Recently, I listened to a sermon about Discipleship, which caused me to reflect on the times in my life when I have been discipled and when I have discipled others. Reflecting on my experience of being discipled, I can recall when I was in college (more than 30 years ago) a woman named Kathy invited me to her house. She and I would talk about God. When I look back at that time, she was doing a form of Discipleship with me. A decade or so later, I met a woman named Meredith who blew my mind one day when she shared that she was disciplining college students to teach them about God. She and her husband Discipled others as their job. I was blown away! She explained that they would form relationships with the students, some believers, and some unbelievers, and use specific materials to introduce and teach them about having a personal relationship with God through Jesus the Christ.
That's when I realized that being discipled could be about more than just going to church on Sunday mornings for Sunday School, Worship, and one day during the week for Bible Study; this is corporate discipleship and the most ineffective way to disciple others. It was about intentionally creating a relationship to teach a person about our faith's doctrines, principles, etc. While doing that, include them in the activities of your life so that you can be an example of living out those doctrines and principles.
I had only been experiencing corporate Discipleship except for the woman who invited me to her house when I was in college; we talked about God, but she didn't use any materials. What Meredith had described, which I now know is called personal Discipleship, was something that I have longed for even as an adult, that someone would love God enough to come alongside me in a compassionate, caring way and disciple me. Every believer should be a disciple and currently have someone who disciples them. You do not grow out of being discipled.
A person who disciples others teaches a person about God and helps them become who God has created them to be so they would disciple others.
Meredith shared her resources with me, and soon after that, I met Ginger at our son's basketball practice; he was only about five or six years old at the time. We were both waiting for practice to be over when I mentioned something about Jesus, and her response was something like, "Oh, I don't go to church." I responded, "You know, I don't care whether or not you go to church; all I want to know is, do you know Jesus?" She paused, and based on her response, I invited her to meet with me for at least six weeks to sit down and introduce her to this man who was real and had changed my life. She agreed. We met at McDonald's for six weeks, we both brought our children, and they played while I used the Discipleship resources Meredith had shared with me; we had open, honest conversations about God and life, and before the end of the six weeks, she had accepted Christ, and then later became a member of the church where we attended. She and I served in ministry together; she was very active in the church using her gifts. We became friends. My husband baptized her daughter. We were close, but then life happened, and now we don't talk at all.
How would things be in her life and mine if we kept the commitment to meet weekly or monthly?
Because I don't believe Discipleship is just for a season. If two people in a discipleship relationship have to part ways, there should be a commitment in connecting the one being discipled to another disciple. What would happen if we did this?! But isn't this how Jesus did it! And he turned the world upside down!
Before I met Ginger, I had started to feel like the way discipleship was being done was ineffective in helping me grow as a Christian. There was so much that I wanted to learn, and the lecture style of Sunday School and Weekly Bible Study was not providing me with what I felt I needed to grow; there was rarely even an opportunity to ask questions or even to share how a lesson or scripture was speaking to me in my life. I could go to church week after week and never actually talk about my faith other than nodding and agreeing with what was being taught. This didn't follow the example of how Jesus taught the disciples.
The opportunity to provide personal Discipleship showed me the impact of one-on-one Discipleship and how corporate Discipleship (Worship Service, Sunday School, and Weekly Bible Study with a few activities sprinkled in a month) was ineffective in growing people into spiritually mature believers. There was little depth of insight and wisdom; people were primarily regurgitating what the Pastor said and very little if any, multiplication. Even now, it seems the pews are becoming emptier with each Sunday.
It's what also led me to start having Praise Parties; I'd invite a group of five or six women over to my house, and we would share scripture, discuss a lesson or topic, talk about what was happening in our lives, receive insight and encouragement from the other women, have a time of intercession and when we concluded we would be inspired and edified. This is also a form of personal Discipleship.
And then, later, I started a ministry called S.I.S.T.E.R.S. (Sisters, Inspiring, Supporting, Teaching, Encouraging, and Relating to Sisters), and we became a group of six women. We met once a month, and for a season, we met weekly and completed the Master Life Series; I would teach them whatever I knew, and they would share what they learned. We discipled one another. We had retreats, and we supported one another in life. We are still close to this day, and we have an unbreakable bond. This is also a form of personal Discipleship.
So, as I have been reflecting on the sermon about Discipleship, I heard these words, "Give me 12". Each year, I extend an invitation to women I would be willing to mentor; I started this in 2020. My goal was to have four a year; I am praying about starting the Joycelyn Ignites Discipleship Academy, where I will disciple 12 women, free of charge, and help them grow in their spiritual maturity. I created this type of Academy for a class in seminary. But there will be a requirement; they will have to commit to disciple at least one woman while I disciple them, and they would need to require the person they disciple to disciple one woman and so forth. That would be 36 women being discipled. That's multiplication. That's discipleship.
Sunday's sermon was an invitation that should be extended every Sunday, "Go and make disciples, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things. " Matthew 28:19-20.