Clarifying Discipleship

One of the most motivating parts of leadership is changed lives. Life change energizes us, engages us, and keeps us going even in the most trying times as a leader.

On the other hand, it is discouraging when we question whether we are making an impact at all. Does what we do make a difference? Does it matter?

The Gap

As leaders we encounter gaps all the time- the space between where we are personally and where we want to be, between what we desire to be true and what is really occurring, or between what we think we are communicating to others and what they are actually hearing, experiencing or passing along.

Discipleship is an area in which we can experience this “gap.” We desire to see the multiplication of disciples, yet wonder why is it not occurring.

As we came to planning (see Identifying the Big Rocks) we identified this gap. We noticed a common theme among the students we lead: they wanted to be involved in the discipleship of others, but they were not sure what do. Many students had observed discipleship or attended the discipleship training seminars, yet still felt uncertain and were not moving forward in it. Some had observed others with much more experience and expected to be able to turn around and do the same. In short, we were not sure that spiritual multiplication was happening.

It was another perplexing area. There was a discipleship “gap,” which lead us to Big Rock #2.

Big Rock #2: Discipleship

Helping another grow as a follower of Jesus can feel daunting. It can seem ambiguous, and yet at the same time, like there is a “right way” of doing “it.”

As we sat in planning, we decided we needed to identify clearly a discipleship process for ourselves and for the people we lead. Even though there was not a perfect formula, we could still give a path to follow.

We needed to fill in the gap.

Closing the Gap

If we wanted to see discipleship happen, then we needed to have a super clear path, that was also simple and could be imitated. We identified three parts for closing in the discipleship gapa vision, a plan and a model.

1. A Vision

What are we really about? If we do not keep our vision in front of us we lose sight of where we are and where we are headed.

We want to continually cast vision for our leaders that is compelling. The Making and Multiplying Disciples document is a way we share a vision with our leaders. (We tweaked an older version and now have this updated one that fits our purposes.)

This document helps keep discipleship in light of a bigger picture. Discipleship is not just the passing on of information, or a time of sitting across a table at a coffee shop- but it so much more! It encompasses every aspect of our life. It is following Christ and becoming more like Him. It is about life change that changes the world.

To help fill in the gap, we share this document, this vision, with students when we are challenging them to lead or be involved in discipleship and when coaching and mentoring them in different roles. We also refer back to it with them from time to time. We explain that this document highlights in one page what we are about- and it is pretty exciting!

Now they have a context for discipleship. They have a bigger vision and that is motivating!

2. A Plan

My husband and I realized at one point that we have been in our current position since the time some of our students were in diapers. Needless to say, we could be their parents! For anyone who leads long enough, a benefit you discover is the ability to lead out of experience.

This can be good, but it also has a weak side. It makes some things much easier. But on the other hand, it may be difficult for others to follow our lead because they do not have the “experience” resource to tap into.

This is another important reason to give those we lead a clear path or plan to follow. As we serve others we want to impart them with tools that will help them be successful. Sometimes I think they will catch about 25% of what we really hope they will catch. So it is important to have simple and clear tracks.

We are using the material called, The Compass- a Tool for Disciplers , to help close in the discipleship gap. It helps us to define discipleship and demonstrate what it is. It gives us a series of lessons we would want to cover anyway with students. They can see it modeled and have the same resource to tap into.

Let me give you an example. I gave two sorority chaplains a sort of survey called The Growth Circles which helps identify areas for growth. From this we ascertained many topics we could discuss, but we picked three: the word, eternal perspective and sharing our faith. I found lessons on The Compass to address these areas. After I lead them in these topics, they had a tool to refer to, and turn around and do with girls they lead.

For accountability, we regularly ask our team what lessons they have covered in The Compass and hear feedback on how it is going. Our goal as staff is to cover five of these lessons with our disciples over the semester.

One week I took a few girls I disciple to the cemetery (I know it sounds strange.) and we talked about The Compass lesson on eternal perspective and the shortness of life. We had a great discussion. Soon I heard they were each doing the same lesson with the girls they disciple without me even suggesting it. Others had also heard about it and decided to do it as well.

3. A Model

So we have a vision. We have a plan. If we stop there, what we talk about will probably just become more good information to accumulate and be forgotten. Therefore, we need this third aspect to fill in the rest of the gap. Modeling is the glue for helping the information, be more than just information that makes us more knowledgeable, but to be passed on, to stick, and to change lives. Modeling makes things sticky. It makes things mulitply- to get passed along from one person, to another, on to another.

Modeling is living life as an example up close that others can follow or imitate. It is giving our disciples specific opportunities where they can observe our interactions, words and deeds.

As a team we value modeling and we keep track of how we are doing in this area. We look for “live” opportunities to be with our disciples, modeling the things we value- engaging with others and sharing about the hope we have in Christ.

This can take on many forms. For me, it is like the time when I had a disciple alongside me as we learned together how to use the Perspective card survey on campus with a non-believer. Then the next time she got to try it. It is having a bible study member observe as I talk to sorority new members about the spiritual area of life, so she in turn can do the same later. It is having disciples over for Easter lunch alongside international students. It is also leading international summer mission teams, training the students to go and “doing” ministry together over there.

I could say a lot about this, but the bottom line is we need to model what we want to be passed on- what we want to stick.

Changing Lives to Change the World

These three pieces apply in many areas of our life where we find ourselves coaching or mentoring another person. My husband and I are teaching our third son to drive. He has a vision for why he should learn to drive (He can envision all the places he can go without us!). We came up with a plan: parent taught driver’s education (not always the easiest way). He also needs modeling– to go out in the car with us. Like most children he has observed us for years. We took him first to a parking lot. Soon he was on the street driving with us beside him. Each time we gave him feedback. Before we know it he will have his license and be able to drive on his own. His (and our) life is changed!

Changed lives motivates us. It often keeps us going. I imagine it motivates you as well as you lead and serve. Because we are talking about real people, there is never an exact formula for discipleship. Each of us is unique, messy, complicated, yet full of possibility. In discipleship we know all that, yet see who they are becoming and will become as a follower of Christ. That is why having: a vision, a plan, and a model is exciting. For we hope to close in the gap and help students become more like Christ, multiply their lives with the possibility of impacting the world for Christ.

Tools to refer to:
Making and Multiplying Disciples

Masterplan of Evangelism

The Compass

Next time: Big Rock #3- Questions for Pursuing Diversity

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