1) The purpose for discipling / spiritual mentoring
Every person is born with a predisposition toward independence from God. That disposition tends to strengthen as the child grows into an adult.
If the person accepts His gift of salvation, then God begins a process of inward transformation (sanctification). The pace and depth of that transformation process is affected by the understanding and openness of the new Christian.
The intent of discipleship (mentoring, “spiritual parenting”) is to help the new Christian to understand what God is doing, in order to significantly influence and accelerate that grow and transformation process.
Romans 12:1-2 …, brothers, by the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.
Colossians 1:28-29 (Paul wrote) We proclaim Him, warning and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone mature in Christ. I labor for this, striving with His strength that works powerfully in me.
2) Targeting (seeking God’s choices) as to whom you should mentor
a) Pray about it!
If you want to be an effective spiritual mentor (discipler), you need to prayerfully seek God’s wisdom for discernment as to who will benefit from your investment of time, energy and possessions. Jesus let His Father make the decision.
Luke 6:12-16 … He went out to the mountain to pray and spent all night in prayer to God. When daylight came, He summoned His disciples, and He chose 12 of them—He also named them apostles.
Sadly, many “older” Christians, especially those who have found a comfortable and acceptable Christian lifestyle, are not overly interested in being mentored on toward spiritual maturity, fruitfulness and reproduction.
As you prayerfully consider mentoring another Christian, look for the characteristics in Point 3. Even if these characteristics are not evident, continue to pray looking to the Lord for His confirmation or to provide someone else who has a hunger to grow spiritually. There are Christians who would love to have someone like you take them under your “wing” to help them grow.
Caution: Trying to disciple a disinterested person will usually lead to frustration!
- While you may discern that a believer needs to be mentored, unless the Holy Spirit is drawing that person, they will only half-heartedly agree -- often, just to please you.
- If you spend your limited time with a disinterested person, you may be neglecting someone else who sincerely wants to grow.
- Timing is important. Someone not interested today may be interested in the future.
b) Categories of believers to look for
When praying about discipling, ask the Holy Spirit for discernment as you observe:
1) New believers Since they are now as little children in the kingdom, they tend to be spiritually hungry, and need someone to walk alongside of them.
2) Christians who have been living in a desert experience (often for years), who through a God orchestrated crisis have found themselves humbled and are finally willing to acknowledge that He can manage their life better than they can. (His Lordship).
3) Christians who have obviously accepted His Lordship over their life, want to walk with Him, but have either stagnated (or plateaued) in their Christian growth or don’t understand how to consistently abide in fellowship with the Lord.
Target Groups for Mentoring
3) Characteristics to look for in a disciple-to-be
1) A spiritual hunger. Are they hungering and seeking after God?
Matthew 5:6 (Jesus said) those who hunger and thirst for righteousness are blessed, for they will be filled.
2) A teachable attitude. Do they have an openness to Him? Do they see themselves as a learner? As an apprentice?
3) A reliability (dependability). Do they want to apply His truth to their life? Is spiritual growth a priority in their life?
2 Timothy 2:2 (Paul told Timothy) And what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, commit to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.
Caution: It is not good if they think they’re doing you a favor.
4) Suggested guidelines for mentoring another person.
NOTE: Normally, men should disciple/mentor men and women should mentor/disciple women.
- Ideally, arrange to meet about once a week for about 1½ hours or so. The time will vary depending on their spiritual hunger, assimilation of Biblical concepts, and maturity level, as well as life's demands.
- Beginning with Phase I, plan to spend at least 3 to 9 months with a mentee, meeting regularly. (Growth takes time.)
- The purpose of the meetings is to explain Biblical truth and principles, and to give the mentee opportunities to ask questions, share spiritual struggles, and discuss related topics.
- It is important be a thoughtful listener. It’s the best way to identify gaps in their spiritual understanding.
- Be flexible enough to allow the Holy Spirit to change the direction of the study or conversation, yet orderly and intentional enough so time is not squandered on less significant matters.
- Go through the material at the mentee’s pace. That also means not necessarily rushing to finish one lesson a week. Some lessons take longer than others, and the mentee needs time to assimilate and apply what was discussed.
- TIP: Ask the mentee to keep track of where you left off and where to begin. That shows their investment and relieves pressure on you, especially if you are mentoring more than one person.
- TIP: Although we do not recommend requiring the mentee "to read and study for next week", we do encourage them to review the scriptures that were just discussed and meditate on them, asking God to reveal more and apply to their life.
- TIP: If the mentee DOES "read ahead" and says "I have already read that on my own", we still highly recommend that you go through it with them, asking what God showed them as they read. Often, God will bring out even more to both of you. In our experience, skipping parts or rushing because they think they have already studied a section usually means a focus on "checking the box" (behavior)rather than allowing God to transform them.
- Encourage the mentee to look to the Lord to apply Biblical principles to their every day life.
- As the mentee grows, encourage them, as opportunities arise, to clearly explain these Biblical principles to others. As the Holy Spirit leads, the mentee should start mentoring another person, with your assistance.
NOTE: We have found that the nurturing aspect of one-on-one mentoring is crucial and effective in spiritual growth, just as the Paul discusses in I Thessalonians 2:3-13.
You should expect to see spiritual maturity, spiritual fruitfulness and spiritual reproduction into the mentee’s life as they grow and apply these DTI concepts and integrate them into their everyday life.
- Seek to convey Biblical principles to live by, not just to impart Biblical knowledge. The “spiritual parenting” model of discipleship includes commitment, modeling and individual attention in addition to teaching God’s Word.
- Let the mentee know that you are available throughout the week. Perhaps periodically text them a verse that was inspirational to you. Also plan to regularly monitor their spiritual growth even after your formal discipleship time is completed.
- Regularly pray for the disciple and with the disciple.
- Remember you are a role model for your mentee. You should tell them about your spiritual growth when appropriate, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. They will be encouraged when they hear what God is doing in your life. They can reason, "If you trusted God and He took care of the situation, then maybe I can trust God, too. "
- Your goal is to lead them into dependence on the Holy Spirit and independence from you. You should expect the typical Christian, if correctly mentored, to become a “spiritual reproducer”.
The Disciple Won’t Care How Much You Know, Until They Know How Much You Care.
Essentials for Discipling
1)The discipler needs to count on the HOLY SPIRIT to:
a) Orchestrate encounters with those who need to be mentored.
b) Create spiritual hunger in the person to be mentored.
c) Guide the discipleship process.
d) Give wisdom, discernment and clarity to your mentee.
2) The DISCIPLER is responsible to:
a) Pray and look to the Lord with expectation.
b) Abide - Continue in fellowship with the Holy Spirit.
c) Study the Word and seek to be prepared as a usable vessel. (2 Tim. 2:15)
d) Be available to be used as that vessel by the Holy Spirit.
e) Cooperate with the Holy Spirit as a partner in His work.
3) All the MATERIAL that is used should:
a. Emphasize the mentee’s need to be looking to the Lord to reveal Himself through His Word, the Bible.
b. Progressively address the needs of the mentee in an intentional and systematic method, as in building a house. (Review Lesson 2-1, Point 10)
c. Focus the mentee’s attention on their transformative relationship with the Lord, rather than on external behavior manipulation. (Review Lesson 1-2, Point 1)
4) In the human physical realm there are three OBSTACLES TO REPRODUCTION:
1) Physical immaturity
2) A health problem, and
3) A lack of physical intimacy.
Dawson Trotman, founder of the Navigators (navigators.org), has suggested that the same three obstacles can hinder spiritual reproduction.
1) Spiritual immaturity – Due to being a newer Christian, or due to a lack of spiritual growth.
2) Spiritual health problems – Due to unresolved issues between the Christian and the Lord, and/or a lack of correct spiritual understanding.
3) Lack of spiritual intimacy – Due to busyness and/or other activities or things that infringe on their intimacy with the Lord.
Recommendations for Effective Discipleship
A disciple has the goal of becoming 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.
1) For the newer believer there is usually a significant emphasis toward behavior manipulation.
Therefore, we should focus the believer’s attention on his relationship with the Lord, since inward transformation will produce the behavior that pleases the Lord. Our goal is for the mentee to learn to habitually seek God’s approval, rather than man’s approval.
Romans 12:1-2 Therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.
John 12:42-43 Nevertheless, many did believe in Him even among the rulers, but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, so they would not be banned from the synagogue. For they loved praise from men more than praise from God.
2) As a spiritual baby, every new believer should be given personalized individual attention during the critical formative period of their new life with the Lord.
CAUTION: Be careful not to interpret the new believer’s enthusiasm as an accurate indicator of spiritual well being, since this initial openness and hunger has a tendency to fade if not developed during this window of opportunity.
3) Biblical training should be orderly and progressive in nature, rather than random.
Due to the new believer’s unfamiliarity with the Christian life, random information tends to be archived rather than applied. It is also very easy for the newer believer to unknowingly have gaps in their understanding of essential concepts.
Illustration: What are the steps in building a new house?
1 Corinthians 3:10-15 According to God’s grace that was given to me, I have laid a foundation as a skilled master builder, and another builds on it. But each one must be careful how he builds on it. For no one can lay any other foundation than what has been laid down. That foundation is Jesus Christ. If anyone builds on that foundation with gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay, or straw, each one’s work will become obvious, for the day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire; the fire will test the quality of each one’s work. If anyone’s work that he has built survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned up, it will be lost, but he will be saved; yet it will be like an escape through fire.
4) Disciples should be treated as apprentices, rather than as students simply seeking Biblical knowledge.
As in any purposeful apprenticeship, there is a need for a significant amount of committed time and energy.
Individual training is slower but tends to be deeper.
5) One-on-one training (spiritual mentoring / parenting) should be balanced with corporate training, just as in any normal family. Neither one should be considered optional.
One weakness of corporate settings is many times there is no requirement for serious interaction or dialog that addresses the individual spiritual needs of the disciple. (in other words, a person may "hide" in a corporate class when it is more difficult to "hide" in one-on-one mentoring.)
6) Serious consideration should be given to the inclusion of the following major components of personal discipleship, namely:
3) Individual Attention
1 Thessalonians 2:3-13 0 Use as a model for personal mentoring as it incorporates the major components of “spiritual parenting / mentoring”.
7) Every believer should be seen as a potential mentor, and trained toward that end.
There is no special spiritual gift for discipling, just as there is no special gift for witnessing.
The command to make disciples was given to the universal church, not to just a few specially trained or gifted individuals. If human couples raised offspring at the same ratio as Christians spiritually parent new believers, the human race would probably be considered an endangered species!
8) At a minimum, the disciple should understand and be able to explain to others an Overview of the Christian life, as well as the concepts of Lordship and Abiding.
9) The spiritual health of a Christian church should not be measured primarily by the activity of its leadership.
A better indicator is the spiritual reproduction and growth that is occurring as a result of the main body of believers being equipped for the work of service. One should ask, “If the leader(s) were removed, would the body of believers be spiritually mature enough to continue to grow and spiritually reproduce?”
Ephesians 4:11-16 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.
A Measure of Success is Indicated When the Believer You Are Discipling is Functioning as a Discipler.