One of my favorite definitions for discipleship is “spiritual friendship.” I believe spiritual friendship with the mutual goal of growing in Christ accurately describes the two-way street of discipleship.
This biblical notion of passing on what you have learned to other faithful men so that they will teach others is the core of what the church does. When Jesus gave the Great Commission, it was to go and make disciples and teach them all that Christ had taught the disciples (Matt 28:19-20).This can be done in a variety ways ranging from very informal to formal instruction. For this post, I want to discuss basic discipleship. This is not formal instruction per se but some informal suggestions for how a leader in the church can begin to make disciples in very simple but powerful ways.
Most likely the first place you are going to interact with a new believer or visitor is going to be at church. Brilliant, I know. But this is where everything begins. It is where friendship and discipleship start. It can be difficult to be the outgoing person, but I can promise you that the visitor isn’t going to be. So simple conversations about a person’s testimony, where or if they attended church before, and their likes and dislikes will begin to help shape in your mind how you can best serve this person. Are they are spiritually mature person? A new convert? Unconverted?
Answering these questions is easier by doing the next suggestion on this list, but you can’t meet with everyone during the week so often times you have to press pause on the conversation and pick up the next week or follow up by email. Either way, it should be the beginning of a spiritual friendship with the intent of discipling and helping that person grow in Christ.
The Coffee Shop
Perhaps the coffee shop is too cliche, but I personally love coffee and for a church without a building, it is a really convenient place to meet. Again, at this point I am writing more about informal meetings, so for me I would be using my early mornings or lunches to meet with people and get to know them better. Possibly, I would start to go through a passage of Scripture or a book. Coffee shops can also be great places for a more formal discipleship.
Hosting individuals, families or groups in your own home is definitely better than a coffee shop, and you don’t even have to drive anywhere. Simply opening one’s home is extremely impactful for those in the church especially those that lie on the fringe. Leaders in the church are suppose to be examples so that they can echo the Apostle Paul by saying, “Be imitator of me, as I am of Christ (1 Cor 11:1). But people have to see how you act in every day life not just on Sunday. You will never Facebook or tweet your failings or your greatest strengthens. Only those close to you will see them.
Personally, meeting and working with godly men has had the greatest impact on both my ministry and family life.When I was in seminary, one of the pastors would simply invite me to go with him to something he would of otherwise gone to alone and poured into my life. There was no set agenda or things to talk about, but the time spend together developing a spiritual friendship and learning from a godly man who was older and married was invaluable to this single seminary student who was trying to figure out life and ministry.
So be hospital. Invite people to your home, to events or even perhaps along for your favorite hobby. It has a lasting impact that no one can measure.
Conferences are another thing that can be helpful to get to know people and build friendships. Inviting some of the non-leadership to a conference so that they hear good preaching and realize that there are other people who believe like you. It will also instruct them as they listen to the sessions. So it serves the threefold purpose of allowing you to spend time with the person outside of the normal Sunday routine, instruction through the conference, and expose them to others who are like-minded.
Lastly, hosting conferences can be a valuable way of exposing everyone in your church to gifted teachers. They are also enriching times of fellowship and serve as further motivation to strive towards holiness in Christ. Obviously, this takes more work than simply attending a conference, but it allows many in the church who would never travel to a conference to be influenced by the same godly men who you have been exposed to.
These are just some of the main things that I have done and have been impacted by. What are some of the simple, informal ways that leaders in your church have impacted you?