Raise Expectations!

Darren HalesAll Enews, Strengthening Team

In Matthew 4:19, Jesus called His first disciples. He said… “Come, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” This calling was a personal invitation to know Him, to live in relationship with Him, and to join Him in His mission. This incredible life changing, paradigm shifting invitation from the Messiah also came with a cost. A true disciple takes on the vision and values of his/her teacher and turns away from their former life. Life is no longer about you! So, following Jesus means one is passionately pursuing the person of Jesus Christ and one devotes themselves to His mission. In Matthew 16:24 Jesus said, If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me”. If this is all true, why does the American church lower the expectations? Why do we seek to ease someone into commitment with baby steps? Low expectations are the recipe for fruitlessness.

As I studied discipleship over the years, I came to recognize that far too often following Jesus was described in a 30-minute class with fill in the blank answers. It was information transfer that did not demand anything of a new believer! So, 10 years ago, I wrote my prototype of First Steps that incorporated the principles and patterns of discipleship that we see in Scripture. Over time, the content has been nuanced, and new ideas inserted, such as Who’s Your One? and 3 Circles. However, the basic premise remains. If one is going to follow Jesus, it comes with a cost. We surrender our lives in repentance and faith, but it’s always worth it! I’m not talking about establishing legalistic rules and spirit quenching boxes to check. I’m talking about life transformation from life-giving relationships that challenge and encourage one another to take steps of faith. We are called to be a reflection of Jesus and discipleship is the process God uses to conform us into the image of His Son.

What does your disciple process do? Does it lay a groundwork for a life of relational discipleship? Do you have one for new believers? If not, what are you waiting for? Take the First Steps and look it over. Go through it with someone and test it out. If you like it as written, send me your logo and I will print 25 copies for you. If you want to adapt it to your context, feel free. Once you have shaped it for your church and community, send me a copy with your logo and I will print 25 copies for you!

The First Steps

First Steps will model a simple format for discipleship that can be reproduced with others. One will NOT learn everything about the Bible in 9 weeks, but they will be equipped with the right tools for a lifelong journey of discovery. There are 4 main components to each gathering.

Fellowship – The word “fellowship” in Greek is koinonia. It is communion with God and others based on commitment and unconditional love. We care for one another and serve one another.  Each meeting is a chance to unpack life and align our hearts and minds with Jesus. In this context, challenge each other to take steps of faith.

Edify – Having a daily time in the Word of God is essential for spiritual growth. Ask these 3 questions: What am I to KNOW about God? Who am I to BE?  What must I DO? When you gather, take time to discuss what you are learning and think through real life application. Meditate on key words and phrases and journal your thoughts to share what you discovered. Hide God’s word in your heart through Memorization. These disciplines have great benefits!

Explore – Each week, you will explore a new topic and those lessons will lay a foundation of belief and practice. You will learn how to interpret the meaning of Scripture and apply its truths. Drill down to discern areas of disobedience and unbelief. Allow God to change fear and failures into faith and fruitfulness.

Embrace – Prayer is expressing your heart to God and learning to listen to His voice. As God lovingly wraps His arms around us, we embrace Him fully. Through prayer, we are empowered to serve Him wholeheartedly. Pray with your disciple partner for spiritual concerns, personal needs, and for your ONE. Use the Scriptures to guide your prayers.

Here are the ingredients to discipleship using the acrostic RSVPRelationships that build community. Scripture with spiritual conversations and action steps. A Vision of a life surrendered to Christ that one can see and model. Practical application that submits to the Holy Spirit. That’s the secret sauce! Send me an email at dhales@mtsbc.org and I will send you a digital copy. Do you want me to come teach these principles to your people in a seminar? I would love that!

About the Author

Darren Hales

Darren Hales is the Church Strengthening Team Leader of the Montana Southern Baptist Convention.