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  • Writer's pictureW. Austin Gardner

Discipleship costs

Discipling is costly and time consuming. While striving for multiplication, church planters must avoid shortcuts. Several authors have identified three stages in Jesus’s plan of spiritual formation (Bruce 1971; Hull 1988). It is helpful to envision discipleship reproduction as a process, and what better pattern to follow than the one Jesus established with his disciples?

In the first stage, the disciples observed Jesus’s ministry of teaching, healing, and serving. Later they were called to leave their occupations to follow Jesus. In the third stage they received deeper teaching and were sent out on practical ministry tours.

Discipleship is also costly because it involves life-on-life mentoring in order to extend the lordship of Christ to a person’s entire being: thought, belief, behavior, relationships, and character.

This is the New Testament pattern. Jesus walked, talked, taught, corrected, demonstrated, fed, helped and received help from his disciples. His first discipling activity was hospitality. He asked two curious followers of John the Baptist, “What do you want?” and then invited them to share a day with him (John 1:38–39). Paul followed the Master’s plan of discipling and compared his care for the Thessalonians to the nurturing of a mother (1 Thess. 2:7–9). Spiritual parenting can be painful as well: Paul addresses the Galatians as “my dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you” (Gal. 4:19).

Craig Ott and Gene Wilson, Global Church Planting: Biblical Principles and Best Practices for Multiplication (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2011), 234.

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