21st Century Discipleship

March 24, 2011

If you are familiar with the Great Commission verses (Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15; Luke 24:46-49; Acts 1:8), you’ll know that the imperative command by Jesus is to “make disciples.” Evangelism is the simple part in many ways, but building up strong believers is the hard work. So how is a person discipled?

Well, we first believe the primary discipleship is in a local church, with the regular proclamation of the Word of God, along with other avenues such as Sunday School, Bible Study, and small groups. Also, one-on-one discipleship is key.

But that is not the only way to grow in our discipleship–that is to grow in our knowledge of the Lord as a “learner.” Here are some 21st Century tools that help spiritual maturity form in us and ways in which we can help disciple others:

Bible: There is no substitute for personal Bible reading. It’s helpful to build this discipline in your life. This is how we are daily cleansed and fed (Ephesians 5:26; John 15:3). It’s more important to do this daily than to do large quantities in an inconsistent way. And here’s another tip: if you miss a day, pick up and keep going. God isn’t angry with you when you miss a day. You’re just missing out on growth, but don’t let the enemy keep you wallowing in your failure. And on the days you miss, don’t write off the whole day as Satan’s. Just live in prayer throughout the day. You can still live for God on the days you rush out of the house without your daily reading–but don’t make this a habit.

Books: I heard Randy Alcorn once say that the folks who discipled him were authors, people he had never met. As a young convert, he’d hang at the Christian bookstore and the mature believers who ran the store recommended great books on theology, Christian living, etc. I think every serious believer needs to be a reader and continue to be a reader their whole lives. Gifted men and women of God can pour Scripture into your life through their books. Perhaps you might ask your pastor or a trusted lay person for some recommendations. If reading is a more difficult exercise, you might try audio books. I’ve often used these on long trips and even on my commute to get a lot of reading done. Another way to get reading done is to supplement your Bible reading with a chapter of a good Christian book. That way you’re not feeling overwhelmed by the sheer size of a book!

Breakfast: Find someone who is farther along in their spiritual journey than you and meet them for breakfast or lunch or coffee at least once a month. I do this regularly with a veteran pastor who has become my mentor. I love this man and regularly glean wisdom from him. This is something you will need to commit to in your life and even though breakfast seems like a luxury, the wisdom you gain from mentors is not, its a vital necessity. Don’t neglect this. And with the advent of Facebook and Twitter and email, connecting with people like this is much easier–but don’t let these tools substitute for face-to-face relationships.

Blogs (Through RSS): What is RSS? Real Simple Syndication. This is just a tech term for subscribing to blogs or websites. Essentially you use a service like Google Reader and you subscribe to your favorite blogs. Many blogs are frivolous, but there are also quite a few run by pastors or other Christian leaders and they provide short, but substantive doses of spiritual content. I subscribe to Ray Pritchard’s Keep Believing, Kevin DeYoung, Michael Hyatt, Tim Challies, Trevin Wax, and others. I get quite a bit of spiritual content from them and they are easy, quick reads.

Bible Teachers (through Podcasting): Podcasting is RSS, but with audio (or video). Typically you use a service like iTunes and you can subscribe to the audio from a variety of sources. I use this to listen to sermons from pastors around the country. I recently posted a list of some I listen to. This allows me to “redeem my ride.” I have about a 20 minute ride into work and some days I’m picking my daughter up from school–so I use this time to listen to sermons. You might have a long commute to work or even spend long days on the road. This is a great time to hear great preaching. I’ve always felt that you cannot hear enough good preaching. And there is something about being in the car that allows you to focus your thoughts. Podcasting may not be for you, but you might purchase some sermon series on CD from your favorite preacher.