EP 213 – Developing a Discipleship Pathway
Bob has officially passed the Associate Director torch to JimBo.
On this weeks episode of the BootCamp we are discussing some things to consider when developing a discipleship pathway.
Things to consider
The Goal of Discipleship:
- Spiritual Transformation
- In the context of community
- Confidentiality cultivates a community where we can be honest
- Through accountability
- The Tasks of discipleship
- Scripture is consumed in context and in community
- Sin is confessed in mutual accountability
- Skills are developed
- Souls are prayed for
Lost art of making disciples-Leroy Eims
Master’s plan for evangelism-Robert Coleman
Dangerous Calling-Paul Trip
JimBo Stewart: [00:00:00] Here we are back at the boot camp, back at it again. Bob, I hope you’re ready for the next episode as we continue on moving to the train. this would be the first one we’re recording. Where we are no longer co associate directors.
Bob Bickford: Jimbo, you have received the baton, and I’m glad to report to the replant world that you have firmly grasped it, and there is no droppage, that if this is the, if I’m the third leg around the track on the 400 meters, I’ve just handed it to you, Jimbo, and you are just a little bit out of that starting line, and I just want to report, I think the baton is firmly in your hands.
JimBo Stewart: Well, you know, I was using a similar analogy as I was explaining to somebody. You really helped, set me up for success. I feel like you, ran your leg of that marathon, somewhat through, like, what’s the name of the swamp in, uh, in Princess Bride where they, they’re running through [00:01:00] in
Bob Bickford: Jimbo, that is the fire swamp, and they have R O U S’s, and those are rodents of unusual size.
JimBo Stewart: that’s right. That’s what it was. I feel like you, like, ran through that and then you’ve handed me the baton, like, on level ground on the other side of that, so,
Bob Bickford: That’s a good analogy. That’s one of my favorite movies. And I think my wife kind of is in the same ballpark. No, she’s not only in the same ballpark. She is in the same ballpark as Buttercup. maybe that makes me Wesley or, or the Dread Pirate Roberts.
JimBo Stewart: As you wish. As you wish. Alright, well, hey, we posted when we were in Oklahoma and you were wearing a beautiful purple and gold… pajama top, the social medias and asked, Hey, what are some things you’d like to hear us discuss? One of the responses, that we got was, was actually from one of our, [00:02:00] blog writers, Erin Cofield, who does an excellent job in writing that.
And she had asked, uh, actually something from her husband. So I don’t know why we’ll have to see, like, why is it that, That she felt the need to write it, and he didn’t write it, like, why did, why did Will not jump in and write this, and, and just her, but she wrote, Will Cofield suggested addressing the topic of discipleship programs and pathways.
If you’ve never had a discipleship program and you weren’t discipled yourself, it can be hard to come up with a discipleship program from scratch. What are some resources that you guys have used for either dGroups, one on one discipleship, or other variations of discipleship programs? Are there practical tips, advice you can give on this subject?
Bob Bickford: That’s a great question. Two great questions there, Jimbo. The first is why didn’t Will write in himself?
JimBo Stewart: Yeah.
Bob Bickford: Maybe he’s [00:03:00] delegating, maybe, Maybe he’s discipling Aaron in question asking, and wants to delegate that and she can fulfill that responsibility. Or he figured since she’s part of the bootcamp team, who better to ask the bootcamp guys a question.
So, maybe we’ll hear from both of them, as to understand, you know, which is, which is true, but I love the idea of distinguishing it in two ways. And you set this up in, in asking that question programs. And pathways. That’s really key to understand Jimbo, because I think most of the time when I was in church as a learner, as a, not that I’m not learning now still, but in my, my more formative years in the early formative years, I always thought about discipleship as a program.
And then once I became a staff person, I thought about it as pathways. So I think you probably have to have both.
JimBo Stewart: Yeah. Yeah. I think you institutionalized a little bit. We referenced that in a [00:04:00] previous, this, this is a good follow up to last week’s podcast about discipleship and without overworking the pastor. and you know, we had referenced there some things that can help you think through that. but. Going from this and diving a little deeper, I think, I think you need to have systems, and programs that help you.
I don’t think you need to be reliant entirely on programs and systems. There has to be, one of the things we talked about last week, customization, and you’ve got to be ready and willing to customize to a degree. when it comes to discipleship. And so, I want to start out a little bit broad and just talk about, what are some kind of goals?
Some things to think through, as you are putting together a discipleship pathway or program. So one, let me just say, I think it’s super important to do this, because chances are you don’t actually communicate in such a way that your people know very clearly what they’re supposed to do. and if we don’t communicate it clearly and set some expectations, then I was reading.
In my devotional, one of my devotionals this [00:05:00] morning, New Morning Mercies by Paul Tripp, and there’s this quote that stood out from it. It said, Most pastors would be thrilled if the vast majority of their people were every Sunday attendees and committed to financially supporting the work of the churches, but all this sadly falls far below God’s wise design for his church.
And If we don’t communicate the necessity of spiritual transformation and a clear pathway for people to walk, to know how to grow in discipleship, then, then the apex of their commitment is coming, you know, at least three out of four Sundays a month and given a little bit financially and they feel like they’re done.
And if we allow that, and if we just celebrate that, then we’re, we’re propagating that idea of. As far as we’re really wanting you to go is show up as often as you can and make sure you put some money on the plate. So I think it’s important. We have to communicate this. And [00:06:00] then what do we think about when we’re thinking about our discipleship pathways?
Some of the goals of discipleship, obviously the main goal of discipleship is spiritual transformation to the point that we look like, talk like, walk like, smell like Jesus, right? That’s, that’s the goal. So how do we do that? I think, I think one, we do it in the context of community. we can’t do that alone.
Bob Bickford: no, you mean all the one another’s in scripture, right Necessitate that we we live in community I mean you think about the the passage in Hebrews that talks about not forsaking the gather gathering together And the context of that is so we that we can spur one another on towards love and good deeds So the reality is we’ve turned our gatherings into, uh, in many cases, something that calls us to be consumers or spectators, right?
Not participants. And so in some ways we’ve lost that. Now, I do want to go back to touch a touch point here in Baptist history for us specifically in our, our tribe of churches [00:07:00] with Sunday school and with discipleship training and things called training union and All of these sorts of things that were designed to deliver content in the context of smaller communities.
They were not, or they were not organic communities in the sense that they formed the relationship. They were structured based on stage of life. So there’s something that was good about that, but also something that was, was probably, not completely 100% biblical because you see multi-generational community.
In the scriptures. I think what we’ve seen Jimbo is that that you’re you’re you’re stressing in a point important point. I can’t talk today. Jimbo. You’re stressing an important point and that is this. We have to have a way to participate in one another’s lives where we get past the small talk and we talk about what’s really happening in our life and where we are at with the Lord.
What are our joys? What are our sorrows? What are our struggles? And then Jimbo. One of the most important [00:08:00] confes one of the most important, uh, one another’s is confess your sins to one another and pray for one another that you might be healed. So, discipleship really, Jimbo, is about spiritual maturity, but a key part of spiritual maturity is sanctification, right?
Progressively becoming more like Jesus, which involves us saying no to sin, being warned and rebuked and reproved by people who love us enough. And see enough of our life to say, Hey man, what I’m seeing in you and then what I see in the scriptures, there’s a little bit of a disconnect. Why don’t we have a conversation about it?
That’s where big discipleship moments take place.
JimBo Stewart: Yeah, and that’s, I really appreciate how you qualified when we talk about community. Because I think some of the errors that we make in discipleship is, we are either all about content or what we call fellowship. Or, you know, we’ll call it community. So content in the sense of like, we’ll call it discipleship if you go to your Sunday school class and a guy lectures for 45 minutes.
And he doesn’t facilitate any [00:09:00] real discussion. what we get in the sermon. And so we’re just repeating that same kind of learning style there, but the community aspect requires a vulnerability and, of confession of sin so that we can move away from that sin. and I think one of the things we need to acknowledge, Bob, is social vulnerability and deep, intimate community.
have become harder since COVID and moving forward, it seems like we’re moving away from that. Like as a society, we, we took this moment in history where we isolated and it has changed how we view interaction with others and where people as a whole seem more socially anxious. And less vulnerable in person with each other than they were before.
And so I think, I think this is one of those we’re going to have to work hard towards and make sure that fellowship is [00:10:00] not just talking about the surface things, sports and the weather and the first three to eight minutes of our podcast, right? It where. Talk about random stuff. I think that’s how a lot of our conversations go in life and then they never go beyond that.
They never go deeper than that. And so there’s, but that requires some confidentiality. Like we can’t get to that point until we know, Hey, what I share in here is going to stay in here. which is why I don’t think Sunday morning, Sunday school, and larger home groups of, you know, 15, 20 people is, is enough for people’s discipleship because chances are they’re, you’re not going to get super vulnerable in there with the things that you really need to bring to your community and have them help you with.
Bob Bickford: 1000%. And, and so I think you have to look at, a holistic discipleship model that part of it is information and [00:11:00] understanding and biblical teaching. And then we always get to the application, right? I think you, you talk about in preaching. What’s the so what? All right. So we know all these things like what’s the so what?
Well in our life, too This is what Jesus said. This is what God’s Word says So what so I think let me add another C word if I can in there How about commitment like commitment to be in relationship with one another when it gets hard when we disagree? And when we’re struggling each of us to to follow Jesus And what I have seen Jimbo is that, when I have been in a pastor’s position and made a commitment to walk with somebody through a difficult season in their life, it lasts way more than one conversation.
Typically the degree of difficulty in their life, if it’s If it’s a significant, deep, deep rooted, pattern or [00:12:00] perspective or something, they didn’t get that way overnight and they’re not going to get better overnight. It’s going to be the constant application of the gospel and surrender to the work of the Lord.
That’s going to help them move forward. And so you’ve got to be committed because I, I often found myself wanting to do the three strikes roll out of Titus 10, three, 10, you know, one device, a person wants twice and after a third time having nothing to do with them. Right? So it’s like, Like our ability to hang in with people for a long period of time is really hindered.
And so I even think this is true about, you know, you talked about COVID, but I would talk about the current cultural posture towards cancel culture as well.
JimBo Stewart: Yeah.
Bob Bickford: We’re afraid, we’re afraid to be vulnerable with one another because what we believe about certain things, and in our perspective on certain things that requires vulnerability.
And what cultures has shown us is we can’t disagree. There’s, there’s a certain set of things that we cannot. Disagree on and we therefore can’t have conversations on that. And so a couple weeks ago we talked about how do you pastor your church in a political season? I think the [00:13:00] same thing is true here because there were hot sports opinions about covid certainly about politics and it is just, there’s a lot going on.
JimBo Stewart: Yeah, I think, I think you’re exactly right. The cultural moment that we’re in makes so much of this so challenging, but it’s why it also makes it so important and shows that Christianity has something to offer that The large majority of the rest of the world does not, in this sense of biblical community as we work together.
So as you’re thinking through discipleship, you gotta think through it in the context of community. Community that is safe and vulnerable, confidential, there is commitment, and so that there’s some level of accountability. And I think some tasks, some things, whatever program, whatever pathway.
And towards the end, Bob, we’ll talk about some things. Maybe we recommend some resources, but I just, I think filters that you think through on as you’re building something or choosing something to help guide your, your program or your pathway. one, I think it’s gotta, scripture’s gotta be consumed. It has to be [00:14:00] scripture centered.
I don’t think. It is best for the primary source. of information in a discipleship process to be written by something that’s not the Bible. I, I think, I think primarily the, the content we’re taking in now, I think it’s helpful to bring in You know, a bible study that helps us study God’s word or bible study helps that help us commentaries or Uh or books that point us to scriptural principles Or even i’m even fine going through a book together That’s not the bible as long as the primary content the the primary intake is scripture
Bob Bickford: yeah, I’m just thinking through that Jimbo and most of my discipleship groups and strategies were focused on content books that we read and you know, Studies that we go through and all that like I think of probably the one of the most [00:15:00] formative ones was experiencing God And I went through that with which I was in my you know Early 20s and these guys were in their late 30s and early 40s and and the perspectives was great But in it, but it wasn’t just verse by verse through chapter, right?
So, um, I’ll 100 percent agree with you there I think one of the things, if we’re thinking about how do we disciple someone, the Christian businessmen’s commission or something, I can’t remember exactly, CBC, their basic path of discipleship was meet with a guy, ask him a four, you know, three or four questions up front, then open God’s word and, read through it together, right.
And what is, and just talk about what it says, right? Now, with something in a particular area of his life, say marriage or family or something else. then hopefully the person who’s entering that discipleship with them can topically go to a section of scripture and then what I like to call topogetical teaching is, you know, it’s not just [00:16:00] topics, but it’s just, let’s.
talk about marriage. All right. Well here, let’s look throughout scripture What does scripture speak about marriage right and let’s go through that as a as an entirety to extract the truth from there So I 100 percent agree with you scripture. It’s got to be the source because it’s our best. It’s a meets God’s Word It’s the highest authority and we need to understand what it says and we need to know how to to read it
JimBo Stewart: Yeah, and I think studies like Experiencing God are great, can be great launching points as long as we’re launching into scripture and we’re not just dependent on that Bible study, but it’s taking us through a journey. and we’re, we’re spending some time in the word. So one, I think you got to make sure content is primarily focused on scripture.
and then sin is confessed with a mutual accountability. We’ve talked about that. I would think another thing is I think skills are developed. And when I say skills, I mean, skills, like how to find. Answers to your questions in the word of God, like [00:17:00] spiritual disciplines. how do we help people develop the spiritual disciplines that will help cultivate their transformation when they’re not sitting in the room with us?
Right. Sitting in the room with us is good and it’s helpful, but really for it to be sustainable. you, there’s gotta be some self leadership. in the sense of spiritual disciplines in our lives. And so part of it, I think, is not just content and not just community, but how are we cultivating skills and spiritual disciplines in people’s lives.
Bob Bickford: Yeah, there’s and there’s hard skills and soft skills like hard skills are running the sound system charting the finances. You’re not going to find all that in the scriptures, but the soft skills about leading groups of people leading in prayer, leading in, in public ministry, you know, reading the scriptures from the, the front, those sorts of things.
I think, those are all good things. Discipling, [00:18:00] leading a community group, leading a team of leaders as a deacon, all of those sorts of things, meeting needs. Those are skills that need to be developed. And I think sometimes what we do is. we identify someone with a willingness to do something and then we toss them in and hope they learn how to swim in the deep end.
JimBo Stewart: hmm.
Bob Bickford: And particularly that can work for the most part if, the environment does not, actively engage a lot of people, is not some public sort of thing. But, when we’re, are asking people to develop skills and to lead people and to serve other people, I think we’re going to have to, to bring them along and develop them in that because I think we’ve all, Witnessed when somebody who has the willingness, they don’t just don’t have the skill or the capacity yet.
It doesn’t say they won’t get it, but they don’t have it yet. And then it’s discouraging to them and it’s discouraging to people. And then oftentimes what happens is it shuts down the discipleship process holistically for the whole church. Like, well, we tried that that didn’t work.
JimBo Stewart: Mm hmm. Yeah, and so, uh, I think some of that leadership development [00:19:00]stuff is good, but even just, I mean, how to pray, how to pray the Psalms, how to read your Bible, I mean, those types of things, and we need to model that, not just teach it, we need to model, the life of a Christ follower, so they can see it in our lives as, as we’re being transformed and we’re discipling each other, in this.
So… Those are some basic guidelines, I think, to filter as you’re thinking through it. we’ve, so Bob, let’s just here with the last couple of minutes that we have talk about resources. now don’t, you don’t need all these resources, but some things to think through, as far as if you want to dive deeper into how to do this.
So I’m going to start off with one that’s a little out of left field. but I was thinking about the content for this podcast. One of the things I’ve thought about is I’ve had this conversation a lot. It seems over the last couple of years with guys who are in their demon and they are doing a demon project on [00:20:00] creating a discipleship pathway for their church, right?
So here’s, I’d say is find some of those demons. I mean, some guys have done some pretty deep work, and, and really thought through some of those things. And so as you find some of that, that’s a great. You know, kind of nerdy academic resource you can dive into, that will, will show you a lot of resources and ways the guys have thought through this, and it’s going to be some good, helpful stuff.
some others that we have mentioned on here before, I’ve mentioned several times, Daniel M’s no silver bullets, is a resource that I think could really, help you think through the kind of high level leading the church in a program and culture way, how to create a culture of disciple making.
favorite books that really challenged me on the idea of making sure that we’re word centered in what we do is Neil Cole’s cultivating a life for God. [00:21:00] you know, he, he’s very big in like a cell, cell kind of model, but he just has some really good arguments for the importance of scripture intake. and that, that being what guides us more than anything else.
I got some more, but Bob, what are some resources that you think of, It could be helpful for somebody trying to think through how to implement programs and pathways.
Bob Bickford: Sure. here’s a couple of really old books and these were old when I was young. So, these are really old. But you should find, uh, if you are in a replant or church revitalization. Just go to the church library and these will probably be in here in there. The first one is called the lost art of making disciples by Leroy Imes.
Um, that just, a short book that just talks about, okay, well, how, how do you do it? Like, so it gives you kind of pathways and principles and that sort of thing. here’s another one, the master’s plan for evangelism by Robert Coleman. That’s another short book. a great little book. I think it has a pink cover with a green world on it, if I’m not mistaken, at least the one I have.[00:22:00]
And then, um, let me, let me fast forward into kind of the modern era. If you have some guys that are considering ministry, I recommend, getting Paul trips book called, uh, dangerous calling and walking through that because it really, it talks about the call of God on your life and the, the, uh, solemnity with which you, you should, uh, consider it.
And, uh, and so I would recommend those three.
JimBo Stewart: Yeah, I think those are great. I think really anything that can help. With some of the things we’ve talked about, how do we cultivate a hunger for the word of God? How do we pursue spiritual transformation? How do we grow in our spiritual disciplines? I’ll often use if somebody is wanting to grow in their prayer life, Praying the Bible by Donald Whitney.
if, if you are looking for a modern step by step guide, then Robbie Gallaty’s stuff, uh, Growing Up, kind of sets up some things that are a good reproducible model. it’s, it’s a little. heavy on details. I like something a little more organic, [00:23:00] personally. but then I think, you know, like we talked about last week, it can be as simple as get to know them, figure out their learning style, figure out, you know, ask the Lord to lead you in.
What are some things? Let it be word centered. What are some things they need to dive into first? You know, do they need to understand just the basics, right? And let’s go through a gospel together. Let’s just read a couple of chapters a week and let’s discuss it and, and let that kind of shape where we go from there.
And I think you can customize and one on ones like that. and then I, I think there’s also something to do. Something to be said about groups of three to five where you dive into something together, even if it’s just for a season. It doesn’t have to be a forever thing.
Bob Bickford: Yeah, you need, you need more than just two people. Uh, the third is having a third or fourth is good for a couple reasons. One is somebody’s not, you know, somebody’s going to miss, right? So you need, uh, you need a little more than, than, uh, you know, just the two of you and then. the difference in [00:24:00] perspectives that you have is, is really helpful, right?
And typically, people see things from a different vantage point or they have different struggles and strengths. And so that’s going to help iron, sharpen iron in a discipleship conversation. One book I forgot to add that I’ll put in there is Donald Whitney’s spiritual disciplines for the Christian life.
It’s just a real basic primer for a host of spiritual disciplines, worship, prayer, scripture, reading Sabbath and rest, et cetera. And, uh, and so it’s, uh, it’s a great book. And, uh, Don, Donald Whitney was one of my profs at Midwestern a long time ago. And, uh, he gave us that book as part of our assignment for class.
And it was a fantastic book.
JimBo Stewart: Yeah, I would add one more and then we’ll come to a close. We’ve mentioned it on here before, I believe. If you want to kind of dive into the, you want to get real nerdy and dive into the brain science of how spiritual transformation happens. The other half of church. is a, is a great book on kind of the ingredients of character [00:25:00] development and transformation and how that applies to the local church and ways to think through how do we, you know, how do we have those ingredients of, see if I can remember them, Chesed, love, joy, group identity.
and healthy correction. Those were the ingredients that they talk about in the other half of church and how to think through those and make sure that’s a part of what you’re doing in your program or your pathway.
Bob Bickford: Yeah. Good stuff.