This is an excerpt from the forthcoming book, Follow: A Handbook for Making Disciples of Jesus Christ by Daniel C. Samms which is to be released March 7, 2015 on Kindle.
Every new Christian and a whole lot of old ones need someone to lead them through the essentials of following Jesus right now. The reality is that everyone should have someone(s) leading them to follow Jesus (become like Jesus) for life, and every follower of Jesus should be leading 1-3 other people to follow Jesus. However, there is a specific and vital necessity to invest in new believers immediately to ensure they are equipped with the knowledge and practices to thrive in relationship with God.
Maybe you picked up this book, because you want to know more about being a Christian. Possibly, you have just become a Christian and want to know the basics. Still yet, you may be in a position to disciple a new Christian and have no idea how to go about it. Whatever scenario you are in, this book will help.
However, you need to know one thing right now. Following Jesus is not about information. Information is part of it, but it isn't everything. Following Jesus is about relationship with Him.
I'm married to a beautiful woman. I'm completely in love with her. My love for her goes far beyond information about her. Knowing someone goes far beyond knowing about them. My wife and I get each other. We each know how the other feels about things. We have emotional attachment to each other. Our love leads us to talk to and about each other (in a good way). But, information is still important. I couldn't pretend to know my wife and not know how she likes her coffee or what her favorite color is, or what she studied in school. Informational knowledge is part of relational knowledge. So, that's why we have this book. However, don't ever let this book or any book replace a relationship with God and His people.
If you are a Christian picking this up just to read, then please reconsider. This is designed to be a discipleship tool. Don’t merely read it; find someone to disciple. Start by leading them to Jesus, then lead them to become like Him. If you are merely using this book for your own personal growth, then you have missed the purpose of the book.
Jesus told us to make disciples. It was the last thing He commanded before leaving this earth. Sadly, it may be the most neglected of activity of the Christian life. It is imperative that we multiply. Go and make disciples.
This is no small matter. In Matthew 7:21 Jesus says, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Discipleship is about aligning your will to God’s as you know him more and more. The sobering reality is that if we aren’t becoming like Christ, we aren’t inheriting the Kingdom of Heaven.
A fundamental premise to this book is that everyone can make disciples. You don’t need to be a pastor, and you don’t need years of training. All you need is to know Jesus and allow the Holy Spirit to lead you as you lead others to follow Him. As you make disciples, commission them to make disciples as well. If you can make disciples who make disciples, there is no limit to the advancement of God’s Kingdom. Think multiplication, not merely growth.
In his book I Once Was Lost, Don Everts outlines the process whereby 21st Century people move from unbelief to followers of Christ. The book is great for helping understand how to lead pre-Christians to Jesus. However, Don also addresses a widely neglected time the Christian life: the first eight weeks.
It seems that the first 2-3 months of a baby Christian's life is critical to helping them develop healthy beliefs and practices that they will carry through life and into eternity. One Church planter compared it to caring for a newborn. A newborn needs food, cleaning, care, love, attention, and pretty much everything you have to give. A newborn doesn't know what it needs. It relies on the caregiver to know. Also, you can't expect much from a newborn...other than to grow.
Don't commit spiritual infanticide. Make a disciple.
Tell that new believer that the two of you will have a special kind of relationship for these first several weeks. After that, someone (probably you) will still be invested very regularly, but these first eight weeks are critical.
Set a time. Stay connected. Meet at LEAST weekly. Stay in touch daily. Make a disciple.
Special Note: If you are a new Christian or possibly a long-term Christian who feels like you need this, go find a person who knows Jesus well and ask them to disciple you. Don't know any? Contact me (email) and ask about a good church in your area. I'll help you find someone. If they don't know how to disciple you, give them this book. You need them. They need you. Don't hesitate to ask a Christian to do the thing Jesus commanded them to do.
After the initial 8-12 weeks of more intense disciple making, it is still important to invest in them. I once heard Jeff Miller (Superintendent for my C&MA District) talk about discipleship. He says that initial disciple making should be simple, practical, and reproducible. This book seeks to be a framework for all three. He says that ongoing discipleship is driven by care, accountability, and mission engagement. He recommend three questions for every time you meet with a disciple:
- What is God teaching you?
- What is God doing through you?
- Where do you need God’s help?
Those three questions are great as you continue in ongoing disciple-making relationships. Whatever you do, make sure they are being discipled. After initial discipleship, emotional health often becomes an important part of the process. God wants to restore every part of a person. I recommend picking up the book Emotionally Healthy Spirituality by Pete Scazzero to help at this stage.
Whatever you do, keep making disciples.