The design of the Christian church is not to have a professional preacher financed by laymen who are merely spectators. Every Christian should be involved in edifying other believers.
Matthew 28:19-20 19 "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." (NAS)
At Grace Baptist Church, there are basically three things that we do.
First We teach biblical truth. Every Lord's Day at 5:00 p.m. there is an hour of discipleship training that involves active participation from everyone. We also give out books to read and tapes to listen to that deal with specific topics that we want everyone to understand. Besides teaching from the pulpit, we teach biblical truths on a personal level from the Word of God.
Second We apply Scripture to life. You'd be amazed to know how many people learn principles that they never put into action. We ask questions that get the disciple to think through his own set of circumstances from God's perspective. We want everyone to interpret life spiritually. Biblical truth must be taught and then translated into appropriate attitudes and actions.
Finally We work with a disciple to solve problems biblically. Biblical problem-solving is a key to effective discipling. We all learn best when we have a need to know. Effective discipleship involves giving someone biblical answers to problems that they're involved in and teaching them how to make applications in a crisis. You can't just give a disciple a lecture. You've got to know enough Scripture to give him answers when he needs them.
Here at Grace Baptist Church we teach the importance of discipleship (Matt. 28:19,20; 2 Tim. 2:2), mutual accountability of all believers to each other (Matt. 18:15–17), as well as the need for discipline for sinning members of the congregation in accord with the standards of Scripture (Matt. 18:15–22; Acts 5:1–11; 1 Cor. 5:1–13; 2 Thess. 3:6–15; 1 Tim. 1:19,20; Titus 1:10–16).
Discipleship involves bringing people to Christ and leading them to maturity
In Acts 1:1 Luke writes, "The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach." In other words, the book of Luke ("the former treatise") is about what Jesus began to do, and the book of Acts is simply a continuation of that. Christ discipled the twelve, and in the book of Acts we see them discipling others. Two thousand years later, you and I are carrying on the work Jesus began. We are to continue that succession: "The things that thou hast heard from me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also" (2 Tim. 2:2). Every Christian is in a relay race. Each of us is to take the baton and hand it on to others. None of us is in a solo effort. Somebody invested the gospel in us, and we are to invest it in others.
Discipleship is a process
In 1 Corinthians 4 are some verses that give us a wonderful, indirect insight into the discipling process. Paul was writing a letter of rebuke to the Corinthian church, which he himself brought into existence by the grace of God and the power of the Spirit. He was rebuking them because they had departed from the basics of the faith and were involved in sinful things. He wanted to correct them. In verses 14–15 he says, "I write not these things to shame you, but as my beloved sons I warn you. For though ye have ten thousand instructors [Gk., paidagogos, "moral guardians who give spiritual advice"] in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers; for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel." He said that because the Corinthians were wondering what gave him the right to rebuke them. Paul explained why. He was their spiritual father. He brought their church into existence. Note that Paul referred to the Corinthians as "my beloved sons." Discipleship is to be done with an attitude of love. You need to be able to say, "I'll give my life and time for you. I'll pray for you and give you my insights." If you don't care about a person and are not willing to make sacrifices for him, you're fooling yourself if you think you can disciple him.
Discipleship is corrective
Paul also warned the Corinthians. Discipling is corrective. It is like raising a child. You have to warn your children what to stay away from. You can't give children positive instruction only; they need negative instruction, too. Paul said to the Ephesian elders at Miletus, "Remember, that for the space of three years I ceased not to warn everyone night and day with tears" (Acts 20:31). He knew the importance of admonishment. In 1 Corinthians 4:16 Paul says, "I beseech you, be ye followers of me." The person you are discipling is to follow your example. That means you have to be further along the path of spiritual development than he or she is. You have to be able to provide leadership. Now keep in mind that our Lord isn't asking for perfection, but direction. Paul said, "Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ" (1 Cor. 11:1, emphasis added). You need to tell the person you are discipling, "I want you to follow me as I follow Christ." You don't say it proudly; you say it humbly, understanding your own weakness. And your example will be a great encouragement, because a perfect person would be too hard to follow.
Discipleship involves everyone
Paul mentions another element of discipleship in 1 Corinthians 4:17: "For this cause have I sent unto you Timothy, who is my beloved son and faithful in the Lord, who shall bring you into remembrance of my ways which are in Christ, as I teach everywhere in every church." Paul sent Timothy to teach the Corinthians. In discipleship, there has to be an imparting of divine truth. People function on truth. Discipling is a function that everyone must be involved in. It isn't optional. We're all to bring people to the knowledge of the Savior and go through the process of helping them mature. We're all to disciple whomever the Lord brings across our path. You will probably have different kinds of relationships with the people you disciple, but discipleship is nothing more than building a true friendship with a spiritual basis. It's not being friends with someone because you both like baseball, the same music, the same hobbies, or work at the same place. At the core of your friendship is an openness about spiritual issues. That's what carries a discipling relationship along. When you disciple someone, you're basically teaching him to live a godly lifestyle. You're teaching him biblical responses. A person is spiritually mature when his involuntary responses are godly. That's how to know if the Spirit of God has control in someone's life. In discipleship you're to bring a person to the point where he doesn't have to figure out how to act right because he can react right spontaneously.