Discipleship can happen in a variety of ways and one of the primary ways it plays out is through relationships, whether one on one relationship or corporate relationships. Below are three frameworks to help one consider how discipleship can look in the life of a believer.
Sports are a natural image a person can think of when they hear the word “coaching”. People may think of a professional coach, a personal interaction with a coach or perhaps someone that has “coached” them through an experience. From a philosophy standpoint, coaching in a discipleship realm functions rather similarly. The purpose of coaching is to offer encouragement, to be a resource and provide correction when a correction needs to be made. Coaching can be viewed as an individual who imparts skills or tools. Robert Clinton, associate professor at Fuller Seminary and Paul Stanley, international vice president of the Navigators, share what they believe are the functions of a spiritual coach. “Functions of a coach are: impart skills, impart confidence, motivate people in order to bring out their best, model the importance of learning the basics of a skill, point people to other resources, observe people in action and evaluate people’s experience and give them feedback.” Coaches are short-lived, seasonal relationships, and may only be beneficial to gain a certain skill or learn a new tool. If one were to desire a more long term relationship, mentoring could come into play.
When contrasting coaching versus mentoring, author Bill Hull wrote, “While coaching focuses on skills and equipping, mentoring helps others make sense of their lives. More specifically, spiritual mentoring helps an individual gain awareness of his personhood as he lives under God.” Through the process of mentoring, believers, whether new believers or long time believers, gain a better understanding of their identity in Christ. Mentoring occurs on a deeper level than coaching, it digs deep down to a person’s heart level, stirring and causing a transformation of soul. It is through this transformation a person is putting to death their old self while learning to walk in their new self with Christ. If an individual is new to the faith, this is incredibly valuable in helping them shape their understanding of their view of self under the reign and sovereign power of God.
In the the American culture today, independence is viewed as an achievement, a way of displaying a type of success, an “I can do it all” mentality. Scripture calls followers of Christ to live another way, opposite of how the world teaches people to live today. In Paul’s letter to the Philippians he writes, “I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” In this passage, Paul chooses to use the word “partnership”, which can be translated to “fellowship” or “joint participation”. In this letter, Paul confesses that it is first by the power of God, along with the participation of the believers in Philippi, that the Lord is working in and through him. The Lord is working through others to help shape believers and transform them into Christ’s image. This is an active participation; it’s participation through vulnerability and a movement towards others, pointing out the ways in which you see Christ working in their lives, as well as sharing the ways in which one can grow to be more like Christ.
Disciples of Christ are not to live this life alone. It is through relationships with others that sin is revealed and accountability to growth can be held. The writer of Hebrews said, “See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.” Disciples need one another to not only sharpen them but also to remind them of the truth of the gospel. Sin can blind believers and take a heavy toll on a believer’s heart and mind. The writer of Hebrews is reminding followers of Christ that it is imperative to meet with other believers, encouraging them in the truth of God’s Word to prevent the hardening of hearts.
You may be asking, how do we see these frameworks playing out at Hope? Well, good question! When thinking about one on one relationships, Hope offers several avenues through Women’s Mentoring, Men’s Coaching, one on one meetings with a Restoring Hope volunteer. In regards to Community Discipleship, a Hope attender could join a small group, participate in LDI Off Road or an Education Hour. If you’re a student, you could get involved with Hope on Campus or if you’re a mom, you could attend Mom’s Group.
Believers are meant to be in relationship with one another, God created us to long for community, to desire it as we journey through life. Followers of Christ need one another to help point them to the truth, encourage them in their identity, challenge them in their sin as well as be the tangible hands and feet of God while we live this life, eagerly awaiting our Savior to return.
Hull, Bill. The Complete Book of Discipleship: On Being and Making Followers of Christ. NavPress, 2006. P. 214
Dryer, John, and Michael Johnson. “Browser Bible (3.0).” Bible Study App – Greek, Hebrew, Maps, Search, biblewebapp.com/study/
Geiger, Eric, et al. Transformational Discipleship: How People Really Grow. B&H Publishing Group, 2012. P. 162