Chapter 13

CHAPTER THIRTEEN

DECISIONS OR DISCIPLES?

OBJECTIVES:

Upon completion of this chapter you will be able to:

  • Write the Key Verses from memory.
  • Define “convert.”
  • Define “disciple.”
  • List six areas of instruction to be covered in immediate follow up of a new convert.
  • Identify nine discipleship principles Jesus used.
  • Explain the true test of discipleship.
  • Provide immediate follow-up for a new convert.
  • Provide extended follow-up for a new convert.

KEY VERSES:

And after he had spent some time there, he departed and went over all the country of Galatia, and Phyrgia in order, strengthening all the disciples. (Acts 18:23)

Confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the Kingdom of God. (Acts 14:22)

INTRODUCTION

You hear often of the Great Commission, but do you really understand the mission which Jesus actually gave His followers?

-Was the command just to gain new converts?

-Was it just to conduct evangelistic crusades?

-Was it only to win people to the Lord and then move quickly on to another area?

Let us read His instructions again:

Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost;

Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.

(Matthew 28:19-20)

The priority was going to all nations, teaching them the Gospel, baptizing them, and then providing further follow-up teaching on all Jesus had commanded. The commission to evangelize was not complete without the teaching that followed conversion.

DECISIONS OR DISCIPLES?

Two types of teaching are involved in this commission:

First: Teaching the Gospel to lead men and women to salvation. People must hear the Gospel in order to respond to it, repent from sin, and be born again:

Go ye therefore and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. (Matthew 28:19)

New believers are called “converts.” A convert is a believer in Jesus who has been born again by faith and has become part of the Kingdom of God.

Second: Teaching after conversion. After a person has been taught the Gospel and come to Jesus, they must learn how to follow after Him:

Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.

(Matthew 28:20)

The Great Commission reveals that new converts are to be instructed in all Jesus taught. This process is sometimes called “follow up” or “discipleship.”

Paul was careful to follow up new converts and churches. The Scriptures record that he. . .

. . . went over all the country of Galatia, and Phyrgia in order, strengthening all the disciples. (Acts 18:23)

Confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the Kingdom of God. (Acts 14:22)

DEFINITION OF DISCIPLESHIP

A “disciple” is a convert who is established in the basics of the Christian faith and is capable of raising up new converts and discipling them. The word “disciple” means a learner, a pupil, someone who learns by following. It is more than head knowledge. It is learning that changes a person’s lifestyle. Discipling is not just dispensing information, it is developing individuals.

THE DECISION/DISCIPLE CYCLE

Decision is only the first step of true discipleship. Converts must progress beyond decision to become responsible members of the Body of Christ capable of raising up other new believers. Winning new converts is important, but training men and women to follow Jesus and become spiritually reproductive is equally important. Each one you train will convert others, disciple them, and train them to reach others. This is the Biblical plan of discipleship demonstrated by Jesus. He chose twelve men, discipled them, and trained them to reach others.

The following diagram illustrates the continuing cycle of evangelism and discipleship:

Evangelism results in new converts. Discipling results in disciples who are able to evangelize, produce new converts, and disciple them. The cycle then continues to repeat the same pattern.

IMMEDIATE FOLLOW-UP

Immediately upon conversion, a new convert should be given instruction in the following areas:

ASSURANCE:

Help the new believer be sure of his salvation and confident in his relationship with Jesus Christ.

CONFESSING CHRIST PUBLICLY:

Encourage the new convert to share his new experience with another believer, relative, or friend. Confession is an important part of the salvation experience:

That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.

For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. (Romans 10:9-10)

BAPTISM IN WATER:

In the book of Acts, new believers were baptized in water immediately upon conversion or as soon as possible thereafter. The records in Acts chapters 8, 9, and 16 illustrate this. The importance of water baptism is explained in detail in the Harvestime International Institute course “Foundations Of Faith.”

BAPTISM OF THE HOLY SPIRIT:

The book of Acts records several examples of how new converts were led to experience the baptism of the Holy Spirit immediately after conversion. See Acts 8:14-17; Acts 19:1-6. The baptism of the Holy Spirit is explained in detail in the Harvestime International Institute course, “Ministry Of The Holy Spirit.”

DEVELOPING A DEVOTIONAL LIFE:

The new believer should immediately be encouraged to begin a daily habit of Bible study and prayer. Teach the pattern of the Lord’s prayer (Luke 11:1-4) and encourage him to start reading the book of John.

BECOMING PART OF A LOCAL CHURCH:

It is very important that the new believer becomes part of a local church fellowship (Hebrews 10:25). When you disciple a new convert, you do not take the place of the pastor. God sets pastors in the church to provide long-term spiritual care for believers. Every believer needs to be under the care of a pastor.

Help new believers get to church. Offer to provide transportation or to walk with them to church. Introduce them to people in the church and see that they become part of a Bible study and prayer group.

The important thing to remember in immediate follow-up is NEVER LET GO of the new convert until he is established in a local church. If there is no local church, then one needs to be planted. Section Three of this course will assist you in doing this.

EXTENDED FOLLOW-UP

In studying the relationship of Jesus and His followers, several principles of discipleship are revealed. These are important in the continuing, extended follow-up of a new believer:

1.                  SELECTION:

Every new convert should be discipled extensively by someone, but you will not be able to disciple everyone. You are only one person and are limited in the number you can disciple at any one time. Jesus selected some who He trained extensively. Others were told to return to their own homes, villages, or religious leaders.

You always should try to provide immediate follow-up, but you may not be able to provide extended follow-up to everyone you win to the Lord. This is why discipleship should be done in the context of the local church. The pastor should be sure that each new convert is properly discipled by a mature believer.

Pray about who you are to disciple extensively. Pray about who is turned to the pastor or others in the church for further discipleship.  If you have the leadership gift of being an evangelist, you may not be in one place long enough to accomplish the extended follow up of new converts.

You must select pastors or leaders to accomplish this ministry.

2.                  ASSOCIATION:

When Jesus called His disciples, He called them to be with Him. He shared His life intimately with His disciples. He spent time with them in both formal ministry situations and informal circumstances.

Discipleship will not happen through committee meetings or Sunday worship services alone. There must be close association with those whom you disciple. You must share your life with them.

3.                  CONSECRATION:

Out of association with Jesus, consecration developed. Jesus called His disciples to consecration to a Person, not a denomination or organization. Such consecration called for absolute obedience to God’s Word and purposes. (See John 4:34; 5:30; 15:10; 17:4; and Luke 22:42.)  Do not make disciples dependent upon you. Make them dependent upon God through the process of consecration.

4.                  VISION:

Jesus motivated His followers by giving them spiritual vision. He called them to a task greater than the routine of everyday living.  He called His followers to be fishers of men (Matthew 4:19). He gave them a vision of worldwide spiritual harvest (John 4:35). He challenged them with the revelation of the Kingdom of God (Matthew 13).

Without vision, people perish (Proverbs 29:18). They have no direction and no motivation. Discipleship must include the communication of spiritual vision to motivate the mission. The Harvestime International Institute courses, “Strategies For Spiritual Harvest” and “Developing A Biblical World View,” will help you develop spiritual vision in new converts.

5.                  INSTRUCTION:

The extended follow-up of new converts should include instruction in all that Jesus commanded. First, they should receive instruction in basic doctrines of the Christian faith. The Harvestime International Institute course, “Foundations Of Faith,” is helpful for this purpose. It includes instruction based on Hebrews 6:1-3 which includes:

-Repentance from dead works.

-Faith toward God.

-The doctrine of baptisms.

-The laying on of hands.

-Resurrection of the dead.

-Eternal judgment.

Following training in these basic areas, students should be taught “Kingdom Living,” “Ministry Of The Holy Spirit,” “Knowing God’s Voice,” “Spiritual Warfare,” “Creative Bible Study Methods,” and “Basic Bible Survey.” These are all courses in Module Two of the Harvestime International Institute.

The goal of instruction is to bring the disciple to perfection. Perfection means spiritual maturity which is being “complete, finished, and mature.” A perfect Christian is one who has achieved spiritual maturity, bringing his body, soul, and spirit under the control of the Holy Spirit. The word “perfection” is similar to the word “sanctification” or “consecration,” which are also used in the Bible. “Sanctification” means holiness and “consecration” means to be set apart in righteousness.

There are two levels of perfection:

-Initial perfection, which is forgiveness of sins through the salvation experience.

-Progressive perfection, which is the continuous process of being changed into the image of Christ. This is described in Romans chapters 7-8; Philippians 3:12;  1 John 1:8-9.

6.                  DEMONSTRATION:

Jesus did not teach through verbal instruction alone. He demonstrated what He taught. He taught healing and demonstrated it by healing the sick. He taught the authority of the believer over Satan and demonstrated it by casting out demons. He taught concern for the poor and illustrated it by feeding the multitudes.

The disciples were not only students, they were eye witnesses to the demonstration of God’s power. They later said they were teaching “That which we have seen and heard as eye witnesses” (1 John 1:1). Jesus also demonstrated His teaching by the way He lived. He said:

For I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you. (John 13:15)

  • PARTICIPATION:

Mere knowledge is not enough. To be effective, knowledge must be applied. The disciples not only listened to the teachings of Jesus and observed the demonstrations of power, they also participated. Teaching a subject is not enough to assure learning. Teaching alone is like trying to learn brain surgery by reading a book. New disciples must have actual experience in what they are learning. They must gain experience in how to share the Gospel, how to pray for the sick, how to cast out demons, etc. Jesus provided such opportunities for His disciples. Read Mark

6:7-13 and Luke 9:1-6. Jesus sent His disciples out to experience what they had been taught. Make sure your disciples become doers of the Word and not hearers only.

8.                  SUPERVISION:

When the disciples of Jesus returned from their ministry trip, Jesus evaluated their efforts (Luke 9:10). Throughout the entire training process Jesus supervised His disciples. They were not left alone in their struggles. He was there to correct, rebuke, and encourage them. As disciples meet frustration and obstacles, you must teach them how to meet these challenges.

9.                    DELEGATION:

The final stage of the discipleship process was when Jesus delegated His followers to become disciple-makers themselves. He gave them the task of spiritual multiplication throughout the nations of the world. The courses in Module Three of Harvestime International Institute training will help you teach disciples how to multiply spiritually. Modules Four and Five will show them

how to organize and mobilize the spiritual resources they develop. Use this course to train them in evangelizing.

THE TRUE TEST OF DISCIPLESHIP

The true test of discipleship is what happens when you are no longer present with those whom you have discipled. Do they continue to be faithful to what you have taught them? Do they evangelize and produce new converts and disciples? If so, your follow-up has been successful:

A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully taught will be like his teacher. (Luke 6:40, Revised Standard Version)