DISCIPLING: Training That Transforms!Guest Editorial by: Andrew SmellieCity of Angels ICC

“Listen to advice and accept instruction, and in the end you will be wise.” – Proverbs 19:20

The humility that it takes to listen to advice, admonishments or corrections does not always come easy! Even for the most secure disciples in the Lord, Satan can tempt us constantly with insecurity, pride, independence, criticalness and more. Since his goal is to keep us from being useful to God, he will do anything he can to prevent us from being effective and productive disciples. How do we avoid this temptation? God’s plan is simple: the process of discipling! So what is “discipling?”

Bryan leading us to the cross.
Bryan leading us to the cross.

Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ commanded His disciples to go into all nations and make disciples (Matthew 28:19-20). A useful and descriptive term for the process of making and maturing disciples into Jesus’ image is “discipling.” The Greek text in Matthew 28:19 literally says, “going, therefore, disciple [a verb] all the nations.” The rest of the verse makes it clear that “teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” is part of the discipling process. As a result, a “discipling” relationship is one in which a disciple helps another person to become more obedient to Jesus in attitude, lifestyle and mission. “Being discipled” is simply two people sharing their lives in a manner that blends the so-called sacred and secular sides of life into a spiritual learning situation. It is the God-designed way of molding lives and training people for the task of changing the world!

The Scriptures clearly teach that discipling is essential to our relationship with God. As a matter of fact, discipling is not an option to being a Christian! We don’t “grow out” of discipling just because we get “more mature” in the faith! We need others in our lives to help us! It is essential for us to learn not only how to stay faithful ourselves but also how to inspire others to become more like Jesus! Consider the following Scriptures:

“See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.” – Hebrews 3:12-13

“We proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ.” – Colossians 1:28

“I myself am convinced, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, complete in knowledge and competent to instruct one another.” – Romans 15:14

With these Scriptures in mind, discipling can become a challenging issue due to a lack of eagerness to listen to or accept the Biblical advice of others. Here are a couple ways NOT to receive the benefits of discipling:

  1. BE UNAVAILABLE. If you don’t want to be discipled, the first foolproof method is to be unavailable to your discipler. Make your discipler seek you out. Under no circumstances should you initiate. Show up legalistically to your discipleship times and fill in the rest of your schedule with things that will make it impossible to spend more time–especially “good” things (these are difficult to challenge). One last tip – never reschedule missed discipleship times.
  1. BE SUSPICIOUS. This will really slow down the discipleship process. There are many things you can be suspicious about – your discipler’s spirituality, their ability to teach, etc.–but perhaps the best thing to be suspicious about is their motives. This works very well in building that wall between you and your discipleship partner. Other ideas: keep hidden reservations, exaggerate weaknesses, and continually remind yourself and others that the person discipling you is only a sinner and cannot be easily trusted.
  1. BE GUARDED. The key to this technique is to be open, but only to a point. Avoid conflict and only confess sins that you have already repented of. Make sure that you are teaching as much as you are being taught. Give into your fear of being hurt as often as possible and try to manipulate your way into leading the relationship. Tell your discipler often that you don’t spend enough time together and that you wish that you were closer to them.
  1. BE DEFENSIVE. The key to success here is pride. Rely on your past accomplishments, react emotionally to conviction and be sure to feel threatened by your discipler. Remember any challenge is fair game for getting into an argument. Also, “turning the tables” by throwing back accusations when challenged is a time-tested and effective tool for not getting discipled. One final point: Keep your discipler away from people that are close to you. They could reveal a weakness of yours that would put you at a disadvantage.
Our awesome brothers Jason & Cornell spending some quality time on a double date!
Our awesome brothers Jason & Cornell spending some quality time on a double date!

Of course, this tongue-in-cheek look at discipling is intended to encourage us to examine our own life and our discipling relationships. Now let’s examine the other side of these four points–things to do that will insure that we are discipled to transform!

  1. BE AVAILABLE. “He who walks with the wise grows wise…” – Proverbs 13:20. Serve your discipler and always be willing to reschedule. Keep in contact and initiate phone call and visits. Make spending time for discipling a top priority!
  1. BE TRUSTING. “My son, pay attention to my wisdom, listen well to my words of insight, that you may maintain discretion and your lips may preserve knowledge.” – Proverbs 5:1-2. Listen trustingly to your discipler. Although there is no such things as perfect Christian, there must be an underlying faith in God that He is using this relationship to mature and change you into the image of Christ. Trust your discipler’s motives. Keep no hidden reservations and give the benefit of the doubt. Although weaknesses should not be ignored, they should not become the focus of your relationship.
  1. BE VULNERABLE. “He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy.” – Proverbs 28:13. Be open to a fault. Develop openness about difficult areas such as finances, sexuality, and relationship with your spouse, insecurities and fears. Be willing to continue to be vulnerable even if you get challenged in the process. Finally, do not allow bad feelings to “rattle around” inside of you – get them into the open.
  1. BE CORRECTABLE. “He who listens to a life-giving rebuke will be at home among the wise.” – Proverbs 15:31. While being corrected, we must learn to silence our sinful emotions of defensiveness, self-pity, justification, and rationalization; and just listen. Sometimes when we are corrected, our temptation is to take things too personally and just get a chip on our shoulders. Appreciate being challenged, and resolve not be argumentative or to “turn the tables” by throwing back accusations when challenged.

Encourage those who know you best – roommates, spouse, and family—to become involved with your discipler. Being a disciple of Jesus is the most important role that God has given us in this life! It is a responsibility not to be taken lightly. May each of us recommit ourselves to being a better disciple of Jesus by being available to our discipler, by trusting them, by being vulnerable, and by allowing ourselves to be corrected.

Remember, we need to be disciples who can take instruction in stride “because the Lord disciplines those he loves…” (Hebrews 12:6) Allow God’s plan of discipling to train and transform you into the image of Jesus! And to God be all the glory!