This is one of the most important things you can organize your church to do. To disciple another and make of him a dedicated Christian worker because of the effect on the part of an older disciple is the key to holding new ones and church growth. This is definitely following the commandment of Jesus when he said, “go and teach.”
Discipleship – What’s That?
It’s reaching into the flames of fire to save a soul from hell (Jude verse 23). It’s sweat, blood, and tears. It’s sleepless nights pacing the floor agonizing before God for an answer to a souls problem. It is being concerned enough to forget yourself and allow the Spirit of the Shepherd to lead you in knowing how to guide a new-convert into green pastures and serving God faithfully. It is never letting an hour be too late or too early, an address too far away or in the wrong part of town; or allowing a phone number to be too hard to obtain. If they miss one service don’t stop with one contact, but go again, again, and again.
Winston Churchill’s words sum it up. When the reporters and crowds came to him for a speech concerning their survival, it consisted of five words “Never, never, never, give up”.
The example we must follow is Jesus Christ. He involved himself in the affairs of men’s lives day and night and prayed much.
If we are to make disciples of others we must first become disciples. Luke 14:24-33 tells us we must forsake family, houses and lands and bear our cross or we cannot be his disciple. Our priorities must be in order.
The information you read in books and hear at seminars of something that worked for somebody else and in some other place is good. For it to do you any good you must have a genuine burden and compassion for the souls of men. If you have come looking for a solution that requires no work, this is not for you. If you punch out at 5:00 in the afternoon and don’t want to be bothered until you’ve had your morning coffee, you need to go fishing or something, this is not for you.
Spectator to Participator – Our Responsibility
The second most important objective in the outreach effort of the church is that a new soul would be established in a progressive walk with the Lord, developing strong convictions to live for Him, and become a fruit bearing Christian themselves. Many pastors and saints alike look with frustration as scores of men and women have passed through the doors of the church never to be seen again. There are some that have stayed long enough to experience the basic steps to salvation, but after a while when the eye sweeps the congregation it is discovered they are missing.
With a sigh of dismay someone says “they weren’t ready to pay the price”. Price? Who speaks of cost? What is the meaning of Revelation 22:17 “—and whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely” and what of Matthew 11:28-30 “Come unto me, —I will give you rest — my yoke is easy — my burden light”? John 3:16, John 4:10, Joel 2:28, “everlasting life”, “rest”, “Spirit”, “water”, meaning the gift of the Holy Ghost, which is free to all and gives “power” as in Acts 1:8. The new converts understanding and awareness of this power, which will enable him to live for God is the responsibility of we the believers. I am aware that Jesus speaks of the disciple denying himself and following Christ, but too many new-converts are never made into disciples.
The Convert Is a New-Born Infant
The new convert is a new-born infant in the Kingdom of God. As pastors, teachers, evangelists, and laymen we must deal with the convert in a very similar way within the spiritual realm, as a mother and father care for their new child during its helpless growth stage. The new convert cannot be left alone during its first few days. They cannot care for themselves. Too often they have become victims of what seems to be a mysterious “crib death”, when in reality they were left alone too long.
No one called to see why they weren’t in church or prayer meeting or at the pot-luck. No one inquired as to why they appeared depressed or discouraged. They were denied that “motherly” attention from the church. They need to be called even when everything is going great, just to say “Hello, I’m praying for you. Just wanted you to know I’m here if you need me”. So much the same as when a parent awakens in the dark hours of early morning and hearing no sounds slips to the side of the crib to look and listen to make sure the baby is still breathing.
We have been given the command in Matthew 28:19, “Go ye therefore, and teach—” (make disciples of). It is a job, it is work, it is time consuming and takes patience, understanding, compassion, and much love; but how rewarding it is! It would be good if there was a 100% success rate plan or program, but even the Lord only chose twelve out of His disciples to really concentrate His teaching. When the day of Pentecost was come, out of all the thousands He taught, healed, and blessed, there were only 120 there to receive the promise. But they were discipled to the point that in just a few years they had evangelized their world.
It is a sobering thought to realize the eternal destination of billions of souls rest upon the ability of eleven humble fishermen, for the most part, to comprehend and carry out the command of Matthew 28:19. We should study the life of Christ during the three and one-half years of His ministry and get a good picture of how to go about discipling men and women. He spent time with those He wanted to become His disciples. He got close to them. He went to where they were and invited them to come and go with Him. When they followed He taught them great truths, showed them great miracles and manifested to them a power and authority which He promised they could have also.
The Lord knew the task that lay before Him and accepted the burden necessary to truly disciple the twelve. A burden that sent Him to the mountain to pray. How much is enough prayer? Who can say? Luke 6:12 tells us that the Lord spent the night in prayer. While the rest of the people went to their homes to sleep, He who had no sin to confess, no pardon to seek, no grief of His own to bewail, poured out His soul with strong crying and many tears while the slow hour of night wore away. The wicked world sleeps while the sinless one wakes in weariness and pain to pray all night that the world might be saved. At night he prayed, by day he involved himself.
Understanding Our Responsibility
In discipleship we become leaders and to lead means to influence. We are salesmen of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to sell we must be sold on our product. This is the key in discipling others to a successful walk with the Lord. Proverbs 29:18 says without a vision the people perish. When we have the true picture of the eternal destination of the soul, there is no limit to the effort we put forth to influence people to follow (become disciples of) Christ. John 15:8 tells us “Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples”.
As pastors, teachers, evangelists, and saints our responsibility weighs heavy on our minds when we read the words the Lord prayed in John 17:12 “—those that thou gavest me I have kept and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition—“. Our ultimate goal in soul winning is to establish our converts in a stable walk with God and that they in turn will become fruit-bearing plants in the Lords vineyard, true disciples – followers of Christ.
Discipleship reaches past the Sunday school class room, the Wednesday Bible Study, and the Sunday evening evangelistic outreach. Far too often the spiritual death of the new convert has been as a result of failing to understand this.
What a beautiful picture of concern and compassion in Luke Chapter 10. The Good Samaritan not only ministered to the immediate needs of the wounded man but placed him on his own donkey and took him to the inn. He told the innkeeper “Whatsoever more ye spend I will repay thee”. Most of the time, we are too afraid and hesitant to involve ourselves and go the “extra” mile. But the Lord will repay us for that which we spend more than seems necessary to the natural understanding.
To successfully disciple individuals we must be consumed with the burden to reach the lost. There has to be the understanding that we are ambassadors for Christ. We have been given a ministry of reconciliation, as God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself (II Corinth.-5:18-20). After Calvary this responsibility fell on all who would accept the call to “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men”. So today Christ is in us reconciling the world to Himself (John 14:17-23).
The Apostle Paul gives a great example to follow in I Corinthians 9:22 “—I am made all things to all men that I might by all means save some”. In verse 19 he says “—yet have I made myself servant unto all, that I might gain the more”.
The greatest stabilizing factor is getting the new soul involved in activities and to create a feeling of belonging. If it is ushering or driving a bus in a larger assembly or just shampooing the carpet of a small church, they must be kept busy. There are many areas in which they will not be able to participate in right away, naturally, but there are enough non-critical jobs to be done in any church that will help the new-convert feel needed and that they are making a contribution. Lawn work, painting and general church cleaning are a few areas.
Passing out tracts is something most new converts really enjoy because they are excited about what has happened in their lives and want to share it with someone else. Print flyers for a special service and have them handed out. Have a church clean-up day, place them in bus ministry, ladies auxiliary activities, and as soon as they begin to show stability put them in the choir. Use them as assistant Sunday school teachers. Give them Home Bible Study courses to study and they can go to their friends and win them. Pot-luck dinners and picnics are great for fellowship which is very necessary.
Basic Steps in How to Help Your New Converts
1. They must feel welcome. Be friendly. Learn and remember their names and introduce them to others. When you have a real soul burden the way they dress or their status in life will not be a barrier.
2. Let them know and feel you intend to do all you can to help them. Remember there is a soul that is going to live forever somewhere and there is only one alternative to heaven – HELL.
3. Listen with sincere interest to their problems.
4. Manifest from personal experience and instill in their minds a positive trust in God’s power to do anything.
5. Pray with them and encourage them to pray about every problem. When the answer comes remind them God did it. Continually direct their attention to God’s awareness and understanding of them as individuals. He is their friend.
6. Learn as much as you can about them and their family, friends, and jobs. Not to be nosy or attempt to solve their problems yourself, but in knowing more about them you are able to direct their faith and dependence on the Lord.
7. Visit them in their home. This tells them you really care.
8. When possible go out of your way to help them with obtaining housing, jobs, and transportation. Of course, all the time you are telling them God will supply the need. Again I say that when the need is met remind them that God can do anything and give Him all the glory. They are learning to depend upon God, not the pastor or teacher or evangelist, because there will come a time when you are busy with someone else and then they must feel confident to go to the Lord for help.
Time and space will not allow all that might be said about discipling new converts. When the bottom line is drawn a personal burden is the answer. The backyard gardener does not need the mammoth harvesting combine used by the farmer of thousands of acres to reap his small crop, but in both harvests there is the individual contact at some point and the fruit waits for harvest.
There is no excuse – without a vision the people perish! “Go ye therefore and teach (make disciples) of all nations.”
This article “Discipleship” by Trent Bledsoe was excerpted from: First Annual Pastor Layman Institute, Stockton, CA. Pastor K. Haney 1984. It may be used for study & research purposes only.