by Becca Spradlin, Microfinance Training and Quality Manager
Discipleship. Jesus called all believers to “go and make disciples of all nations” in Matthew 28:19. Yet while I saw others practicing discipleship, I wasn’t always sure how to start in my own life. Discipleship seemed like a formal, ambiguous process, easy to excuse away in the busyness of life. If I’m honest, I’ve found myself thinking, “I work for a Christ-centered microenterprise development organization—isn’t that enough?” Yet I knew it wasn’t.
Working with the network of programs and partner organizations at HOPE, I see how we encourage discipleship with our staff and clients, but I also believe it’s something God calls all Christians to do in our personal lives. But the barriers to beginning this process were pretty high until I visited CCT, our partner in the Philippines.
CCT has prayerfully and sacrificially integrated discipleship into its operational model. Staff disciple staff. Staff disciple volunteers in the community who disciple others in the community. I got to see firsthand generations of disciples. I heard case after case of, “I was discipled by that woman and am discipling this other woman.”
It was inspiring, but practically, how do you begin discipling others or being discipled yourself? Below are 10 pieces of practical advice from seasoned CCT disciplers that apply to us living in the U.S. as much as it does to those living in the Philippines.
- Pray throughout the process. Invite God in before and throughout the discipleship process. Pray for opportunities and wisdom to reach out and build relationships with those who want to grow closer to Christ.
- Stay rooted in Christ. As the discipler, take time to cultivate your own relationship with Christ. “Have time for personal devotions, your family, and regular church attendance.”
- It takes time. This is not a once and done thing. You’re building a relationship that will last for years, even once you reach a phase where you aren’t meeting regularly. As one discipler advised, “Be patient and obedient.”
- It takes intentionality. “Discipleship is always bi-directional and takes a lot of time and intentionality.” CCT staff recommended, “Text people, invite them over for dinner, and talk to people.”
- You can’t force it. A person has to want to be discipled. Often staff members would build a friendship first, and the discipling relationship would develop organically out of that friendship. For nonbelievers, evangelism and discipleship happened simultaneously as they worked through Scripture and discipleship materials.
- Be authentic. Sincerity is critical. People can tell if you’re not being real with them. Because relationships aren’t one-sided, you need to be vulnerable if you want your disciple to be vulnerable.
- Be persistent and stay positive. “[Discipleship] is not easy, especially with non-believers.” “Have faith and don’t stop loving others.” “Continue to have joy in serving the Lord. Be a model of Light.”
- Invest yourself in the relationship. “Invest your time, talents, and treasures in discipleship.”
- Seek to understand. “Understand the situation of the person you’re discipling.”
- Multiply. The staff and volunteers at CCT believe a successful discipleship model has four generations (at least) of disciples. The foundation for this is 2 Timothy 2:2 where we see that Paul taught Timothy, and Timothy taught “faithful men” who then taught others.
I’d love to hear what you would add to this list of discipleship principles. Please share your advice below.
Becca (pictured on the right) joined HOPE in 2013 and serves as the microfinance training and quality manager. One of her favorite parts about working for HOPE is having the opportunity to meet with clients and hear about their hopes and dreams for the future.