When I gave my life to Jesus, I became a Christ child and began growing in my faith. My friend Tim coached me along with Pastor Buford. I grew and matured as a disciple, and have led others to Christ along the way and became their spiritual coach. As a pastor, I now coach many people challenging them to grow deeper in their faith and encouraging them to coach others. I am still a disciple and learn from others and at the same time I coach others who coach others.
Like being a father, discipleship is a life-long journey. When I became a father, I became a father for life just like my father. When I became a disciple, I became a disciple for life just like Jesus teachers. I’m responsible for both being a disciple and being a spiritual mentor to others. Jesus says: “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given to you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” John 15:7-8
This passage describes four characteristics of a disciple. First, a disciple remains in Christ. The New Testament does not teach perfection. It teaches process. We grow as we immerse ourselves in God’s message to us, for Scripture is the very heartbeat of God. Second, a disciple is obedient to Jesus. There is no discipling without training and there is no training without accountability. God wants our love, and we demonstrate that love through our obedience to him. Third, a disciple bears spiritual fruit. What is spiritual fruit? Spiritual fruit is applied love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, and goodness. When a person remains in Christ and is obedient to his teachings with their lifestyle, spiritual fruit will be produced. You can recognize a disciple by the results he or she produces in their life and in the lives of others. Spiritual fruit is outcome of biblical principles when they are applied. Fourth, a disciple glorifies God. We glorify God by living out his teachings in our day to day lives and in the way we influence others around us. These characteristics should be evident in the lives of every disciple and spiritual mentor who is educating, equipping, encouraging, and empowering others to do the same.
I want to nudge you to go deep and wide in your faith. Be intentional about connecting with others who can challenge you to grow deeper by being discipled, and go wider by discipling to others. The American church as a whole needs more people who are willing to do both and less people who only want to consume. Paul wrote the Colossians instructing them to “Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness” (Colossians 2:7). It’s time to raise the bar in our churches and communities and God needs you to do it. This is what discipleship is all about.