luke 16:10, 11) We have seen that disciples who won’t give in a disciplined way usually make poor leaders. The failure to give, especially in a culture as affluent as ours, signals a much bigger problem than some think.
8. Special relationships
This brings us to the crucial area of special relationships, such as dating, marriage, and family life. Although we mentioned relationships earlier, this area is so central that we should think more about it. In addition to understanding biblical love and being able to maintain lasting friendships, good disciples must develop several additional specific skills.
The sexual drive is powerful. We find that many would-be disciples are lost to Christian service because they cannot control their sexual desires. Others are lost because they marry someone who has no desire to follow the Lord. Some people come to Christ already in a marriage where they may be “unequally yoked,” because their spouses do not share their zeal for God. These cases clearly show why we need to get involved helping our disciples win in this crucial area.
With singles, we are often involved in counseling and teaching Christian principles of sexuality. Singles won from the world today are very likely to have profound dysfunctionality when it comes to forming a lasting, self-giving marriage. Most have very distorted views of sexuality that only slowly yield to a godly view.
With married couples, we must often become involved in detailed counseling related to improving marriages that may be very distressed. Some married people are faced with the need to try to win their unbelieving spouses. Others may be married to Christians, but have often damaged their marriage in significant ways. Reconstruction could take years. We need to teach our disciples how to handle and resolve interpersonal conflict with loved ones. We often see amazing and beautiful transformations of nasty, seemingly hopeless situations, but not without a struggle.
As part of the character transformation in this area, we hope to see that our disciples have developed relationship-related character qualities such as patience, kindness, empathy, firmness in discipline, loyalty, forgiveness, etc. How wonderful it is to raise up a disciple who is known as a loving person both inside and outside the church.
9. The Holy Spirit and Jesus
Finally, we should teach key theological truth in the areas of the Holy Spirit and Jesus Christ. Good disciples know what the ministries of the Holy Spirit are, and they know how to regularly depend on the power of the Spirit for living and ministry. We should also have them ready to refute unbiblical teaching on the Holy Spirit. Mature disciples look for the Spirit’s leading and respond accordingly.
When it comes to Jesus, our disciples should have a basic knowledge of the uniqueness of Christ, his dual natures, his kenosis, or emptying of himself (Phil. 2:7), his deity, his work, and his return. We should remember that cult groups always attack and deny biblical Christology, so this area must be very important.