Biblical Theology for Discipleship: Methods (Pt. 3)

27 Mar


All of this leads us to practice.  How are disciples refined in their faith, life, and ministry to others?  It requires opportunities to put the teaching one receives, and the modeling he or she has witnessed, to use in the course of everyday life.  “What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.”[1]  Through such opportunities, believers learn as they go, developing the gifts that God has given them, and understanding better what it means to serve the body of Christ, the world at large, and their families at home.

All of these are keys for Biblical discipleship.  Working towards the goal of being conformed to the image of Christ is a holistic task, encompassing our convictions, character, and competency.  And looking to Scripture, we find that these three elements are refined through teaching, modeling and practice.

I want to conclude this section with a segment of an interview with Joshua Harris, pastor of Covenant Life Church, in Maryland.  Pastor Harris was discipled by a man named C.J. Mahaney for eleven years before taking his place as the senior pastor.  Here were some of his reflections on being discipled over those eleven years:

First, CJ brought me into his life. So many things can’t be passed on through a book or a sermon. They have to be seen. They have to be modeled. Living with CJ’s family for over a year gave me an up-close look at his faithfulness as a husband and father.

I witnessed his purposefulness in every situation. I learned from him the importance of taking initiative. How leading was serving and it required a willingness to expend energy and set direction for others to follow.
 CJ spent time with me. He brought me into this thinking. He trained me about the importance of sound doctrine centered in the gospel. He talked with me about issues and concerns he had. He directed me in books and tapes to study.

He also took risks and gave me opportunities to lead. The New Attitude conference (an annual conference for singles that I ran for six years and which is now being restarted under new leadership), was a way for me to learn how to lead, with CJ by my side. I remember so many sessions at the conference where he’d be whispering in my ear about how to transition between worship and preaching, how to lead in times of ministry, how to close the meetings.

Again, there was no textbook, no class. It was on-the-job training. And after every meeting every session, every Sunday he always first took time to give me purposeful encouragement. Sometimes I would do the right things but not completely understand why they were right. CJ would say, ‘Great job when you said, such and such. You were pastoring people through that statement. That was a leadership moment. Well done! Keep it up.’ CJ always started with evidence of grace in what I was doing before he moved to critique. He taught me to evaluate everything at all times and look for ways to make things better.[2]

Having examined the methods of discipleship—teaching, modeling, and practice—we turn back to the idea that, since discipleship takes place in the context of a network of relationships, it is done both personally and communally, across various socio-economic lines, and in a variety of locations.  In upcoming posts, we will look at how the methods of discipleship are displayed in both personal and communal settings.

[1] Philippians 4:9

[2] From an interview conducted by Adrian Warnock with Joshua Harris in December 2005.  It can be retrieved at:



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