Discipleship seems to be the hot topic and latest trend across the Christian landscape right now. This brings us much joy, but we believe that discipleship was never meant to be a temporary fad. We’re convinced that from the beginning it was God’s plan to heal and redeem the world through a revolution of disciple making. We also believe that Jesus and the apostles clearly state that discipleship is the core mission of the local church. We hear from a lot of people who are personally convinced that discipleship is very important, but they need help. They say things like, “I believe in discipleship, but I need someone to tell me or show me how to do it!” In discussions, public talks and church seminars, we find a common trend that disturbs us—the vast majority of Christians report that they have never been personally discipled by a more seasoned follower of Jesus. So they have a hard time knowing how to disciple others. It makes sense: How can you equip others to trust and follow Jesus if you have never been equipped? So, if making disciples of Jesus is the greatest cause on earth (and Scripture tells us it is), how do we equip people to do it? Our prayer is that this recent fascination with discipleship turns into wholehearted devotion. We call it the discipleship lifestyle—which is being a disciple of Jesus and making disciples of Jesus.

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By Dave Buehring More

 What Most of The People Do Most of The Time

At the very core of the life of Jesus is His love relationship with His Father. The overflow of this passionate, self-­‐sacrificial and unwavering love for His Father is a life of obedience. A quick sampling from the scriptures reveals this: Jesus said and did only what He heard and saw His Father doing (Jn.5:19, 12:49); His will was fully yielded to His Father’s (Mt.26:39); and we see the extent of His obedience in Philippians 2:8 as He “humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”

And, It didn’t stop with Jesus. A read through The Book of Acts shows this same value and attitude of obedience was imparted and exercised within the lives of His disciples (Lk.24:49’s command is tied to Acts 1:12-­‐2:47’s  obedience; Acts 5:29; 6:7).

While commissioning His disciples to reproduce disciple-­‐makers in Matthew 28:18-­‐20, Jesus used the phrase  “teaching  them  to  obey”.  Of  course,  they  knew  exactly  what  He  meant  because  He  had  schooled them  in this very manner. Teaching someone to obey Jesus is the deliberate process of helping them  learn how to  see/hear/discern  what  God  is  revealing  to  them  while  guiding  them  towards  obedience  to  it.  The  great news is that since Jesus learned obedience (Heb.5:8) we can too!

A good friend of mine has a great working definition for the word “culture”: what most of the people do most of the time. Pause and consider that for a moment. As you do, consider the culture of your family life, hometown, country and your local church. When we apply that definition to current church culture what is it that most of the people do most of the time? My experience is that “obeying Jesus” doesn’t make the Top Five answers given by most American church members, if asked, and may not even make their Top Ten!

If obeying the Father out of love was primary for Jesus, how can we as disciple makers create within His followers a desire and habits of obedience, and a culture of obeying Jesus with His Bride?

I want to share a story that shows a process that I’ve watched bring real life transformation in the lives of followers of Jesus. It’s scriptural, doable, transformational, multipliable, and like leaven, can affect entire churches over time.

A Process of Transformation

Not long ago, I received an invitation to lunch with a pastor who I had not yet met. As we began to chat, I could tell we would become fast friends! He was aware that I lead an organization whose aim is making disciple-­‐makers and sensed that I knew something about transformation taking hold in the lives of  followers of Jesus. He said, “Dave, I come from a denomination in the Body of Christ where the scriptures are highly valued and studied. The people that I pastor know the Word. They could provide you with overviews and highlights from books of the Bible…” At that moment, with his glasses lowered to the edge of his nose, he leaned across the table toward me and with great humility and the sincere concern of a shepherd that loves his flock, stated, “…but I’m not seeing them be transformed!”

After listening to His heart, I shared with him a process of transformation that I had observed both in the life of Jesus and from my own four decades of making disciple makers. To explain it, I drew three circles on our table with my finger that looked  something  like this:

We talked at length about how God transforms a heart. He begins by revealing something of Himself, a piece of truth from scripture, conviction or guidance from the Holy Spirit, an impression to share with someone else, etc. As we respond to what He reveals by obeying Him it can lead to transformation.

My new friend and I began to tackle this a step at a time. First, what do we mean by revelation? I’m not talking here about the last book in our Bibles, but rather, the means by which God reveals things to us. It’s how we came to Jesus in the first place: He allowed us to “spiritually see” our desperate condition and His offer of love, forgiveness and reconciliation. Revelation is the parting of curtains so we can see as God sees!

I went on to illustrate this further. “Imagine yourself in a theater. Perhaps you’re there to watch a family member perform as part of a play. You hear the noise of the gathering crowd while you pick out your seat. Sitting in a near-­‐darkened room your attention is focused on those huge velvety burgundy curtains in front of you. You have absolutely no idea what’s behind that curtain. As the curtain is pulled back suddenly you have a completely different vantage point as you see the dusty streets of an old western town! What you could not see only a second before you can see now! That’s revelation!”

Consider the scene in Matthew 16 where Jesus asks His disciples who people say that He is. After Peter pipes up and says, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God!” Jesus says in vs.17: “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-­‐Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.”

God is the Revealer. If He doesn’t “part the curtains” we have a hard time seeing. The good news is that we can posture ourselves to receive revelation: seeking His face in worship, prayer, fasting, and being in the scriptures, through a sermon or in a conversation with a friend. When I can’t yet “see” something I have the opportunity to press in to Jesus for Him to reveal it to me!

My friend and I skipped over the middle circle for the moment to discuss the final circle of transformation, and what real transformation looks like: a young woman moved from woundedness to wonder as she grasps who Jesus has made her “in Christ”; a truth from scripture altering a young man to think, live and look more like Jesus; a destroyed relationship restored through mutual forgiveness; a troubled part of a city experiencing profound change as followers of Jesus do what He shows them to do.

Transformation is God intervening to bring His grace, truth and power to bear upon people, relationships and communities. Like revelation, spiritual life transformation cannot be humanly manufactured; it is a divine work of God. 2 Corinthians 3:18 states, “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” Like how God miraculously transforms an apple seed into a tree that produces more apples and eventually orchards, so the Spirit amazingly transforms people!

What is the bridge between the first and last circles – between revelation and transformation? Now was the time to talk about that middle circle. It represents the part WE play in the process of transformation! Our response to what Jesus reveals to us is to walk in obedience. Once again, we entered into our relationship with Jesus by responding in obedience to follow Him, and so began our journey of transformation!

Fueled by our great love for Jesus, we are to walk daily in obedience, doing what He has revealed to us in the scriptures and by His Spirit. This is exactly what Jesus did with His Father! When God reveals something to us, it’s not meant to be negotiated; it’s simply meant to be obeyed. The other option, of course, is disobedience – which leaves us untransformed and may even drive us deeper in to places of deception in our hearts.

As disciple-­‐makers, we need to pay close attention to what God is revealing in those we’re pouring in to as    it shows us what the Holy Spirit is emphasizing and doing in their lives! We may be going through the same material – but He may be applying things differently within each one we’re discipling! He is the transformer and my role is to watch and cooperate with Him, while demonstrating and encouraging those I’m walking alongside to simply obey what Jesus is revealing to them. Obedience is the engine of transformation!

My pastor friend left excited to apply these things among his flock – after first applying them in his own life.

by Brandon Guindon More

I love watching just about any documentary or educational program on wildlife.  When perusing channels I rarely pass by something produced by National Geographic.  One of my favorite specials is on the African lions.  Let me set the scene for you.

It’s the classic African Serengeti landscape.  Heat waves rise from the earth, distorting the camera’s view.  Multiple, colorful birds crisscross in the sky and the camera zooms in on a herd of wildebeest.  Hundreds of them can be seen grunting and grazing their way across the plains in search of a waterhole.  The commentator fills you in on the typical habits of the wildebeest even though you know the show is about lions – hungry lions.

The camera then pans and you see several ears poking just above the sun bleached grass.  Several female lions watch the nervous herd pass by.  Their tails flick back and forth at pesky flies, yet their eyes remain fixed, watching the herd.

Then, the inevitable happens. One of the wildebeests, for whatever reason, (sickness, injury, stupidity, etc.) separates from the herd.  Its head down, feeding on grass, not paying attention to the growing gap between it and the safety of the herd, the poor wildebeest strays.

I always thought the lions should pounce at that moment, but they never do.  They know what they are doing.  One or two lions will then get between the wildebeest and the herd, scaring the lone wildebeest who bolts and runs.  Often, it runs further and further from the safety of its friends.  It’s then that all protection is gone and the herd’s straying friend is alone.  Lions spring from the grass as if out of nowhere. The trap was laid and within seconds the circle of life continues for some and ends for others.

That picture of nature is often how I have viewed the church and all of us that make up her body.  Jesus even refers to us at times as sheep and Satan as a roaring lion seeking to devour us. Today in the church, as a pastor, I so often see people for various reasons – priorities, sin, jobs, activities – begin to stray from the herd.  They become busy and distracted with life, and before they know it, they are separated from the herd.

The third essential of a healthy life of being a disciple is to chase the strays. We as Christians have a responsibility not only to remain connected to the herd ourselves, but also to go after others who have strayed.  Too often, even pastors do not know where the sheep from their flock have gone. I believe we owe it to each other to chase after someone when we see a gap grow.  We know lions lie out in the grass and yet even with God as our shepherd, and the flock for protection, we become a spiritual meal for the evil one.

I wonder how many of you are pressing to the edge of this guardrail?  Are you connected to the body of Christ or do you teeter on some dangerous edge, allowing a gap to grow?  Here are some ways to put up and maintain this guardrail:

  1. Join a small group and make it part of your spiritual life priority.
  2. Evaluate your calendar and challenge the events or activities you do that keep you away from the Body of Christ.
  3. Allow people to speak into your life to help warn you of separation.
By Alex Absalom More

Meet Molly! She is our 3 years old chocolate Labrador.


Molly’s world is centered on a busy, noisy family — Hannah and myself, our 3 teenage sons, an assorted range of their pimply friends, increasing numbers of well-groomed long-haired girls, along with neighbors, members of our missional community, people from church, and other waifs and strays.


She loves to go out — on walks, in the car, even joining me on occasions in the church office, where she diligently supervises any member of staff who is eating their lunch.

She adores meeting people. In fact, Molly has never met someone who isn’t her friend. Every person has a face that needs licking and a bottom that deserves sniffing.




I am the Alpha Male in Molly’s little world. Others may speak, but when she hears my voice, Molly really jumps to it. And with an extra spring in her step and wag of her tail.


“How do you get her to do that?” I’m asked, as if some fairy dust is flying out of my hand. The answer is far more simple: it’s called obedience. I trained her. Sit, down, stay, park it, leave it, drop it, and so on. She even does some of those things in response to hand motions. One of my favorite TV shows is Person of Interest, where the dog is trained in Dutch, so to show off we’ve taught her to respond to a few commands in French, which she does surprisingly well.


Molly knows that life goes better when she joyfully obeys her pack leader.

She also knows that she’s often rewarded when she obeys me. From my perspective, positive motivation and treats are far more fun to give out than negativity and punishment. From her perspective, she loves living with someone who feeds her pieces of dry dog biscuit in return for some simple action on her part.



Disciples Are Marked By Obedience

While our walk with God is more complex than the human/dog relationship, there is also something simple that we can learn and imitate — because promptly obeying Jesus is central to being a disciple.

  • He is our pack leader.
  • His voice is always the most important one to pay attention to – in whatever language.
  • We should keep an eye on Him, ready to respond to His signals. After all, a reward might shortly be following along!
  • Life goes better when we obey Jesus our leader.

There is also an expected attitude as we mature in our obedience. Okay, sometimes Molly does this big sigh as she obeys (“Really? You want me to lie down right here?”). But most of the time she doesn’t complain — because she knows in the core of her being that the Pack Leader has every right to make requests and demands of her. That is how life works. It is an expression of her commitment and, at risk of anthropomorphizing even more, her love.



Obedience Is Love

Why does obedience equate to love?

Jesus put it like this: “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching” (John 14:23). As disciples of Jesus, we are committed to learning from Him in life. We pay attention to what He is saying and doing, and then obey and imitate.


Of course, our responses won’t always be as mindless as Molly’s responses, as we are held to a different standard. It is humans, not dogs, who carry the image of God within us, and are invited to co-rule with Christ in looking after His creation. Yet Molly’s starting point — obedience as an expression of love for her master — is a high bar of challenge for most of us. Yet we must become individuals, and then a people, who are dedicated to obeying Jesus.


This obedience lifestyle also provides a perspective on some of the actions of God towards us, particularly when tough things happen.



Don’t Eat The Grapes

A few months ago we were all out for a few hours on a Sunday afternoon, leaving Molly home alone but not shut in the bedroom where she sleeps. “You can trust me!” her eyes had said.


On our return we found a huge grape stalk on the floor, with every single piece of fruit removed from it and nowhere in sight. As we quickly asked around, one of our sons remembered that he’d pulled a huge bag of grapes out of the fridge for a quick snack after he’d returned from the church service that day — and that he’d forgotten to put it away, instead leaving most of the bag out on the coffee table. And now the only person around was a slightly bloated looking Molly, lying on her nearby bed, practicing her innocent eyes.


But in spite of her eyes, the problem, as you may well know, is that grapes are highly toxic to dogs, and can easily kill them.


With the evidence pointing towards an unauthorized doggie feast, the priority shifted to removing the grapes from her stomach. Loading up a syringe with hydrogen peroxide, two people held her down while she was forced to consume several large doses into her mouth — with much struggling and protest ensuing. Banished into the back yard along with my son, 10 minutes later Molly began vomiting up grapes, followed by more grapes, followed by yet more grapes. One of the boys started counting and gave up after 50, with more than that number remaining!


While she hated the experience, Molly’s life was saved by our administering something so unpleasant to her in order to remove the toxins from her body. (And yes, she did see the vet the next day!)


Sometimes, obedience is simply submitting to the wisdom and judgment of God in a situation, trusting that His intent is not to harm us, but to do us good, even if the journey itself is deeply unpleasant. We simply can not understand every situation — in fact, we may feel nicely full and comfy and that everything is fine — but there is a trusting obedience that is required of us. If we are committed to Jesus, we must learn to trust and obey whatever He says to us.


All of which means that becoming promptly obedient to Jesus is the essence of discipleship.


“‘I am the Lord’s servant,’ Mary answered. ‘May your word to me be fulfilled’.” (Luke 1:38)



Would you beat Molly in an obedience trial? How can you become more promptly obedient to Jesus?



Want More Like This?

  • Check out my post on Discipleship Practices For Missional Churches for some super practical ideas from great churches! (
  • Connect personally with me viaTwitter (@alexabsalom) or Facebook (
The Five Disciple-Making Contexts
Bobby Harrington and Alex Absalom
Robby Gallaty More

A Simple Discipleship Principle You Can Implement Immediately

Volumes could be written about the discipleship principles Jesus employed. But here is one principle you can implement immediately.

Dependence upon the Father

Jesus’ devotion to the Father came, in part, through his consistent prayer and his teaching others to pray.

Jesus prayed that many would believe (Jn. 17:1-26). He prayed before choosing the disciples (Lk 6:12). He prayed that believers would be made complete (Jn. 17:1-26). Jesus prayed for others (Lk. 22:31-32). He even prayed for himself in the Garden of Gethsemane (Lk. 22:39-46). Further, he taught his followers to pray for those who persecute his people (Matt. 5:44), and taught them how to pray for the glory and coming kingdom of the Lord (Matt. 6:9-13; Lk. 11:2-4). Before or after every major event, Jesus prayed.

Jesus’ prayer-life was unlike ours; he had no need for confession, contrition, or brokenness over sin. He never had to repent of anything. But Jesus’ prayer-life was like ours in many ways; he prayed with thanksgiving and supplication, and he constantly bowed to the authority of his Father for everything he did. He was constantly in communion with God.

One of the greatest examples of the character of Christ’s prayers is found in Luke 11:1-4:

“Now Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he finished, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.’ And he said to them, ‘When you pray, say: “Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread, and forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation.’”

Jesus taught His disciples many things during his three years with them, but Luke 11 captures one of the only times in the Gospels when the disciples asked Jesus for instruction on a specific activity (see also Matt. 18:21-22). The Bible says, Now Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples” (Luke 11:1).

Notice about what these men didn’t inquire. Systematic theology was not their first focus. Church growth and leadership were not at the top of the list either. They were not interested in healing, preaching, or walking on water. Why? The disciples had learned that prayer was the source of all things. Of all the courses they could have selected to be taught by Jesus Himself, they chose the discipline of prayer. Through observing Jesus’ prayer life—His commitment to spending time with His Father and the way He spoke to God—they were eager to pray as He prayed. Since Jesus demonstrated power in His prayer life, His closest followers desired to learn from Him. His example caused them to thirst for something more in their own lives and ministries. And because they asked, Jesus used the opportunity not only to instruct them, but us as well.

Pray the Way Jesus Explained It

Imagine how you would have felt at this moment. The disciples were about to listen to the greatest prayer warrior of all teach on the subject of prayer. All were silent, and Jesus held their undivided attention. Picture the twelve sitting around the Lord with their sharpened pencils and opened notebooks. They were ready for a lengthy lecture on prayer, but before they could even get comfortable in their seats, it was over, and Jesus moved on to His next point. Surely both their pencils and their mouths dropped as they thought, “What?”

In just forty English words, Jesus had explained how to pray. What Jesus didn’t say still speaks louder today than what He actually did say. Our Lord’s brevity teaches the most vital prayer lesson of all:

Prayer is not learned in a classroom. The most crucial words in this crash course are the first three: “When you pray…” We do not learn how to pray by going to prayer conferences. We do not learn how to pray by reading books on the subject. There is only one way to cultivate an intimate, effective prayer life: Pray, pray, pray.

Even though you may study a foreign language, the only way to learn it thoroughly is to speak it. Prayer is similar; you learn it by doing it. Prayer is learned experientially. Jesus, through His silence, is saying, “Listen, prayer is not about filling your mind with knowledge on ways to pray. Prayer is about doing it, so start praying.”

Andrew Murray, speaking of the practice of prayer in his book, With Christ in the School of Prayer, commented, “Reading a book about prayer, listening to lectures and talking about it is good, but it won’t teach you to pray. You get nothing without exercise, without practice. I might listen for a year to a professor of music playing the most beautiful music, but that won’t teach me to play an instrument.” A powerful prayer-life is developed through the practice of actually praying.

Aren’t you grateful that Jesus had a prayer-life? If he did, shouldn’t we?

Relational Discipleship Network
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Dann Spader More

Intentional, Loving Relationships

Dann Spader

Years ago, a friend of mine always used to say, “All change comes through relationships.”

When I first heard this statement, I disagreed. But as I studied the life of Christ, I soon saw the reality of this principle in every aspect of Christ’s life. Jesus’ whole strategy of changing the world was rooted in building relationships with a few. As a matter of fact, the whole theology of the incarnation is that God became flesh and dwelt among us; Jesus adding humanity to His deity, become one of us, to impart His life to us. Christ knew that life change happens through relationships!

The more I study the life of Jesus and the more I watch people’s lives change, the more convinced I am that my friend was right. All life change does come through relationships—whether it a relationship between friends, between a parent and child, or a relationship with God through His Word. In fact, true Christianity is all about relationships, because full humanity means participating in and fostering loving relationships. Jesus was that true friend . . . both to sinners and His committed followers.

God’s deep concern for genuine loving relationships is one of the reasons the Creator of the universe decided to become flesh and dwell among us. He wanted us to be sure we understood this truth. God did not just tell us that He loves us; He chose to show us His great love by walking with us in relationship. First John 4: 9–10 tells us that, “This is how God showed His love among us; He sent His one and only Son into the world that we might live through Him. This is love; not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”

What amazes me about Jesus is that when He took on flesh to dwell among us, He did not come as a conquering king or even as a wealthy aristocrat. He came as a baby, born in a manger and raised in an obscure village called Nazareth for thirty years. He then spent the rest of his years investing in people.

Robert Coleman speaks powerfully about Jesus’ relational focus on a few when he wrote:

The multitudes of discordant and bewildered souls were potentially ready to follow Him, but Jesus individually could not possibly give them the personal care they needed. His only hope was to get men imbued with His life who would do it for Him. Hence, He concentrated Himself upon those who were to be the beginning of this leadership. Though He did what He could to help the multitudes, He had do devote Himself primarily to a few men, rather than the masses, in order that the masses could at last be saved. This was the genius of His strategy.1

It can often be said that people who are concentrating on a focused strategy often pursue their goals to the detriment of their relationships. The remarkable thing about Jesus was that relationships were His strategy.

Jim Putman More

Needing What You Were Created To Have

Jim Putman


Many know me as one who cares very much about discipleship and they would be right. But after several years of training churches and speaking about discipleship, I realized that I have somehow missed emphasizing a point. Jesus’ method was based upon relationships. But Jesus did not use relationship to make disciples because it is the best way to teach information. Jesus was in relationship to make disciples because it is in relationship that you experience and learn the most important thing – the importance of relationships and how God wants relationships to work (love).

Jesus made it clear that all the law and the prophets can be summed up in relationship (to love God and to love others). The work of the Holy Spirit in your life is to make you one who loves, and is kind, and gentle, and so on (we call these the fruit of the Spirit). All of the fruit of the Spirit is relational – and as we walk in the Light we develop the ability to have fellowship with one another. You see I believe that God created us in the garden to have perfect relationship with Himself and others, and because of sin we lost the ability to have what we were created to have. Since then God has been seeking to restore to us to the relationships He knows He created us to enjoy (to need and have). In Christ we can be reconciled to God and to others. When this happens it is a beautiful thing.

The church brings glory to God when we live out God’s intended design. This happens when we are relational people who prove to the world that you can actually have the relationships you know down deep that you need. So many Christians are lonely and that is not God’s intention. As Paul writes true spiritual maturity is more than knowing all the mysteries of God. Its more than following the rules, and even being committed enough to die a martyr’s death. It’s more than being gifted as 1 Corinthians 13 reveals; it is about love. Real maturity is to love and be loved – it’s to become relational and have deep abiding spiritual friendships within the body of Christ. You see I believe that the ability to love as God intended fills our hearts and gives us strength. It also will draw a lonely world to the one who can restore to us what we have always been designed to need – relationship. So what I truly believe is that we make disciples rather than converts. We do this in relationship. And in relationship we learn to be the world’s best lovers of God and others.

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