When I think of discipleship in the Church, I imagine three things:

  1. Foundations
  2. Mentoring
  3. Gifts

Each one plays an important role in a Christian’s walk.

Building a Foundation

When you become a Christian, you will most likely receive foundational resources from a church. Perhaps a new believers’ class or a devotional study. Someone may be assigned to you to follow up and answer questions.

Bottom line, churches will put something in your hands. And it need not be their own original material. Many ministries have graciously donated their resources to other churches, like Life Church’s Bible app.

However, could the Church consider two more things? Topical resources and interactive conversations.

Topical Resources

When I was a social media strategist advising churches, I would Google top questions from Christians. While believers aren’t a monolithic group, they grapple with similar issues.

It is true that people are so diverse that God has an individual relationship with each one. Thankfully, he’s Omnipresent. While he’s holding a conversation with someone in China, he’s having an entirely different experience with another in Botswana. 

But should you sit down with both Christians, whether old or young, some of these questions might trouble them:

  • How can I know God personally?
  • How can I hear God?
  • How do I understand the Bible?
  • Does God really love me?
  • Why do I feel guilty all the time?
  • Who is the Holy Spirit?
  • Is Jesus really God?

Many of these foundational questions center on relationship. And if you get them wrong at the beginning of the Christian faith, the struggles will follow you everywhere. How you start is important.

For instance, if you grow up with the image of an angry or vengeful God, you will end up a judgmental and works-driven Christian. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

Hence, in addition to introductory resources, churches may provide a list of recommended books or videos on topical Christian issues. Especially those that go to the heart of building a real, vibrant and personal relationship with God. Once your relationship with God is right, everything else will be fine eventually.

Interactive Conversations

Weighty matters often need discussions, especially the kind that happens in a group with diverse perspectives and robust debate.

And this is where the individuality of Christians comes into play. Some are struggling with identity, sexuality, anxiety, injustice or race. For others, it could be whether or not to tithe or fast. And while you can listen to podcasts about these topics, sometimes you want the assurance that you are not alone and can find the space to be heard by others.

But make no mistake, just as student outcomes depend on the quality of the class teacher, the effectiveness of a good discussion rests on the moderator. Moderating is an art and not everyone should shepherd a group discussion.

Resources like Holy Trinity Brompton’s Alpha Course or Blackaby Ministries’ Experiencing God take the form of discussions.

Mentoring Matters

If you’re lucky, there’s someone in your life who models what character or love looks like. Someone who has time for you and has helped you to become the person you are today.

This is perhaps the core of discipleship. It’s akin to a Leader-Follower relationship. While it presupposes accountability, it also envisions a day when the pupil matures, takes flight and pays it forward.

Guidance takes a lot of time and space. Therefore, local churches do not always have the resources or volunteers in this regard. And it may be a personality thing. Some people are nurturers and leaders. Others are not.

But because mentoring is so central to the Christian walk, it’s difficult to eliminate it from the Church’s ambit. It goes beyond serving in a church department or attending a small group. It requires a deeper level of intimacy. An informal adoption or apprenticeship, so to speak.

Spiritual Gifts

I have fond memories of my university fellowship. One thing that stands out is how they had training plans for spiritual gifts. And there were platforms to express gifts too.

The reasoning was that the gifts described in Romans 12 and I Corinthians 12 enrich the Church and the world. So, they should be a part of the normal church experience. Many people discovered their prophetic or teaching gifts in school. And the local fellowship became more holistic, avoiding an undue focus on the pastor. 

An amusing recollection was the stories told of how the prophets would admonish the leadership from time to time. It provided accountability.

When people become Christians, as they grow, the local church can help them to discover, develop and express their spiritual gifts. The body of Christ would surely be richer for it.

Next week, we’ll explore Community.

Thank you for reading.

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