My story of growing in discipleship started when I was in college. I was discipled by a single woman in her thirties named Jenn. In her own way, Jenn said, “Follow me like I follow Jesus” (1 Corinthians 11:1). She didn’t assume I knew everything. She simply walked through different disciplines of the faith with me. She showed me what the Bible says, as well as how to walk in obedience to its commands. And then, after meeting with me for a year, she challenged me: “Go and do this with someone else.”
Some Good Advice
Even though I felt unprepared, Jenn offered some wise and encouraging advice: “You’ll never feel ready. But I’ll be here to help you if you have questions.” She also challenged me from that point on to try and find two new girls each year to disciple. That was seven years ago. Now I live in East Asia working with college girls and women who come from a vastly different culture. And yet, by God’s grace and with Jenn’s encouragement, I’ve been able to meet with at least two girls per year.
Those who have not served in another cultural context may assume that discipleship looks completely different in a context like East Asia, but that’s not been my experience. In fact, I’ve found freedom in recognizing that the fundamental work of discipleship is the same, regardless of context. My story of discipleship is not the only way, and, depending on your context, it may not even be the best way. But regardless of your strategy, the point is to be intentional as you obey Christ’s command to “teach them to obey all that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:20). The suggested topics below are simply one tool for carrying this out.
A Discipleship Outline
The topics listed below are the ones I use, and they are designed for those who are new to the faith or who have never been discipled. Each week I cover a different topic, and I begin by showing the person what the Bible says on this topic. Then I try to help them understand what obedience might look like in this area. Finally, I challenge them to obey. If the person is struggling in a particular area, then I usually wait until they are ready before moving on.
Here is an adapted list of the topics I cover put in the form of questions:
- What is the gospel?
- What is your testimony?
- What is baptism?
- What is the church?
- What is the Lord’s Supper?
- Why is God’s Word Important?
- How do you study the Bible?
- What is a Bible reading plan?
- What does it mean to meditate on the God’s Word, and why is it important?
- Why is it important to memorize God’s Word?
- How do I use Bible study tools (lexicons, commentaries, cross-references, etc.)?
- How do you pray through God’s Word?
- Why do we worship God through being a good steward of our time, bodies, and finances?
- Why is it important to serve in the church?
- What are spiritual gifts? How do I know which gifts I have been given?
- What is evangelism? Why should I do it? (I encourage the person to memorize Scripture for sharing their faith)
- How should I respond to those who have never heard about Jesus?
- What is hospitality? What does it look like in action, both for Christians and non-Christians?
- How do I deal with confrontation from a biblical standpoint?
When it comes to a discipline like sharing the gospel, it is important to go out and share the gospel together. Show the person how you share your faith in your community. You might try what I refer to as a “month of intentionality,” which is simply an attempt to engage someone each day of the month with the gospel. This can be done at the grocery story, the gym, the bank, etc.
For each of these areas, we teach, model, assist, watch, and then leave. For this last step, we encourage the person now to go out and do the same thing that you have done with them. When we intentionally commit to pursue discipleship with someone, we are saying, as my mentor, Jenn, said to me, “Follow me as I follow Jesus” (1 Cor. 11:1).