An Excellent Free Resource on Discipleship

Lance Ford recently put out an e-book called “With Me: Relational Essentials for a Discipleship Ethos”. The book is short. The book is free. The book is excellent. You can get this book from the Exponential site in pdf, Kindle, or e-pub all for free by clicking the above link. Lance breaks the move toward discipleship down into three chapters:

  1. What’s missing here?
  2. The Jesus’ Plan
  3. Discipleship Communities

What is missing here?
Mark makes the case that most churches struggle to even know how to make disciples. They struggle to know how because they haven’t ever seen it done or experienced it personally. If you ask someone “Who helped disciple you?” you will probably get met with blank looks in many churches. We do a better job of planning the corporate worship assembly than we do actually discipling people. By discipling people Lance means we need more mature Christians to invite young Christians to “follow with me”. Instead, he says we have focused on teaching our leaders and ministers to run a church rather than make disciples. The fix is relational rather than learning more administration. It is not that we don’t need systems. Lance says systems are important but often we got so bogged down in administering systems and “doing church” that we don’t connect relationally with the people around us.

Another thing that distracts us is an unhealthy desire for great leaders who don’t first know how to be great followers. The reason we miss that step is because leadership training is not usually done in the context of one person leading another in a mentoring fashion. Instead, leadership training is done by teaching people leadership principles that they don’t have the experience to really grow into as fast as they are being taught (that’s my point, not his).

Here is a quote that you need to store away somewhere,

“It is entirely possible to preach beyond your own character and Christlikeness, but it is an impossibility to disciple another person past the level of your own character. The pulpit and the lofty position it so often implies can be a safe haven for surly souls. Leaders can be whoever they want to be from the positions of hierarchy. But when we  take the mantle of the servant and join the everyday people on the dusty trails of day-today life, our true selves can’t help but to come forward. The plea here is this: Be followable. Do everyone else a favor and don’t develop people like yourself if you are not like Christ—regardless of your leadership level.”

Wow. I think ever single minister and church leader needs to hear that and I must say that I am the first person who needs to hear that on a regular basis. I would love to hear what you all think about that quote.

The Jesus Plan
Lance’s main point here is that Jesus had a plan to disciple his young followers and that we would do well to imitate Christ in how we do the same. Here is another great quote that is worthy of meditating on and tucking away some place where you can find it later,

“Jesus’ plan was to actually let a handful of folks share His life. He didn’t live just the life of a preacher. He didn’t spend 20 to 30 hours a week crafting a sermon and sketching out a church service without leaving margin for others to share life with him. Our Lord spent the majority of His time with others, sharing his life with them. Jesus had a distinct plan to bring others into the actual living of His life. He gave access to a few people so that he could rub off on them. Jesus’ strategy was to invite followers to get their hands dirty with the actual doing of the stuff of serving others. This entailed fieldwork more than class work. Jesus pushed His disciples into situations that stretched them and exposed their weaknesses of faith, perseverance and character. Sure, He taught them in the classroom as well, but He trained them on the job.”

What would our ministry look like if we did that? What would change? I asked these and some similar questions in a post a few weeks ago. One book that goes into more detail on Jesus’ model for making disciples and reaching the world is Coleman’s classic work, The Master Plan of Evangelism. I just ordered 30 copies of that a few weeks ago and gave them out to some of our people who are reaching out to non-Christians. Coleman goes through the ministry of Jesus and talks about his methods of training his disciples to make more disciples [HT: Frank Viola on Coleman’s book]. He gives some criteria of what makes a good discipler and lays out what the discipling relationship should look like.

Discipleship Communities
In the last chapter, Lance lays out what a discipleship community can look like. It is not one more program in the church. It is about intentionally fostering relationships that are mutual, accountable, and non-hierarchical. He talks about our need for intentional fellowship and spiritual development and how to meet that need in biblical and effective ways. I am not going to give you all the details here. For more specifics click here to download the book. If you read the book, feel free to use the comments to discuss it.

HT: Eric Brown for pointing this book out to me last week!

About mattdabbs
I am a minister, husband, and father. My wife and I live and minister in Saint Petersburg, Florida. My primary ministry responsibilities include: small groups, 20s and 30s, involvement, and adult education.

2 Responses to An Excellent Free Resource on Discipleship

  1. jimmyhinton says:

    Thanks for posting this Matt. I just preached a whole quarter this year on making disciples as per the Great Commission. However, I believe you are absolutely right. Preaching lessons on discipleship cannot connect in the same way as tapping someone on the shoulder and saying, “Follow me as I follow the example of Christ.” The plea: “Be followable. Do everyone else a favor and don’t develop people like yourself if you are not like Christ—regardless of your leadership level.” What a true satement and yet one that makes me uncomfortable because I know my weaknesses.

    We have made a promise, as a congregation, to be a body of believers that makes followers of Jesus. In the process, we are taking on new life and the congregation has a heart beat. Thank you for posting this. I can’t wait to read the book!

  2. I really enjoyed the download. It was very helpful reminding me about how disciplemaking needs to be a part of EVERYTHING I do in ministry and life. I never had had many older men disciple me (there was one about 30 years ago that took at group of 20 guys, and it was helpful to hear him talk honestly, but we didn’t DO anything.)
    And now at 52 I find I have a whole group of younger men (and men my age) who want to be discipled. We can do it in the context of a bible class, a small group or a ministry group. And there are some that are simple one on one.
    We need smart, simple systems, but we need discipling to be a value in every system we have as a church.

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