The second level of Designed Cooperation between families and churches in making fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ of their students is directing them to FOLLOW God as disciples. Christians (those who have trusted in Jesus Christ for salvation) become partakers of the nature of Jesus Christ through the Word, which is what discipleship is all about. Through the power of the Word (God’s Word, the Bible) and the Holy Spirit we escape the corruption that is in the world because of sin and are changed more and more into who God wants us to be during this lifetime as a result of FOLLOWING Him. But what exactly is discipleship, or FOLLOWING God? 2 Peter 1:4-8 lays out the process of discipleship:
- Repentance & Faith: New life in Jesus Christ begins by trusting in Him alone for salvation.
- Enlightenment & Guidance: Once salvation takes place, the disciple-FOLLOWER begins learning how to “put on Jesus Christ.”
- Growth in Christ: The disciple-FOLLOWER grows more and more into the fullness that God has for him or her in Jesus Christ.
- Ministry Development: The inward transformation of God’s Word begins to become an outward reality of righteousness that results in ministry to others.
- Testing: Ministry will always involved “fiery trials” (1 Peter 4:12) that build endurance and work to reveal the power and glory of God in one’s life.
- Ministry in the Power of Christ: The disciple-FOLLOWER ministers with a greater awareness of the power of the Holy Spirit, whether as a leader or a worker. The ministry is of and through Christ, not the disciple’s natural abilities.
- Fruit through the Fullness of Jesus Christ: The Word of God continues to manifest the fullness of Jesus Christ, resulting in greater love for those around him or her, and a heart for the needs of the world. Other disciple-FOLLOWERS are birthed and the Word continues to profit as God pleases.
In light of this process of discipleship the first question to ask (of yourself) is, “Am I growing as a disciple?” It is vital that those who have the most direct spiritual influence into a student’s life in regard to building disciple-FOLLOWERS of Christ must first be growing as disciples themselves. If this is not the case, do not expect your student to become a mature disciple because they will largely model what they see the spiritual influencers in their life (whether parent/guardian or pastor) living out.
The second question that must be asked is, “How do families and churches partner together in this process?” The overarching answer is this: by being ministers of the Word both in the home and in the church. Why? Because we seek not to make clones of any human being; we seek for God to build disciple-FOLLOWERS of Himself. That will only take place through the direction and command of God’s Word combined with the power of the Holy Spirit working in each student’s life.
Families must be ministers of the Word by knowing (for themselves and then teaching to their students) and doing God’s Word. James makes clear in his letter that faith (knowing) and works (doing) go hand in hand; you cannot have one without the other. Therefore, the adult leaders of families must personally be students of God’s Word (daily Bible study and prayer) and convey their understanding and knowledge to their students. Additionally, adult families of leaders must live out the truths of God’s Word in every aspect of their lives, first of all for the glory of God, and secondly for modeling obedience in front of their students. Practically this requires personal and family Bible study and discussion, honesty and transparency about the right way to live, and accountability for all members of the family to live God’s truth with resulting consequences for failing to do so.
Churches must be ministers of the Word in two ways. First, the church must teach and preach the Word of God. This seems like it could be assumed, but a large number of churches are failing to correctly handle the Word of truth. Scripture must be taught through, explained, and avenues for putting its truth into action must be offered. God has not ordained the church to offer an endless menu of man’s opinion on relevant topics; He has ordained the church to correctly handle the Word of truth by starting with the text of Scripture, interpreting what it says, and proposing how to live its truth. Secondly, the church must offer a variety of opportunities through which the Word of God is taught and preached that hit various levels of spiritual maturity. New Christians need the basics. Growing Christians need challenged. Seasoned Christians need accountability. All of these levels are addressed through God’s Word and the church must consistently be a minister of the Word on each of those levels.
At First Baptist O’Fallon we offer students several weekly “steps” through which they can continually grow through the church’s ministry of the Word. LIFE Groups (Sunday school) lead students to CONNECT with God through establishing a core understanding of God and His Word. Jr. & Sr. High worship seek to lead students further into the story and details of God’s Word with the goal of challenging deeper followship. Midweek Bible study aims to challenge students through God’s Word to be active in ministry and on mission with God. Regardless of what it looks like in regard to programming, the church must teach and preach and offer a variety of opportunities for families and students to engage God’s Word.