DISCIPLESHIP ORIENTATION








Rev. Dr. Robert E. Baines, Jr.
(4/09)























Table of Contents

Introduction

Quick Review of Membership Orientation

A Closer Look at Discipleship

Accountability Partners and Discipleship Development Sessions

A Vision and Commitment

Accountability Partnership Form

Quiz on Discipleship Orientation

Introduction

The purpose of this course is to insure the student is familiar with some conceptual and practical issues related to being a disciple of Christ as well as encourage commitment to the vision. What follows is a quick review of the Membership Orientation and a closer look at discipleship. The ideas of accountability partners and discipleship development sessions are followed by the presentation of a vision and appeal for your commitment. The quiz is designed to give evidence of basic understanding of the material.

Quick Review of Membership Orientation

In the Membership Orientation Course, we discussed (1) the Bible being authoritative truth (i.e., key verse II Tim. 3:16), and therefore, it is to be prayerfully studied and obeyed. The three study questions and four study tools were introduced. (2) We talked about the four statements in the plan of salvation (i.e., key verse Jn. 3:16). (3) We also discussed the following four "D"s of discipleship (see Lk. 9:23): decision, denial of self, daily dedication, and divine directions.

(4) We talked about the following five principles of the church. The mission of the church is to evangelize and edify God's way (see Mt. 28:19-20). The Pastor is to feed and lead the church (see I Pet. 5:1-4). The members are to grow in faith and follow pastoral leadership (see I Pet. 2:2; Heb. 13:17). The officers (i.e., cabinet) are to assist the Pastor, as qualified appointed members (see Acts 6:1-6). Christian fellowship calls for every member living by the Word of God and the progressive discipline of those who do not (see I Jn. 1:5-7; I Cor. 5:6-7).

A Closer Look at Discipleship

As we look closer at discipleship, we should remember that a disciple is a follower of Christ (see Lk. 9:23 – key verse). Reasons to decide to follow Jesus include showing thankfulness for His blessings, to receive more blessings, and to prevent punishment (see Jn. 14:15; Lk. 11:28; Heb. 12:6). When we think about how God has saved us for going to Hell, kept food on our table, and kept mean people from snuffing our lives away, we should be followers of Christ out of thankfulness. When we think about how God promises that He will bless those who obey His will, we should follow Christ for the blessings. When we think about how God promises that He will punish those who don’t obey Him, we should follow Christ.

Denial of self means to tell ourselves "no," when our ways are contrary to God's way (see Pro. 14:12). We know that we must say “no” to sin. However, when how we want to see things done in worship or in our church is contrary to God’s will, we must deny ourselves. God’s plan is bigger than us. We must fight the temptation of being self-centered.

Daily dedication is concerned with ongoing commitment (see Isa. 6:8). The reason Ephesians 6:11 teaches us to put on the whole armor of God is because there is a war going on. We must have the dedication needed to fight in the army of the Lord, even when wounded. We must be able to fight on, even when tired and feeling neglected. It is predictable that people will get on our nerves, lie on us, ignore our contributions, hurt our feelings, and do mean things. But we must have enough ongoing commitment and daily dedication to keep on following Jesus.

Three divine directions of the many that are in the Bible are studying, serving, and giving (see II Tim. 2:15; Eph. 2:10; Mal. 3:8-10). By studying God’s Word, we will learn about God and His will for our lives. The Word of God (see Mark 12:29-31) teaches us to love God and love our neighbors, as we love ourselves. One of the many ways to demonstrate our love of neighbors is to be involved in Christian service - helping somebody in the name of Jesus. One of the many ways to demonstrate our love of God is to give to Him in proportion to how He has given to us. Ten percent has been a common proportion since the book of Genesis (see Gen. 14:17-20). We should strive to go higher, not lower, than ten percent.

Love God

The following are ways to demonstrate our love of God:

1. Daily quiet time. Learning about God and His will for our lives show that we love God. We can learn about God at an individual level. Starting with 10 minutes a day until you grow to 30 minutes or more a day is better than one hour every now and then. Use the three study questions and four study tools to study the Sunday School lesson and Bible study material, until you are led to study other material.

2. Participating in church sponsored studies. We can learn about God at a collective or group level. Do the best that you can to be a regular student in Sunday School and a week day Bible study. The benefits of studying with your church family include the following: you can get some feedback about the accuracy of your understanding, you can help others gain understanding (i.e., with your feedback), and your regular attendance contributes to a positive culture that urges others to attend.

3. Worship. We should demonstrate our love of God by worshipping Him. You should come to worship on a regular basis, before time, so you can remind yourself that it is time to worship God, not to be entertained or to sit through a religious program because it is your duty. Try to sing along with the songs. Give feedback to the praying and especially the preaching. Your feedback helps you become more of a participant in worshiping than a spectator of worship. Give in the offerings. Demonstrate a godly attitude. God does not get glory out of our going through the motions of worship with a less than godly attitude. A godly attitude includes smiling, greeting others, and being friendly.

4. Give. What we give says a great deal about how much we love God. Matthew 6:21 teaches that where are treasurers are is where our hearts are. God is not pleased with our saying, “Praise the Lord,” but robbing Him of His tithes and offerings. We should strive to give at least 10% of our gross income to the Lord, as we grow to give more. We give to the Lord by giving to His church. We should give to the church that we are being feed at.

5. Obey. Our level of obedience says volumes about how much we love God. John 14:15 teaches that if we love God then we would obey His commandments. In other words, studying and worshipping and even giving without a mind to obey God’s Word is not pleasing to God. The more we know God’s will for our relationships, jobs, finances, self care, community involvement, and church participation the more we should obey, as our evidence of loving God.

Self Love

The following are ways to work on self love:

1. Stewardship of health. In order to love our neighbor as we love ourselves, we must make sure that we love ourselves. Being a wise steward or manager of our health is evidence of self love. Health stewardship includes things like exercising, eating properly, going to the doctor as needed, getting enough sleep, and guarding what we feed our minds.

2. Stewardship of finances. Self love should move us to take care of our finances. We should strive to earn high, spend low, invest, and pass wealth on to responsible people in the name of Jesus. All that we have belongs to God, and He will bless us according to our stewardship. Furthermore, since we cannot count on big brother (i.e., government) nor big business (i.e., pensions), we must love ourselves enough to gain financial literacy and exercise financial discipline.

3. Know your history. Self love is concerned with its history. God has been superintending the affairs of our lives, so that we can be what we are today. All of the trials that we have been through are parts of our testimony of how God is working things out for the good of His people (see Rom. 8:28). For Blacks, it is important to know that in spite of what Hollywood says, we were fearfully and wonderfully made (see Ps. 139:14) with our beautiful big lips, large nostrils, kinky hair, and chocolate colored skin. God brought us through slavery, Jim Crowism, and so many personal ordeals. Our history is a story of how God has been taking care of us.

Before we move to loving others, let me remind us one more time that self love is the basis for loving others. If we don’t love ourselves, as we are, it will be very difficult, if not impossible, to love others in a healthy fashion. Loving ourselves include health, finances, and history.

Love Others

The following are ways to love others:

1. Each Reach One. A powerful way to love others is to help them get saved and grow in the Lord. Whatever else a person has going for himself or herself, without accepting Jesus as one’s savior by faith, that person is doomed to Hell. There are people who may never respond to television, radio, internet, billboards, door-to-door canvasses, and the like. But our loved ones may well respond to our serious invitation and encouragement.

“Each Reach One” is personal evangelism and disciple making. It is our being a saved disciple and encouraging the salvation and discipleship of our loved ones. Try to intentionally contact at least five loved ones a month, after they have given you permission, to encourage them along their spiritual journey.

2. Enthusiastic worship. The way we worship can be a demonstration of love towards our neighbor. When we bring an encouraging spirit and encouraging expressions, it can help those around us. Some of us went to rallies to generate support to elect Barak Obama. The attitudes and energy were contagious. Worship should be a “Jesus rally” that moves those in the worship to both love Jesus and obey the Word of God. Our “amen” and “thank You Jesus” can help others. And our lack of expressions and disapproving expressions can hurt others.

3. Fellowship. As believers, we are members of the one body of Christ. As members of this church, we are related to one another by confession of faith and church covenant. Because there is so much power in relationships and peer support, we should be a part of the peer support to encourage members of our church to grow in faith. We can do fun things like eat with one another, go to entertainment events (e.g., movies, plays, game nights, bowling, etc.), and even get aways. We can celebrate birthdays, wedding anniversaries, joining church anniversaries, etc.

However, out of the fellowship should also come the serious matters of praying for one another, holding one another accountable for discipleship goals, demonstrating concern in the times of need (e.g., sickness, bereavement, family crisis, etc.).

4. Participate in church ministry. Every believer has a part to play in the local church. Even though we cannot all sing, preach, or usher, we can all do something (see Eph. 2:10: I Pet. 4:10). We should discover and perform our ministries. A ministry that everyone can do is “Each Reach One” in addition to being a loving personality who worships with enthusiasm and witnesses about what God is doing in this church.

It may be that we have to experiment to find where God really wants us. And where God wants us today is not necessarily where God wants us tomorrow. Look around the intercession of what you are able to do, have opportunity to do, and have a desire or willingness to do that would meet a need, in the name of Jesus. Around this intersection is our call to ministry.

5. Participate in community improvement. Matthew 5:13-16 teaches that believers are the salt of the Earth and light of world. A part of this idea includes making a positive impact on our communities. We can do things like vote, register and encourage others to vote, and join or start groups that focus on improving the quality of life in our communities. Organizations like the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, neighborhood associations, and others are always looking for people of good will who are willing to help. There is a need for more politicians, business owners, and professionals who are also disciples of Christ. All it takes for evil to prevail is for the righteous to be uninvolved.

Accountability Partners and Discipleship Development Sessions

Much of the material listed above is not new information for many of us. Sometimes our reason for not being greater disciples is not that we lack knowledge but that we lack support and accountability. To help with support and accountability, I now introduce accountability partners and discipleship development sessions. An accountability partner, as used here, is a person who (1) has made some commitments regarding being a stronger disciple, (2) has made a covenant to pray for his or her partner at least three times a week, and (3) has made a covenant to check-in with his or her partner at least weekly. The first contact should focus on completing the “Accountability Partnership Agreement” (see page 8). This is simply a form that both partners have a copy of, and it features contact information and some basic terms of agreement regarding the partnership. Please register the partnership with the designated person, for evaluative purposes.

Everyone is expected to make a commitment to the minimum discipleship standards of studying, serving, and giving. Study means to be in a Bible study that is sponsored by this church on at least a monthly basis. Serve means to register in a ministry group that is sponsored by this church. This group can be the “Each Reach One” Ministry. Give means to either tithe or give at least 5% of one’s gross income with a pledge to grow by 1-2%/year until one reaches 10%. If your 5% is less than $10/week, a wavier can be secured from the designee; otherwise, every disciple is expected to give at least $10/week.

The “check ins” are simply concerned with seeing how you and your partner are doing in pursuing the commitments that you all have made and to offer any support that the other is willing to receive. It is recommended that you start with a three month commitment that can be extended or simply ended thereafter. I would recommend that you choose your first partner from the students in this class. Confidentiality of the issues that you all will be discussing is very important.

A “discipleship development session” is a small group (i.e., 12 or less people) meeting of people who have committed to being stronger disciples that focuses on nurturing better understanding and commitment to being strong disciples of Christ. In the sessions, which should be at least quarterly, various exercises will be carried out like spiritual autobiographies, personality tests, service discoveries, reflection reports, and contributing to the group’s discipleship covenant. A spiritual autobiography is a short paper on your salvation and some of the highlights of your journey in trying to live by God’s will. The personality test is a where you fill out a form that indicates what type of personality you have, and you will discuss your agreement or disagreement with the information. A service discovery is similar to a spiritual gifts discovery, but the focus is not simply on what God has given you as gifts. It is concerned with where you will serve with your gifts. A reflection report is where you will share some of your joys, concerns, and discoveries in relation to trying to carryout out your discipleship commitments. The group’s covenant features commitments that group members make to one another about things like confidentiality, frequency of meetings, minimum discipleship standards, and the like.

Imagine how much further you and I would be along the way, if we had a trusted individual praying for us and talking to us about our commitments. And then image meeting with a group of supportive people who were supporting and encouraging us in keeping our discipleship commitments.

A Vision and Commitment

My vision for December 31, 2014, in this area includes the following:

- 150 members complete this course

- 50 registered accountability partnerships

- 12 annual registered discipleship development sessions in 2014

- Quarterly Discipleship Orientation Course in 2014

- Offer requested teachings and trainings

- 300 disciples (i.e., those who study, serve, and give) on the church’s discipleship roster

Without your commitment, this vision is little more than black marks on paper. Let God use you to make this church a discipleship development center (see Mt. 28:19-20; Heb. 10:24-25).

Accountability Partnership Form

1. The following people commit to being in an accountability partnership:

(name and contact info) __________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________

(name and contact info) __________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________

2. The terms of the partnership are as follows:

a. We will contact each other on a weekly basis, alternating who initiates the contact, to check-in with one another about our commitments.

b. We will pray for each other by name and commitments (i.e., one or more) at least three times a week.

c. We will not share confidential information without expressed permission.

d. If one of us wants to get out of this partnership, we will communicate that to the other and the partnership will be terminated, if one of us still wants to terminate.

e. We will register our accountability partnership with the designee.

f. Additionally, ___________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

3. The discipleship commitments are as follows: (name) commits to the follow, in addition to the minimum discipleship standards and attend a quarterly discipleship develop session: ______________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________

(name) commits to the follow, in addition to the minimum discipleship standards and attend a quarterly discipleship development session: __________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________

4. Signatures of understanding and agreement. I/we have read and understand this document as well as agree to abide by it.

Sign and date: __________________________________________________________________

Sign and date: __________________________________________________________________

















Quiz on Discipleship Orientation

(Please complete this quiz and turn it in to the designated person.)

1. What is the purpose of this course?


2. What are the four major areas covered in Membership Orientation?


3. What is a disciple, the key verse for discipleship, four “D’s” of discipleship, and three divine directions that every disciple ought to follow?


4. What scripture supports loving God, ourselves, and others are at the core of God’s divine directions? How many ways of loving God, ourselves, and others are presented in this course?


5. What is an accountability partner and a discipleship development session?


6. What is the minimum discipleship commitment?


7. How many components are listed for the 2014 vision?


8. Will you commit to being in a registered accountability partnership and partake in at least a quarterly discipleship development session? Explain.