The Multiplication of Discipleship
passing on to others what we believe
By Bill & Julie Hughes
The essence of discipleship is passing on to others who we are and what we believe and think. In a way, discipleship happens all the time in many settings, both religious and secular. Parents disciple their children. Siblings and friends disciple one another. Teachers, media people, and politicians are discipling people continually.
But our challenge is to disciple people into the way of Jesus. We must do it in such a manner that it can be imitated and passed on. We want others to love and obey Him as He should be loved and obeyed. So we must be the best pattern that we can be for them to follow. Paul’s effectiveness in discipling others came out of his own passion-filled faith and experience of Christ. That’s why he could say to others: Imitate me as I imitate Christ. Or as other translations say: Follow me as I follow Christ. (I Cor. 11:1) Discipleship is spiritual parenthood. In 1 Corinthians 4:14-17, Paul calls the Corinthians his dear spiritual children. He wasn’t just an instructor in Christ. He was their spiritual father so he could urge them to imitate him as a child does their parent. So discipleship is not only passing along a series of teachings, it is an impartation of the life of Christ through our relationship and example. Our hope is that this way of life will pass on to our spiritual children for multiplying generations.
Here are a few thoughts on how we can join with the Lord in helping this happen. First of all, we have to be authentically following Jesus ourselves. We can’t fake it. We can’t pretend to be someone we are not. We must be the type of disciple we are challenging our spiritual children to be. We don’t want to model a hypocritical life. Discipleship is life on life. We have to be close enough to our people that they can see the way we live our lives so they can follow us. Second, try to be as clear and simple in your teaching as possible. This makes it easier to pass things on to the next generation. Our message needs to be “sticky”. At the time of this writing, the world is battling the COVID 19 virus. One reason it has spread quickly is that it is so easily transferred from one person to another. It sticks in your nasal passage through tiny water particles and then it begins to do its damage. Our presentation of truth needs to be easily understood and clear enough to be repeated by others so our people can quickly understand and easily pass it on. After people get the core message we can go on to deeper things, but especially in the beginning, keep things clear and stick to the core message of Jesus. Simple things and ideas can be quickly passed on to others. Complicated things can’t. Don’t be afraid of repetition either. Saying the same things over and over will solidify the truth in the hearts of disciples.
Another important factor is receiving the passion, conviction, and empowering that comes through the Holy Spirit. Our disciples have to experience the new life of Christ to the extent that they are convinced others need this to happen to them as well. I feel it is important that we pray for our disciples to deeply experience the reality of the Spirit themselves. People who do are much more likely to share the message and see fruit. Another key is to eliminate unnecessary requirements. I feel that we sometimes add burdens to our disciples that aren’t requirements that Jesus made. These hindrances may be traditions that we have had passed on to us that fit another culture or time. Don’t let those things weigh down and hinder your spiritual children. Jesus said his yoke is easy and his burden is light. Don’t pile on unscriptural requirements. I once spoke with a missionary working in Myanmar who met an old man who had been following Jesus for many years. He wanted to be baptized so badly but the church he was part of only baptized people who paid the church a large sum of money. He was too poor to be baptized. This is an extreme example and I am sure that church has its reasons for requiring this, none of which are scriptural! We should not add to Jesus’ requirements. They are challenging enough!
One final thought, invest in truly humble, teachable people who actually obey Jesus. A disciple who only listens and learns more and more but doesn’t actually do what Jesus tells us to do will never reproduce other disciples. Don’t spend much time and energy with these people. Go find someone who is hungry for God and truly appreciates the Gospel. Give your life to those people and you won’t regret it!