Having seen what discipleship is and isn't and the pressing need for us to be discipling other and the implications of this for the way we meet together and evangelise how do we go about discipling others.
It is worth asking yourself a number of questions as you think about discipling someone else:
1. How have I been discipled? What was good, bad or indifferent? We have all picked up habits from somewhere, we have all watched other Christians and assumed what they do is the norm. It is worth picking through these assumptions and looking at them in the light of the bible, many of them are just a result of our traditions and therefore are open to valid challenging, others may be really helpful, whilst others may not.
Think about how you pray for example, what assumptions are behind how you pray? Does your theology affect your praying? How is your praying trinitarian? What prayer language do you tend to use? Is your praying intimate or distant? Does it approach God as Father? Is there a deep seated trust in the God of grace that influences and determines your readiness to approach God and your conversation with God? Is your praying primarily designed to control situations or to enjoy and glory in God? Where did you pick up these patterns?
Its worth thinking about these things because in discipling others we are opening up ourselves to them. It is not saying we have to have everything sorted before we disciple someone we never will, but it is worth having an awareness of some of the issues that have influenced us so we know how they and we will influence others.
2. What are your strengths and weaknesses? What are you naturally good at and what are you not naturally good at. Will you naturally want to study the bible but not spend much time together outside of that? Are you naturally good at encouraging but shy away from confronting sin? We need to know so that we can watch ourselves and work hard at our weak areas, maybe even raising them as matters for prayer.
3. What can you/family commit to? Weekly, fortnightly? And for how long? This is a long term commitment and that aspect needs thinking through. We don't want to start something and then let someone down because we can't see it through. The context is ultimately life long discipleship, but it may be initially you will aim to meet every week or fortnightly for a couple of years and then things will continue but on a more fluid relational basis after that.
4. Are you willing to be honest and open about yourself? What really strikes me about Paul is that he says Timothy knew him in the good times and the bad times. He saw how the gospel inspired him to preach and rejoice in people coming to faith and how it sustained him when he was hard pressed and struggling. Timothy knew the dark of Paul as well as the light. For discipleship to work effectively this need to be the same for us, we cannot go into a discipling relationship thinking I will hold back. We need to share our struggles and our battles if we want others to open up and share theirs.
It is not only good for developing the relationship but it is good for us. We must not allow people to put us on a pedestal, we mustn't allow pride to let us self righteously allow others to assume we have no struggles. We need discipleship to work like fight club, like a gym where we train hard so that we run the race. The point of going to the gym is not to train someone else but to train with others.
5. What are you hoping and praying for? Our ultimate aim is to see life long convictions formed in people, to see them changed by the power of the gospel and see their whole life transformed (Roms 12:1-2). But it is worth having other goals: an understanding of grace, a transformation in their parenting by grace, that they learn how to disciple others, that they grow in to a leader in the church who surpasses you.
6. Exegete the person - Where are they at? What do they need? What do they perceive they need? How are they living out their identity as a son of God rightly or wrongly? This will help you think through what you should study.
7. How can you share life with them? What shared interests do you have or could you develop? What do they love that you could do with them? How could you spend time together just as part of everyday life? Maximising mealtimes is key here!
8. What will you study? Studying the Bible is the key to turning friendship into discipleship. In studying the Bible we are both confronted with sins which we may have found it hard to confront one another with. In studying the bible we see God in all his wisdom telling us what we need to know and how we need to live as his people. Studying the bible liberates, unlocks and develops discipleship.
It's worth asking those questions and then praying about who God would have you get alongside and disciple or be discipled by, and then doing it.