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In 1 Peter 5:1-3 leaders are told, ... I exhort the elders among you: Shepherd God’s flock among you, ... not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock.

Not just tell people what to do, but rather, show them what to do. Can Christian leaders realistically expect followers to imitate what they themselves are not modeling (by example)?

Most pastors in the Western church are so busy, they don't have time to devote to giving individual attention to new believers. And yet the Word says to be examples. What is the typical pastor being an example of? Many times it's an issue of logistics.

We believe an answer is for pastors and leaders to train “faithful” believers in the church body, who in turn can disciple (spiritually mentor) newer believers. In many churches, discipleship has come to mean “the presentation of biblical truth.” Thus many leaders perceive that their responsibility is to present biblical truth, with the expectation that it is then the responsibility of each believer to allow the Holy Spirit to apply those truths to their own lives. However, since most newer believers are unfamiliar with the Holy Spirit, they need someone to personally help them to understand how to cooperate with Him in their personal spiritual development.

We are aware that many pastors and leaders need assistance in training disciplers, and one of the ministry areas of DTI is to provide discipleship materials, conferences and other assistance in training.

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The typical newer believer will imitate older believers who they look up to, or with whom they associate. Thus every believer is a role model for other believers, even if they don’t want to be, especially to new believers.

A few years ago, I had a man come up to me after church service and say, “I watch you during church.” I said, “Really.” He said “Yes, I’m new here and I’m not sure what to do, so I look to you as a model of how I should behave during church.”

We are examples of what a Christian is to others. Everybody that knows we are a Christian, we are an example of what a Christian is to them.

So when it comes to discipling, what we typically see is that older believers in most churches are not being a spiritual mentor model, even though it is a command of Jesus.

Then Jesus came near and said to them, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”  Matthew 28: 18-20

Spiritual Mentor

An angel of the Lord spoke to Philip: “Get up and go south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” (This is the desert road.) So he got up and went. There was an Ethiopian man, a eunuch and high official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of her entire treasury. He had come to worship in Jerusalem and was sitting in his chariot on his way home, reading the prophet Isaiah aloud. The Spirit told Philip, “Go and join that chariot.” When Philip ran up to it, he heard him reading the prophet Isaiah, and said, “Do you understand what you’re reading?” “How can I,” he said, “unless someone guides me?” So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. Now the Scripture passage he was reading was this: He was led like a sheep to the slaughter, and as a lamb is silent before its shearer, so He does not open His mouth. In His humiliation justice was denied Him. Who will describe His generation? For His life is taken from the earth. The eunuch replied to Philip, “I ask you, who is the prophet saying this about—himself or another person?” So Philip proceeded to tell him the good news about Jesus, beginning from that Scripture. As they were traveling down the road, they came to some water. The eunuch said, “Look, there’s water! What would keep me from being baptized?” And Philip said, “If you believe with all your heart you may.” And he replied, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.” Then he ordered the chariot to stop, and both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water, and he baptized him. When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord carried Philip away, and the eunuch did not see him any longer. But he went on his way rejoicing. Philip appeared in Azotus, and he was traveling and evangelizing all the towns until he came to Caesarea. Acts 8:26-40

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Let’s discuss the typical modern church congregation and the role of the pastors and teachers. We’ll refer to Ephesians 4:11-16 as our biblical reference.

Church leaders typically are perceived to be trained but don't feel they have the necessary time to devote to the all the members of the congregation. Understandably church leadership is very busy.

The people in the church congregation typically have more time although we all tend to be busy, but most believers that are not in leadership positions don't feel like they are adequately trained to spiritually mentor somebody.

So who is going to spiritually mentor / parent the new believers? The people that don't have the time or the people that feel they are not adequately equipped? Who is going to take responsibility for new believers?

Or, is there a third category? Or are most churches a two tiered system, those that don't have the time and those that feel they don't know (how to disciple)?

Typical Church Congregation
We can use the analogy of an electrician. If apprentice electricians sat in a class for a year and learned all the things electricians need to know, had notebooks full of notes and then were sent out into the field and were told, "You have been studying the books for one year, and learned everything correctly, now go do the work," would that trainer be successful in having equipped the students?

Or is equipping not only teaching but also taking the "students" out in the field making sure they do the right things, helping them to not just learn academically but also practically apply what they have learned?

Is the classroom setting enough or does it go deeper than that?

It’s easy for the trainer to get fixated on training and how they trained and forget about the effectiveness of the people that are being trained.

A trainer can get so content with the beautiful way that they are doing the training that they forget that the end result is for the people that are being trained to be functioning.

How many churches are being filled by people that are being trained indefinitely? The key that we need to understand is that it's easy to focus on how God is using me (as a trainer) when we should be focusing on how God is using the people that He is touching through me.

And He personally gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, for the training of the saints in the work of ministry, to build up the body of Christ, until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of God’s Son, growing into a mature man with a stature measured by Christ’s fullness.
Then we will no longer be little children, tossed by the waves and blown around by every wind of teaching, by human cunning with cleverness in the techniques of deceit. But speaking the truth in love, let us grow in every way into Him who is the head—Christ. From Him the whole body, fitted and knit together by every supporting ligament, promotes the growth of the body for building up itself in love by the proper working of each individual part.”                      Ephesians 4:11-16

Ephesians 4:11-16 lists apostles and prophets, evangelists and pastors and teachers - what is their goal? It is to equip the Saints. For what? To do the work.

If you were hired by a company and your job was to train people to do the work of the company, how would your supervisors determine if you were a good trainer? What specifically would they look at? They would look at how the people under you are functioning.

So, here are employees that you are to equip. Your success would be determined by how effective your employees are functioning. How long would you as a trainer remain employed if you were hired to train people and they were not functioning properly?

The goal of the trainer is not just to train. The goal of the trainer is to equip so that they that are being trained are functioning. If they are not functioning, you get fired. Every single company that is a success has to operate this way. You can't be spending money on a trainer that is supposed to be equipping people to do the work of the company and not have the people functioning effectively for the company.

In the spiritual realm the pastors / teachers are to equip the Saints for the work. But if the Saints don't know how to do the work, is that not a reflection on the trainer? We would say yes. In a company you would be fired.

Some questions to ponder:

- Should it not be the goal of the leaders to see that the typical member of the congregation is equipped and functioning as a reproductive follower of Christ?

 

- In what capacity should the individual believers be functioning?

- How are we to measure if the saints have been successfully “equipped”?

- Can we claim success if spiritual reproduction is not an end result?

- Should not “personal discipleship” (spiritual reproduction) be the “norm”, rather than the exception?

- Should we not expect every believer to be in the process of being discipled, or to be actively involved in the spiritual growth of other believers?

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To influence many people simultaneously is generally considered the method of choice. Personal one-on-one discipleship
appears to be too time-consuming, energy consuming, and inefficient.

The concept we want to demonstrate is that the Biblical method of multiplication is much more productive over the long term. This is very important, because the seeming short-term ineffectiveness of personal discipleship has led many to the illusion that it really is not the best method.

To be honest, many Christian leaders measure success by numbers. We believe this is one of the reasons there is such an emphasis in the Christian community to hold events and activities, which give the impression of short-term success if attendance is the measure.

Church Growth through Spiritual Multiplication (rather than “addition”)

 Number of “CONVERTS”
(1 converted each day)
   Number of “DISCIPLES”
(1 discipled each 6 months)
 1 To start 1
183 1/2 year  2
365 1 year 4
548 1 1/2 years 8
730 2 years 16
913 2 1/2 years 32
1,095 3 years 64
1,278 3 1/2 years 128
1,460 4 years 256
1,643 4 1/2 years 512
1,825 5 years 1,024
2,190 6 years 4,096
2,555 7 years 16,384
2,920 8 years 65,536
3,285 9 years 262,144
3,650 10 years 1,048,576
4,015 11 years 4,194,304
 4,380  12 years  16,777,216

The figures in the left-hand column represent the number of converts that could be attained to if a Christian were able to win one person to Christ each and every day of the year. The figures in the right-hand column represent the number of fruitful disciples that could be attained to if each Christian would be faithful during each 6 month period to disciple just one other new convert to a level of spiritual maturity whereby the newer Christian could be used by the Lord to in turn disciple another convert. The figures in the right-hand column are less impressive at the beginning, but as can be seen, have a much greater long-term benefit.

And what you (Timothy) have heard from me (Paul) in the presence of many witnesses, commit to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. (2 Tim. 2:2)

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A by-product of the common misconception of how to define Biblical discipleship discussed yesterday, is a tendency to focus special attention on believers who seem to have a “gift” for teaching.

Since teaching is a gift of the Spirit*, we must conclude that most believers will not have the gift of teaching. But “discipling” is not a gift.

Spiritual GiftsTherefore, while we should only expect a few believers to become teachers, almost all believers should be seen as potential disciplers.

If asked, very few believers would say their gift is teaching. Let’s be generous and say that 10% of believers are gifted in teaching. Then how are the other 90% supposed to minister? Many believers if asked would respond by saying their gift is “to serve”, which can mean anything from serving meals at a homeless shelter to painting a widow’s house to innumerable other means of “serving”. By no means do we want to imply that these “services” are not good things.

As we discuss in this article we believe we need to redefine “discipleship”. God designed a system of multiplication whereby humans have populated the earth. We think it is sad and unusual if a married couple is incapable of having children, yet there is little surprise in most churches when typical believers are not parenting spiritual children (making disciples).

Romans 12:4-8 Now as we have many parts in one body, and all the parts do not have the same function, in the same way we who are many are one body in Christ and individually members of one another. According to the grace given to us, we have different gifts: If prophecy, use it according to the standard of one’s faith; if service, in service; if teaching, in teaching; if exhorting, in exhortation; giving, with generosity; leading, with diligence; showing mercy, with cheerfulness.

1 Cor 12:28-29 And God has placed these in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, next miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, managing, various kinds of languages. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all do miracles?

James 3:1 Not many should become teachers, my brothers, knowing that we will receive a stricter judgment,...

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For the next 10 days we'll provide a list of reasons why we believe Personal Mentoring is needed in addition to the Corporate Discipleship Model practiced in most Western hemisphere Churches. By doing so we are trying to identify areas of spiritual need, in order to prayerfully seek God’s solutions.

Reason #1) The Generally Accepted Definition Of “Discipleship" is Distorted.

Generally speaking, in the Christian community the term “discipleship” has become synonymous with “teaching”. Thus anyone who “teaches” is thought by many to be fulfilling the mandate to “make disciples”.

Biblical discipleship however, carries the thought of a deeper interaction between the discipler (mentor / Spiritual Parent) and the believer being discipled than that of simply teaching.

While teaching is a crucial component of the discipleship process, discipleship needs to be understood to comprise other essential components as well. The typical practice of group teaching requires little or no interaction, since many times one person spends an entire session speaking, while others spend the entire session listening.

A goal of the discipler should be to help the disciple (apprentice learner) to mature, function, be fruitful, and to spiritually reproduce. The benefits to the discipler are secondary.

We would not want to imply that there always has to be a dialog between the speaker and listeners. However, for a believer to mature as a disciple (apprentice learner), he/she must be given opportunities to express and discuss unique needs and understanding.

Spiritual Mentoring

In other words, discipleship needs to be redefined to include the idea of “spiritual parenting”, “spiritual tutoring” or “spiritual mentoring”.

The apostle Paul’s example of Biblical discipleship, as described in 1 Thessalonians 2:3-13, should be compared with the current typical pattern of church practice.

A Biblical Model for “Spiritual Parenting”

1 Thessalonians 2:3-13 includes all the components of spiritual parenting.

 (from Paul, with Silas and Timothy)

  • THEY WERE SINGLE-MINDED IN PURPOSE

    :3-6  … so we speak, not to please men, but rather God, who examines our hearts.  For we never used flattering speech, as you know, or had greedy motives—God is our witness—and we didn’t seek glory from people, either from you or from others.  Although we could have been a burden as Christ’s apostles, …

  1. THEY CARED FOR THE BELIEVERS AS A MOTHER CARES FOR HER CHILDREN

    :7-8  … instead we were gentle among you, as a nursing MOTHER nurtures her own children. We cared so much for you that we were pleased to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own lives, because you had become dear to us.

  2. THEY BECAME “ROLE MODELS” TO THE NEW BELIEVERS

    :9-10  For you remember our labor and hardship, brothers.  Working night and day so that we would not burden any of you, we preached God’s gospel to you. You are witnesses, and so is God, of how devoutly, righteously, and blamelessly we conducted ourselves with you believers.

  3. THEY GAVE INDIVIDUAL ATTENTION AND INSTRUCTION AS A FATHER

    :11-12  As you know, like a FATHER with his own children, we encouraged, comforted, and implored EACH ONE of you to walk worthy of God, who calls you into His own kingdom and glory.

  4. THE WORD OF GOD WAS AN ESSENTIAL COMPONENT OF DISCIPLESHIP

    :13  This is why we constantly thank God, because when you received the message about God that you heard from us, you welcomed it not as a human message, but as it truly is, the message of God, which also works effectively in you believers.

Friday, 07 August 2015 14:26

A Partial Truth

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There is a perception in the Christian community that discipleship equates to presenting biblical information. 

Unfortunately this is a common understanding among most Christians. We believe that the American church has adopted this secular model for what we would call Christian education.

For example, a student at the University is there to learn what the teacher knows. They don’t have to like the teacher nor know very much about the teacher (like their name).

Likewise the teacher doesn't have to know the name of the students. The teacher is simply presenting his/her knowledge of the subject matter he/she is teaching.

A Student Wants To Know What the Teacher Knows, A Disciple Wants To Become Like the Teacher

Luke 6:40 (Jesus said) “A disciple (apprentice learner) is not above his teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher.”
Matthew 10:24-25 (Jesus said) “A disciple is not above his teacher, or a slave above his master. It is enough for a disciple to become like his teacher and a slave like his master....”

Contrast that model to what Jesus demonstrated. Jesus was saying the disciple wants to be like his teacher. That requires a whole different perspective - a personal relationship between the discipler and the disciple.

Unfortunately this secular model has crept into the Western Church. Often, Christian “teachers” are presenting biblical knowledge in the same way a professor presents knowledge. The result is a parallel between the Christian church and the secular world.

A Partial Truth

A preacher or a Bible teacher can speak to a congregation without knowing the name of anybody and can just pour out his/her Biblical understanding. To many Christians and Christian leaders this equates to biblical discipleship.

The problem is that this is a partial truth. The presenting of biblical truth is a component of discipleship but it is not the totality of discipleship.

Many times partial truths are more dangerous than a lie. One of the biggest problems in the Western Hemisphere Church is the idea that simply presenting biblical knowledge is discipleship. One of the tenants of that idea is that the accumulation or the acquisition of biblical knowledge equates to spirituality. Therefore, the thinking goes, the more biblical knowledge you have the more spiritual you are.

That is a partial truth. If this were true then why don't we send every new believer to the Christian bookstore and have them read books about the Christian life? Following this partial truth logic, this is going to make the new believers spiritual.

If that were true - if biblical knowledge equated to spirituality - we should have the most spiritual church body of believers in history because we have so much biblical knowledge available.

One has to ask, "Are we satisfied with the spirituality of the typical Christian?” 

To know the Bible is good, but to intimately know and understand the One who the Bible reveals is better !

(Jer. 9:23-24; John 17:3)

 Click here for more information on this topic.

 

 

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Discipler Training International is excited to announce that we have completed a two-year long process transitioning all of the Scripture verses in the DTI manual from the NASB version to the Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB) version.

Why did we do this?

Most people find the resources available from DTI on our webpage www.disciplers.org and many are from countries where English is not the primary language, therefore, having a translated Scripture version that is easier to read benefits the majority of people using our materials.

However, having a version that is easier to read is not our only concern. The literalness of the translation was taken into consideration, and when we look at the HCSB version we concluded that we were comfortable on the scale of versions that are literal to the original text, compared to less literal versions or paraphrases. See the accompanying chart (link is below).

scripture translation chartLooking at the charts you can see the HCSB is on the high side of being literal as was the NASB version that we had previously used, however the reading "grade level" of the HCSB was lower making it easier for the majority of our users.

We constantly strive to maintain accuracy.

We also want you to know that we love to hear your testimonies on how lives are being transformed by the Holy Spirit through the DTI materials. If you have a story to share please use the Contact Us link in the upper right hand section of our web page and let us know how we can join in praising the Lord for transformed lives.

Click here to visit a web page that evaluates English Scripture translations. (Information on the Holman is towards the bottom of the page)

 

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If a new believer is not instructed otherwise, he will typically appropriate the values and convictions of the Christians that he associates with during the formative first period of his new spiritual life, just as a child will tend to adopt the values and convictions of his family and peers.


Let's say that a new Christian is brought into association with a group of Navigators (Navigators.org), who we would rightly expect to immediately begin to challenge the believer's former values and convictions. That believer is either going to adopt the Navigator's values and convictions, or he will become so uncomfortable that he will seek a more "friendly" and less intrusive environment.


But what happens if there is not such a group of relatively mature mentors who will take the new believer under wing? Typically the newer believer will be introduced into a congregation, where it is often assumed that "sitting under the preaching of the Word" will be sufficient to lead that new believer into a spiritually mature walk. It is hoped that the negative traits observed in the congregation do not distort the new believer's understanding. Is that realistic?

We believe it is safe to say that most new believers will be impacted more by what they "see" other believers do, than what they "hear" them say. If it can be said that a particular congregation is more spiritually mature, then it would be realistic to reason that the combination of "hearing" Biblical truth from a pastor/teacher, together with "seeing" Biblical spirituality modeled from the congregation, would be a tremendous help in the healthy spiritual growth of a new believer. Leaders need to realistically evaluate the spiritual health of the congregation, asking themselves, "Do we want a new believer to become like the 'typical' member of this congregation?" If the answer is no, then arrangements need to be put in place to impart Biblical values to new believers.

 

For more discussion on this topic click here.

Tuesday, 28 April 2015 14:01

Inward Transformation NOT Behavior Modification

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We believe that it's a true statement to say that "a believer's level of maturity is the degree to which the Holy Spirit has been able to change their inward value system in His direction."

If the believer allows the Holy Spirit to transform their convictions and values what happens to the behavior? It is going to follow. It cannot not follow. Behavior is a result of inward values. All of us act according to our value system.

Our outward behavior is a reflection of what's important to us. God wants to change our inward thinking - our inward value system - our inward convictions because the behavior is naturally going to follow.

The video below, reveals that many parents think discipline (of their children) is all about shaping proper behavior by manipulating reward and punishment. That's not discipline that's behavior modification.

The same can be said of many believers in the Church today. Many believers are very good at manipulating their behavior to "appear" to behave correctly, but NOT allowing God to transform their thinking which will produce the behavior that is pleasing to Him.

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