Matthew 28:19-20 | Colossians 1:28-29 | John 13:34-35 | John 14:23 | Ephesians 4:11-13 | 1 Timothy 1:5 | 2 Timothy 2:2
Discipleship was the method Jesus, the apostles, and their disciples used to strengthen young believers and raise up leaders in the First Century. The growth and effectiveness of the early church, which thrived amid a hostile and pluralistic culture, depended on successful discipleship. In so many ways, this is still the essential model for the church today.
The purpose of the Columbus Discipleship Network (CDN) is to recover, restore, and promote the art of 1-on-1 discipling and disciple making in and across churches citywide, in order that the Great Commission might be fulfilled in Central Ohio.
The CDN envisions a robust discipleship network that advances the Kingdom by linking together brothers and sisters in Christ, as well as disciple-making churches—across generations, church fellowships, and neighborhoods. Our desired outcome is disciple-making individuals and churches equipped to multiply mature disciples through an intentional and gospel-focused discipleship movement, ultimately resulting in the flourishing of the city.
Discipleship took many forms in the New Testament church: corporate worship, apostolic teaching to large groups, gatherings in Christian homes, and individual relationships like Paul and Timothy’s. The majority of American churches practice discipleship in their weekend services and Sunday School classrooms, augmented by small Bible study groups for those interested in support and going deeper.
Though important in building community and disseminating knowledge and wisdom from the Word, pastors and Christian leaders express concern that these practices alone may be insufficient in developing mature, growing, multiplying Christians. Why is that so?
More than a few professional trades rely on both instruction and apprenticeship to complete the preparation of a fully-accredited workman. Using this analogy, the Christian life and ministry must be both taught and caught through observation, practice, and self-reflection if an intimate personal relationship with Jesus is to be cultivated and embraced.
Consider the Apostle Paul’s pattern of discipleship as recorded in the Acts of the Apostles. “After preaching the Good News in Derbe and making many disciples, Paul and Barnabas returned to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch of Pisidia, where they strengthened the believers” (Acts 14:21-22 NLT). When Paul met with the elders of the Ephesian church in Acts 20, we read he “never shrank back from telling you what you needed to hear, either publicly or in your homes” (Acts 20:20 NLT). Paul exhorted them to “remember the three years I was with you—my constant watch and care over you night and day, and my many tears for you” (Acts 20:31 NLT).
1-on-1 Discipleship is an intentional, spiritual, life-on-life relationship in which one person helps another grow—under grace and into Christian maturity—through regular, focused, intentional time together. This relationship does not replace but rather supplements other corporate forms of discipleship. With the exception of the home, the general New Testament practice was men discipling men, women disciplining women.
The goal of 1-on-1 Discipleship is mature Christians who understand their God-given purpose, their corporate identity as part of the body of Christ, their individual distinctiveness and gifting, and how to work with God as a committed servant and ambassador in every arena of life. The fruit of 1-on-1 Discipleship with be the advancement of the gospel, transformed churches and communities, and further multiplication of both disciples and disciplers. 1-on-1 Discipleship starts with a serious commitment to grow spiritually and is not meant to be taken lightly. Each party commits to the sanctity and purposes of the relationship in order for the time spent and the disciplines practiced to be effective.
Four main areas to be addressed in 1-on-1 Discipleship are represented in the following illustration:
- WORD: to study and understand the flow of and different types of Scripture | to develop a Biblical worldview and its juxtaposition to the world system and other religions | to accurately interpret passages & apply truth | to value quality Christian books | to become a lifelong learner
- PRAYER: to cultivate a vibrate individual and corporate prayer life | as worship | how to pray for self, one another and others | for ministry & intercession
- CHARACTER: for sanctifying counsel in appropriating core identity truths | in living under grace | in moral decisions, life choices, and changes | in learning to forgive and resolve the past | in relationships & dealing with conflict | in whole-life stewardship
- MINISTRY: for coaching in various ministry decisions | in developing areas of gifting | in overcoming areas of weakness | in understanding their part, God’s part and others’ part in ministry | in fulfilling their role in Christian community, evangelism and discipleship of others
Matthew 16:2 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me.”
The 1-on-1 Disciple
A 1-on-1 disciple will exhibit an eagerness to grow in godliness and Kingdom usefulness. He or she will be characterized by F.A.I.T.H. — Faithfulness, Availability, a Teachable spirit, Interest, and Hunger. Key elements of a successful discipleship relationship include: a commitment to the process; transparency; openness to instruction; a willingness to act on Biblical truth and Holy Spirit conviction.
A 1-on-1 Disciple agrees to:
- Meet regularly with the person discipling them—weekly sessions are recommended
- Be mentored in the four main areas in the above chart
- Pray regularly for their discipler
- Participate in opportunities for auxiliary equipping—both independently and with other disciples (e.g. reading, writing, classes, workshops, online training, etc.)
- Attend periodic CDN-wide gatherings when possible
- Step out of the discipling relationship if they are no longer able or willing to abide by the spirit of this commitment
It has been said: the Bible is shallow enough for babies to wade in and deep enough for elephants to drown in. By God’s grace and the empowerment of the Holy Spirit, this truth creates a wide range of opportunity for both newer and older Christians who seek meaningful and effective participation as “along-siders” in 1-0n-1 discipleship. 1-on-1 disciplers are Christians who have simply reached a level of spiritual maturity at or beyond those they wish to disciple. Disciplers should exhibit many elements of Christian character, have a working knowledge of the Bible, and practice no major disqualifying sins (Titus 1:7-9). They should exhibit grace and the fruits of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22) They must be actively involved in a local fellowship of believers and committed to the mission, vision, and values of the Columbus Discipleship Network.
A 1-on-1 discipler agrees to make a significant investment of time and emotional energy to:
- Their own continued growth and spiritual progress as a lifelong learner
- Meet regularly with those they are discipling–weekly sessions are recommended
- Mentor the disciple with humility and patience in the four main areas outlined in the chart above
- Pray regularly for those they are discipling
- Serve under the oversight of a coach connected with the CDN who can provide guidance, support and shadowing
- Promote periodic CDN-wide gatherings to those they are discipling and attend when possible
- Stay abreast of CDN-recommended equipping resources (not required or exclusionary) and utilize as applicable
Columbus Discipleship Network (CDN) Coach
CDN coaches must meet all the requirements of a 1-on-1 discipler, with special emphasis on faithfulness. Coaches should have first-hand experience discipling other believers, along with a desire and sufficient gifting to teach others to do the same. The range of experience and experiential requirements will vary. For example, some CDN coaches, whose passion and discipleship experience are in helping newer Christians walk with God, may be especially qualified for working with newer 1-on-1 disciplers who share this same passion. More seasoned CDN coaches may serve as a support resource for other CDN coaches, for those who have a desire to become a CDN coach, or for more experienced 1-on-1 disciplers. CDN coaches will serve a number of important purposes:
- Provide 1-on-1 disciplers with a personal point of contact for support, prayer, guidance, encouragement and accountability; frequency will be based on the experience of those they oversee
- Assure 1-on-1 Discipleship takes place in an atmosphere of truth and love, and be a safeguard for the gospel and the name of Christ in the CDN and across our city
- Help attract and develop future CDN coaches
- Act as valuable resources in their churches for raising up disciples and championing discipleship
- Be instrumental in identifying, refining, and promoting CDN best practices