Written by Paul J. Bucknell on October, 29, 2018
The Basic Stage of Discipleship
The Three Stages of Discipleship
Christians are designed to grow. Whenever a Christian is stagnant, something is drastically wrong.
Each of the three stages of discipleship is developed from 1 John 2:12-14 where John uses human growth to describe the stages of spiritual growth. We could break these down further, but we are happy to retain the three categories that John utilizes: infant/child, young man and father.
John’s own words tell us that each stage has its special characteristics. Because the person is going through such a stage, he has special needs and special opportunities to grow. A child and an adult’s growth patterns will have similarities. We must not be ignorant of them. Within this general understanding of life principles, however, there are special needs of each group. We know this physically. The infant needs much to be done for her whereas the teenager is learning to live out her life on a whole different context. This is true spiritually too.
It is urgent to formally disciple God’s people. This is Jesus’ command, “Go and make disciples” (Matthew 28:18-20). To disregard His summary of our duty as said in this Great Commission is utter folly. And yet, few Christians are making disciples. Once we understand the importance of discipleship, we need to start thinking of how we disciple God’s people. Most pastors think of doing this through a sermon. They are observing the general principles of life. We all should be learning at worship services. God will meet us there, but it is not sufficient. We need to formally disciple others so growth comes easy and enjoyable without much stumbling due to ignorance and hopelessness.
The Basic Stage of Discipleship
Basic discipleship focuses on training new or very young Christians. Like small children, new Christians are unstable and need security. Who would labor nine months to have a child only to neglect him after he is born? But this is precisely what many churches have done.
The strong Christian culture in many places has disguised the need for this training for a long time. The members would receive much of their Bible and character training at home. This is not the case anymore. To make things worse, the culture has been able to use the media to shape the thoughts and moods of God’s people. People can sing the lyrics of many ungodly songs more than quote the Holy Scriptures. The church needs to quickly jump back into the race of equipping their people. No wonder there is a prevailing lack of commitment in today’s church. God’s people have not been trained. As the church takes on its task to disciple (train) her people, families will again renew their task of training at home. This brings about a stable society.
Every church should make sure every professing Christian has gone through a form of basic discipleship. We should train them in such a way that these disciples should be equipped and burdened to train others at this basic level. In this way, God’s people can train any new Christian, whether it be at their home, workplace or gym. The training is simple and helps the Christian fulfill his or her obligation to make disciples. Jesus said, “Go and make disciples.”
One pastor who uses this training concept recently had an evangelistic outreach. About thirty people raised their hand. This was exciting, but not anywhere as special as the thirty people from the congregation (that is a big number for that church) who got up and counseled them. They would not only help the person understand whether they are saved but over the next few months regularly meet with them one–on–one and lead them through basic discipleship material. Notice that these thirty have not only been trained but trained to serve. We must train the Christian to participate in the training from the start.
Those who have been a Christian a longer time but have not received basic discipleship training need special attention. If at all possible, they should start afresh here at the foundational truths and move on quickly to the next stage. Unless the foundation is firm, one cannot safely build upon it. One can almost guarantee that these same individuals have already picked up a number of wrong thought patterns and bad spiritual habits. More mature Christians need to disciple these individuals. If these Christians want to grow, they will easily adjust and grow. If they have a dull heart, much patience is needed. Certain bad concepts have to be taken down before a new building is erected.
The three levels, the basic level, the intermediate and advanced levels, take a Christian from the start to the finish where we continue to grow and serve in our life and service.
The basic discipleship materials are designed to train the new or immature Christian in today’s modern context. There are other discipleship materials out there but it is largely designed for student groups and not centered on the church as they should be. We have written elsewhere on how basic discipleship material works.
Basic discipleship is the place that immature Christians are watched over and cared for by right teaching and modeling. My wife is planting seeds in the garden. We know from experience that when the beans start growing, birds come by and snatch the top of the sprout virtually destroying the plant. So we cover them. We also pay much more attention to watering at this stage because the soil at the top gets dry and the roots haven’t reached far down.
In the same way, we watch over a new Christian. Basic discipleship training materials provide the opportunity to pass on this kind of needed nurturing. By caring for these questions of assurance and providing good basic teaching about Christ and salvation, the ‘child’ Christian can in a short time of three months grow into the Intermediate Stage of Discipleship.