The Process of Discipleship


Providing spiritual guidance to another person is a process of tutoring and imitating.

There are three primary dynamics in the discipleship process: exposing, equipping, and encouraging/exhorting. The first centers on the example and character of the discipler, the second centers on the nature of the teaching and training, and the third centers on the accountability and character of the disciple.  It is important to note that these dynamics are not chronological but concurrent.


As we have seen, we must be disciples to make disciples. When disciplers grow in the way they incarnate the grace and truth of life in Christ, they also grow in authenticity and personal authority. Their holy aspiration and personal passion become contagious as they make discipleship attractive through modeling. Their words are empowered by their example, and their vision of kingdom living galvanizes others to lay hold of the same vision and passion. But when disciplers descend from growth to maintenance or to regression in their walk with the Lord, they minister out of the borrowed capital of their former vitality and depend on their knowledge and skill rather than the fullness of the Spirit. Their authenticity and spiritual charisma erode, and they can no longer encourage others to do those things they hear and see in them (Philippians 4:9).

Exposure to people who exhibit a radiant walk with God is a powerful impetus in the life of a disciple, because this provides a tangible demonstration of the relevance of biblical truth to daily endeavor. Such people inspire by imparting words and works, lips and life, attitudes and actions. They give their experience of Christ away to others as they teach through both precept and example. This combination of tutoring and imitation fleshes out and adorns the nurturing process.


Equipping is the second primary dynamic in the discipleship process, and should involve both teaching and training. Unfortunately, most discipleship programs seem to be limited to this dimension, and many of these place the bulk of their emphasis either on imparting knowledge (teaching) or on developing skills (training).

The purpose of equipping is to show people how to learn and apply the Word in such a way that the truth is understood and integrated in the context of everyday life. In this way, disciples progress in principles and in practice, in theory and in technique, in convictions and in conduct.

Encouraging and Exhorting

The third primary dynamic in the discipleship process concerns the character and heart of the disciple. Progress in spiritual growth requires a growing apprentice to be receptive and responsive. Without the humility of a teachable spirit and a willingness to respond to teaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16), a person will not go very far in the way of discipleship. And since effective nurturing addresses the whole person, the discipling relationship requires sincerity, authenticity, and candor. As someone put it, both the discipler and the disciple need to be FAT (faithful, available, teachable) and HOT (honest, open, transparent).

For many people, formation in these qualities will not come easily, since they are foreign to a culture that touts autonomy and individualism. This is where progressive obedience to the Word and personal accountability come in. The disciple should create an atmosphere in which obedience and submission to the Lordship of Christ is the expected norm. Teaching and training should never be seen as ends in themselves, but as servants of the central impetus of discipleship: radical commitment to the Person of Jesus. This level of commitment comes with the price tag of personal dedication, self-denial, and the obedience of the cross. Without accountability, these biblical norms (and the rest of Scripture) become negotiable.

It is always wise to give specific assignments to spiritual apprentices so they will have tangible opportunities to implement and internalize the things they are learning. These assignments can keep them from sliding into complacency, and they provide a concrete context for encouragement, exhortation, supervision, review, and evaluation. In this way, disciplers can assist them in their thinking and vision, encourage them in times of defeat and discouragement, and exhort them to press on in the formation of character and conviction.

Taken from Ken Boa’s Handbook to Spiritual Growth


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