Summary: Making Disciples; Making a Difference How a Disciple Grows
Making Disciples; Making a Difference
How a Disciple Grows
In the first week of this series we looked at the command Jesus gave all of us to make disciples. Then last week we looked at a clear and simple definition of what is a disciple – a disciple knows and follows Christ; a disciple is being changed by Christ; and a disciple is committed to the mission of Christ, making disciples. Today we will look at the five growth stages of a disciple so that we can intentionally grow as disciples and also intentionally disciple others. With each stage we will see the basic characteristics, the needs of that stage, and also look at some key phrases, ‘phrase from the stage,’ that describe individuals in each stage. I want us to realize that the stage descriptions are helpful tools and not rigid or fixed descriptions. As I describe each stage, consider what stage you are in.
1. The Spiritually Dead (Eph 2:1-5)
A spiritually dead person is someone who is has not come to faith in Christ. They are characterized by unbelief toward God. They may not know it because God is not even on their radar screen. They are spiritually blind and cannot see or understand spiritual truth (2 Cor. 4:4) until God makes them alive in Christ. Some phrases from this stage are, “I don’t believe in God or I believe in something kind of God,” “the bible is not true,” or a “loving God would not send people to hell.” They need us to invest in them and invite them to follow Christ. You invest in a relationship and let them see the gospel lived out. They need you to answer their questions. At some point you invite them to receive Christ. They may or may not need an invitation to church.
2. The Spiritual Infant (John 3:3)
Those who come to faith experience a new birth as they are made spiritually alive by God. Spiritual infants are characterized by newness and are beginning a life long process of becoming like Christ. They are infants and have high needs just like a newborn baby. Some spiritual infants have been Christians for years but have never matured past this stage. Spiritual infants are ignorant because they don’t know much about the bible. They are confused and have a mixture of different beliefs. They struggle with how to replace old attitudes and habits with new attitudes and habits of a disciple. They are very dependent on others because they cannot grow on their own much like a baby cannot take care of itself. The phrase from the stage are comments like, “why do I need to go to church?,” “I can’t overcome this sin,” “I cannot afford to give,” ”does the bible really say that?” Spiritual infants are very vulnerable and need care and protection. “But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children. So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us (1Th 2:7-8).” They need a more mature disciple who can come alongside to teach and model spiritual truth. Spiritual infants need to develop new habits that then become rhythms that they will live by as disciples.
3. The Spiritual Child (1 Thes 2:11-12)
Spiritual children have made the basic connection to spiritual family (Eph 2:19) but are characterized by self centeredness. All of us struggle with selfishness from time to time but children see themselves as center of the universe. They are often more concerned with their own needs than the needs of others. They need a spiritual family to help them take their eyes off of themselves. Spiritual children tend to see the world as black and white and when applied to life they can get frustrated, disappointment, and be legalistic. They also vacillate between being over confident and under confident. They are very confident and prideful one moment and then very insecure and feel defeated the next.
The phrase from the stage, what you might hear are things like, “I don't need a life group.” “or I love my group and don’t want new people to come,” “the church is not meeting my needs like it should,” or ”I want the church to do this or be like this _____ for me.” Spiritual children need relationships with more mature disciples who can teach and model spiritual truth.
4. The Spiritual Young Adult (1 John 2:12-13)
Spiritual young adults have matured past being self centered and they are now characterized by being God and other centered. This may take a long time but it does not necessarily have to be so. I have seen individuals blow past the first two stages into being a spiritual young adult in a matter of months. They see that God has shaped them for a purpose and as their priorities change, they begin to look to use their gifts and abilities to serve the body. Serving is not just about me and what I want but the needs of the body and the needs of others. They are also beginning to learn about sacrifice and generosity. The phrase from the stage are, “I love my church or life group,” “there are others who need help,” ”that is not my passion but I can do that,” “I did not see Jeff at church so I called him to see if he is ok.”