The Changing Needs of Growing Disciples
Babies, babies, babies! In a spiritual sense, we have a tendency to think that the greatest thing we Christians can do is to beget babies. Consequently, what we’ve got here in America today is the largest spiritual nursery in history. Mature Christians are as hard to find as frog hair. The few real leaders that exist are mobbed by spiritual brats. “Easy-believism” has given people the idea that all Jesus asks of them is to be included in their portfolio. People will gladly accept eternal life from Jesus, but they’ll shun His lifestyle.
God wants His children to grow. He’s pleased when they do and is not pleased when they don’t (1 Cor. 3:1-3; 13:11; Eph. 4:11-16). As Paul said in Hebrews 5:12: “For though by this time you ought to be teachers…” God has a time line, and He has plans for each of us. I’m not going to debate how specific those plans are, but we know for sure He says, “I plan for you to grow up! I want you out of the nursery and into the foxhole! I need soldiers–not bed wetters!”
Our job as disciplemakers is to help spiritual babies grow up. This is not an easy, overnight process. One of the main things that makes it so complex is the fact that if something is growing, it’s changing, requiring us to change our tactics right along with it. As Shakespeare said, “Everything that grows holds in perfection but a little moment.”
You can’t cause growth, that’s God’s job (1 Cor. 3:7). But what you can do is to create an environment that’s conducive to growth. To do this, you must first be aware of the changing needs of a growing Christian, and seek to meet them in the power of the Holy Spirit as they come along.
The Apostle John catagorized growing Christians into for levels of growth: babies, children, adolescents and adults (teknia, paidia, nianiskoi and pateres in 1 John 2:12-14). As you study the scriptures, it becomes apparent that the spiritual needs of growing disciples parallel their physical needs. The primary needs of a baby Christian are “protection, love and basic knowledge.” Brand-new Christians need protection from Satan, discouragement, bewilderment, doubts, cults, etc. They also need to know that they are loved (by both God and you) and that they belong to a genuine family–not just another “club.” As his discipler, your role is primarily that of a “mother,” regardless of your gender.
But as an infant becomes a child, his needs change. Now he goes to “school” and his needs are those of “consistent, strong guidance, and to ‘learn the ropes’ regarding his walk and his ministry.” More is required of him and a stronger hand is applied. Discipline and accountablility are introduced. Many a first-grader initially needs the teacher to actually hold the pencil in his hand and guide his every movement so that he can form the letter “A.” Just so, a spiritual “child” needs someone to pay him a lot of attention, help him almost every step along the way, and be an example for him. In this context, he learns the basics of what it means to be a citizen of God’s Kingdom. Your role is now more that of a “teacher.”
At the “adolescent” level, the disciple needs to develop “strength, experience and responsibility.” He needs a little more breathing room, a little more chance to fail and bounce back on his own. The load needs to be increased in order to develop strength. He needs to be given more responsibility, so he can gain experience and wisdom and to feel the fulfillment of a job both sarted and finished while he was calling the shots. Your role now is that of a coach, standing on the sidelines, urging him on. You’re there to take him out of the game if he gets hurt, to patch up his wounds, show him where he went wrong, and to send him back in again.
The spiritual adult’s greatest needs are those of “leadership abilities and consistent self-discipline.” He needs to develop a deep-seated tendency toward a closer walk with the Lord, ever-deepening commitments to Him, and ever-increasing fruit production. Most adults strive for this in the physical realm, but so many Christians bail out at the threshold of this level and become professional pew-sitters. Your role is now that of a peer, shouting in his ear, “Don’t stop now! Let’s keep going!”
Don’t treat a baby like an adolescent; and don’t expect the behavior of an adult from a child. Become a “student” of your disciple, discern his current level of growth, and adjust your discipling strategy accordingly.
From: www.disciplemakersinternational.org web site. May 2011
The above article, ‘The Changing Needs of Growing Disciples’ is written by Chris Adsite. The article was excerpted from www.disciplemakersinternational.org website, where it was published in May of 2011.
The material is most likely copyrighted and should not be reprinted under any other name or author. However, this material may be freely used for personal study or research purposes.