In Matthew 28:18-20, Jesus gives us our mission to make disciples of all the peoples of the world. In this Great Commission, we are told to baptize and to teach them to obey all that Christ has taught. This mission is non-negotiable! If we are not proclaiming the gospel, we are disobeying God. However, if we aren’t teaching the new believers to obey all that Christ has commanded, we are still disobeying God. We must do both.
Today, I’d like to discuss the three key elements of discipleship. These elements are: God’s word, Transparency, and Accountability.
The Bible is God’s Word to us. We learn to obey Christ’s commands by reading His word. As 2 Timothy 3:16-17 says, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” Therefore, our first commitment in discipleship is to use the Bible exclusively as our text.
Granted, there are plenty of great books and other resources that describe the Bible. There are plenty of resources that expand on what is written in the Bible. Nevertheless, these resources must not be the focus in discipleship. I recommend using the resources for preparation, then teaching out of the Bible with the benefit of the preparation.
Most of us do not live in a setting where we are able to spend a majority of our daily lives with those we are discipling. We just can’t be there 24/7 to see how the new believers are implementing what they’ve learned in their daily lives. That is why transparency is so crucial. Everyone in the discipling relationship must feel comfortable enough to share openly and honestly with each person in the discipling group. For this reason, I believe the most effective size of a discipling group is 3-5 people. Furthermore, it would be wise to keep men and women separated.
I use the following exercise in my classes to teach the importance of accountability. Consider how many sermons you have heard over the course of your life. How many is it? Let’s say hypothetically that you’ve listened to one sermon per week for ten years. That’s only 520 sermons. Suppose that each of those sermons had only one application. What would your life look like if you were actually expected to implement that application in your life? Would you look more like Jesus than you currently do?
A disciple of Jesus Christ actively implements what he/she has learned from the Bible. We are better able to do this by holding one another accountable. That is one of the main functions of the church.
There are many ways to hold one another accountable. I really like the simple approach of asking the discipling group how they are going to apply the lessons of that week’s scripture to their lives. As each person (including me) answers, everyone writes down what each person says. The next time we meet, we ask one another how it is going with the implementation. Another successful approach is described in Neil Cole’s book, Search and Rescue. He uses Life Transformation Groups as his discipling groups. They typically meet weekly, and ask the following accountability questions:
- Have you been a testimony this week to the greatness of Jesus Christ with both your words and actions?
- Have you been exposed to sexually alluring material or allowed your mind to entertain inappropriate thoughts about someone who is not your spouse this week?
- Have you lacked any integrity in your financial dealings this week, or coveted something that does not belong to you?
- Have you been honoring, understanding and generous in your important relationships this past week?
- Have you damaged another person by your words, either behind their back or face-to-face?
- Have you given in to an addictive behavior this week? Explain.
- Have you continued to remain angry toward another?
- Have you secretly wished for another’s misfortune so that you might excel?
- Did you finish your reading this week and hear from the Lord? What are you going to do about it?
- Have you been completely honest with me?
I particularly like the comprehensiveness of these questions, and that the last question gives the answerer the opportunity to come clean if he/she has been dishonest in his/her answers.
What discipling models have you used successfully? What questions would you ask?