The fact that you are taking this course tells me you have an interest in “discipleship.” I am delighted that you have chosen to check out what has become known as “Life on Life Discipleship.”
I truly believe that what is explained in this brief booklet will greatly benefit your efforts to both make and train followers of Christ.
The term “discipleship” is not found in Scripture. However, the word “disciple” is often used. It simply means “follower.” The word “discipleship” has now become an often-used word among Christians – but is used in different ways by different Christians. I personally think it is best used to describe anything God uses to help someone either become a follower of Christ or to grow as a follower. Whether or not this is its best use, this is the way I will use it throughout this booklet.
Most of us would probably agree that it is every believer’s responsibility to be as faithful and effective as possible in both making and training disciples. The question for many of us is, “How do I go about doing this?”
There is a companion booklet to this one which addresses the practice of “making” disciples. It is titled, Making Disciples Life-on-Life, and is subtitled, “Walking with non-Christians in their gospel search.” In this booklet we will address the “training” of disciples, which is entitled, Training Disciples Life-on-Life, and is subtitled, “Walking with Christians in their gospel journey.“ If you are interested in what we believe is the full scope of discipleship, both making and training, I encourage you to read through both booklets.
Over five decades ago, as a fourteen-year-old new Christian, I was invited to be part of a small group of fellow students who would meet together weekly. I had no idea what the young adult leader meant when he invited us to a take a journey with him in what he called “discipleship.” But over the next two years, I learned not only how to grow in maturity as a Christian, but also how to lead non-Christians into a relationship with Jesus.
Years later, after planting a church and pastoring it for over 42 years, I believe it is safe to say that Perimeter Church throughout most of those years has been best known for its life transforming ministry of discipleship. And it is equally accurate to say that “discipleship” has been the single greatest passion of my personal ministry.
At the time of this writing, I am now beginning my 54th consecutive year of what I call, “laboring in the lives” of a small group of men. Over these years, I have watched countless men mature in their faith and become better equipped for daily life and ministry, then going on to do the same with others. During each of these years, I have personally been blessed, even as an insecure introvert, to lead many people to Christ through life on life relationships.
Most of you do not know me personally, but if you did, you would quickly discover that I am very average when it comes to intellect and natural abilities. I truly believe that if you were to get to know me well, you would become convinced that if I could become effective at discipleship, then you can as well. As you read, it will become apparent that the tools presented are designed for anyone’s use, even those of us who are not naturally extroverts and abundantly gifted. In fact, I am reminded and encouraged by Paul’s word to the church in Corinth when he said, “And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.”
And let me say a word to pastors who are reading this. Regarding our church’s ministry of discipleship, I can say with integrity that this is not a one church phenomenon. For the past dozen years or so, we have coached hundreds of churches both nationally and globally. These churches are extremely diverse regarding size, denomination affiliation and theological backgrounds. These churches have the same story to tell as Perimeter. And many of their stories far surpass our own story.
I am personally still learning more each year about both making and training disciples. With the realization that I am still a learner, I would love to share with each of you some of my life learnings. But before I conclude this introduction, I need to close with two personal concerns:
1) That you might mistakenly hear me say that I believe I (or any of the men and women who are part of our Life on Life staff) think we have it all correct, perfectly put together. Nothing could be further from the truth. As you have already heard in this introduction, “discipleship” covers anything and everything we do that truly helps people become followers of Christ and/or advance in their journey of following. We do believe there are certain often neglected biblical principles that make discipleship more effective. Please know we are simply sharing our insights regarding these principles for your consideration.
2) That you might mistakenly hear me say that our model for discipleship is THE model that everyone needs to use. We know that God works through these same principles in many differing expressions. And beyond the principles that Life on Life espouses, there are many different approaches to discipleship that God is richly blessing every day.
So I hope you find what I share in these booklets to be helpful and know that they are intended to be “first steps.” You can learn more about these and other subjects related to discipleship at lifeonlife.org.