When the Holy Spirit brings a person to saving faith in Jesus Christ (be it through infant baptism, reading Scripture, someone sharing with him or her God’s message, or some other means) the person has been “born again” and is a Christian. Jesus, through His Spirit now indwells him or her. Jesus lives in that person.
Just as a human infant is fully human at birth (really at conception), so a person is fully Christian when s/he is “born again.” However, just as a human infant, although fully human, is not yet fully developed or mature, so a Christian, although fully Christian when s/he is “born again” (comes to faith), is not yet fully developed or mature. Jesus lives in him/her, but Jesus is not yet fully “formed” in him or her. Developing and maturing as a Christian is a lifelong process. Although we do not become “more Christian” through this developing and maturing, through this developing and maturing Jesus does become more fully formed in us.
As Jesus becomes more fully developed and formed in us, we become increasingly transformed into His image, His likeness. We do not become more Christian, but we do become more Christ-like. As Jesus increasingly is formed in us, His presence and character are increasingly demonstrated and experienced in and through us in the fruit of His indwelling presence: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control.
To be a disciple is more than being a “believer” who knows salvation through Jesus’ cleansing blood, and it is more than living by a certain “moral code.” While being a disciple of Christ most certainly includes knowing salvation and living by a moral code, it is much more than that. To be a disciple is to be a “follower,” and to be a follower of Jesus is to be a person of mission and in mission, for Jesus is a missionary God. He is a God of mission in mission. This means we are to be “fishers of men [+ women and children]”, to love as Jesus loves, and to bear fruit. Jesus tells us: "Come, follow me," Jesus said, "and I will make you fishers of men.""A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.""This is to my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples."
Public worship, Bible study, and Christian fellowship are important activities meant to feed and nurture discipleship, but they are not the primary evidence of discipleship. The primary evidence of discipleship is seen in and through the missional lives we live in our daily environments – our regular and natural spheres of influence. It is in loving (agape) all those we encounter. Discipleship (being a disciple and discipling others) is the process of Jesus increasingly becoming formed in us and of our becoming more and more Christ-like (doing what Jesus did and does). This handbook has been developed and put together to aid in that process.
Think of this handbook as a toolbox in
which you have a variety of tools. A carpenter picks and chooses the tool(s) s/he will use depending both upon the
job needing to be done, and, also upon his or her skill level. Individuals and groups using this handbook need to
pick and choose the tools in it that best fits the occasion in which they are using it and the particular participants
involved. There is no “one” way to use the handbook or tools, nor even a “best” way. Pray for guidance and get
creative in your use of the various sections and tools herein – make them work for you!
My prayer is that users of these materials might grow not merely in knowledge, but in discipleship – in their personal relationship with Jesus and in their following Jesus in missional living as they grow in Christlikeness. May God
guide and bless you.
- Bill Cullen
Find the Discipling Handbook Companion here. Grow your Christian faith with these Bible study resources.