Begin at the End
Do you know someone who begins a book by reading the last chapter first? For me, that ruins the excitement of the story as it’s meant to unfold. But for some things in life, it is better to begin at the end. Example: Discipleship.
Although we all want to make disciples, many times we don’t have a clear picture of what a disciple actually is. This lack of clarity hampers our ability to purposefully craft our discipleship strategies. The result can be that we busy ourselves with activities that are all designed to produce disciples, but if we can’t tell someone what one is, then we won’t know when we we’ve made one. Or not.
So the first challenge we face as disciple-makers is to define a disciple. We need to take the time to figure out what we mean when we say that someone is a disciple. This is something that needs to be fleshed out in your context, with your leaders, with your language, but here are a couple of helpful thoughts to remember as you work through the process.
- Drill down and be specific. When you begin to define the components of a disciple, work to get to the root of what you mean. If we say that a disciple has to understand doctrine, what does that mean? How much doctrine is enough? Are 16-year-old Christians not disciples until they earn their PhDs in theology? Perhaps the root of what we mean, however, is that we want a disciple to know how to read and understand the Bible so that they can discover doctrine.
- Remember Christ’s character and His Priorities. One group includes the following phrase in their definition of a disciple, “someone who is being transformed into the character and priorities of Christ.” Often, we major on the character of Christ (think “fruit of the Spirit”) and forget about the priorities of Christ (the lost, the Father, etc.). Both are necessary in order to be transformed into the image of Christ.
- Skills matter. An understanding of the gospel without the skills to communicate it effectively is almost useless. A desire for financial stewardship without the ability to manage your money is ineffective. Disciples are more than just human repositories of knowledge, they are people who have developed Kingdom skills through the Holy Spirit. To this point, don’t be afraid to use phrasing that goes something like, “A disciple is someone who knows how to _________.”
By beginning at the end – by defining a mature disciple – we are best equipped to develop the strategies for our context that the Holy Spirit will use to create disciples of Jesus.
A closing word of encouragement: Defining a disciple and developing your strategies doesn’t need to be complicated. It can be done relatively quickly and the end product should be simple and easy to communicate. In fact, your entire strategy should fit on two pages. As always, if it would be helpful to bounce some ideas off someone, or think through some of this together, Jonathan, Eric and I are available anytime to help in any way we can.