I was astounded how much feedback I received from “Part 2” of my recent church-vision series sermon, which described how to use the Bible’s four spiritual life stages in our discipleship with anyone, at any level, any stage, and any time.
Below is the sermon manuscript excerpt of that “Part 2.”
(Thanks to Jim Putman’s great book, Church is a Team Sport, for inspiring many great thoughts throughout the entire sermon series.)
Excerpt from: “Opening the Team Playbook,” 6/17/12
Team Playbook, Part 2: How Do We Make Disciples? – The Discipleship Process
How do we – all of us here – help people make Jesus Lord of their lives; get plugged into relationships with other Christians; and be committed to the mission? Let’s look at the discipleship process we find in the Bible.
The Bible speaks of the development of our spiritual lives in the same language as we use for the natural stages of human life. We are born. We are babies. (Raise your hand if you have babies here tonight.) We become children (All the children here tonight raise your hand); then young adults (all the young adults raise your hand); and then, finally, parents. There are others, but those are the basic life stages.
The Bible uses these same word pictures to describe our four spiritual life stages. Each stage is a necessary part of the process. You cannot get to the fourth stage without going through the other three.
The first thing we need to do in the discipleship process is be able to assess where we and others are in the process, and know what we and others need, and need to be doing, in order to move to the next stage. And we want everyone to understand the process because we want it to be reproducible and taking place all throughout the entire church family.
So, now, let’s consider ourselves and the people in our lives as we look at each stage of the process.
1. Spiritually Dead/Unborn – Among the many places in the Bible this life stage is taught, Ephesians 2:1-5 describes it well: (Read Eph. 2:1-5)
People in this stage have not yet accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior. They may completely reject God; or they may be seeking God. They may even claim to be a Christian, when in reality have not repented and placed their trust in Jesus. What people in this stage need is for us to share the gospel and our faith in Jesus with them.
Friends, if any of you here today haven’t trusted and obeyed Jesus, we would like to share our faith in Jesus as Savior from sin with you, and share with you the opportunity of being discipled in our church.
And when we trust Jesus as Savior, God forgives our sins and seals our eternity in heaven, but our Christian life on earth has just begun. And, naturally, we begin as infants…
2. Infant/Child – 1 Peter 2:2-3 identifies this stage, saying, (Read 1 Pt. 2:2-3)
People in the infant stage have accepted Christ, but haven’t moved much past that point. They may be brand new believers or might be stagnant, long-time believers. Life is generally still all about them and their needs. There is nothing surprising with this self-concern at the infant stage.
Soon, as these newer believers begin growing in their relationships with God and others they move into the child part of this stage. Paul addresses the Thessalonians as in the child stage when he writes: (Read 1 Thess. 2:11-12)
What people need in this stage is to connect with a mentor and/or group that will teach and model for them what it means to love God and others. In the meantime, they should participate in other opportunities in church life to grow their understanding of what it means to be a Christian.
The bigger shift comes now with the third stage.
3. Young Adult – People in this stage are making a big shift from being self-centered to more others-centered; becoming givers, rather than a takers; putting others first; realizing that life really is all about God and His will; not our own. Paul describes this stage in Philippians 2:3-4 (read Phil. 2:3-4).
People growing in this stage are becoming more and more committed to the mission of Christ. When they walk into a room, rather than thinking, “Who is going to notice me,” they are beginning to wonder, “Who needs help; who looks lonely; how can I serve them?” They are are moving into the ministry phase of the discipleship process and need more ministry opportunities.
And, finally, disciples will move into the Parent stage of the discipleship process.
4. Parent – The spiritual parent has a solid understanding of God’s Word and is focused on reproducing mature disciples of Jesus by mentoring them in the Christian life.
Paul recognized that his young disciple Timothy had entered this stage of the discipleship process, and he wrote to Timothy these well known words: (Read 2 Tim. 2:1-2)
These disciples are entering the leadership stage. They are not only ministering, but making disciples of others around them; ready to train others to do the same.
APPLICATION: Did what I said about any one or more of these stages connect with where you are today? Did everyone identify which stages we’re in; what we need; what we need to be doing? What I hope we will see here is all 700 people in the LCCC family working intentionally together to grow each other in discipleship. This is making disciples. This is a big part of the answer to HOW we make disciples. And here’s the thing: it all takes place outside of this room that we’re in right now.
Next post will relate to the “Relational Environments” discussion from the same sermon. Find the entire sermon manuscript on www.lc3.com/#/sermons.
Blessings on your path through the discipleship process,