A Practical Tool for Discipling Others
Last week, we suggested discipling people through a Gospel. This week’s a practical example of putting Jesus’ teaching into practice using The Discipleship Gospel Workbook; it comes from how our discipleship groups study Mark 5. In this chapter of the Gospel, Jesus takes his disciples to “the other side” (Mark 4:35; 5:1; 5:2). For Jesus’ Jewish disciples—who did everything they could to stay ritually “clean,” according to the Old Testament Law—“the other side” was dripping with “uncleanness;” it was unclean Gentile territory with unclean Gentile men, unclean spirits, unclean tombs, and unclean pigs. It just didn’t get more unclean than that! It was the last place the disciples would’ve normally wanted to go, but they went because they were following Jesus.
After reading about “the other side” in Mark 5, we prompt our discipleship groups to talk about where “the other side” of our city is. Wherever we decide it is, we go there to serve others in Jesus’ name. It’s often Soledad Street in Salinas, California. Soledad Street is well known for drugs, gangs, homelessness, and prostitution. After “the other side” experience, our discipleship groups have learned a critical lesson: discipleship isn’t just about reading Jesus’ words and actions, it’s also about putting them into practice (Jam. 1:22). By taking action, we learn to obey. The most transformative discipleship experiences are not knowledge-based, but obedience-based.
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Mark’s Gospel is sixteen chapters long, which means our discipleship groups meet for at least sixteen weeks or four months. Four months, though, ends up being more like six months once you’ve coordinated three or four peoples’ schedules. We meet for at least an hour and half, often using the first twenty minutes to ask each other one of our four discipleship questions, fifty minutes to study a chapter of Mark’s Gospel, and twenty minutes to plan our “putting it into practice project” before our next training.
We designed The Discipleship Gospel Workbook to be a boot camp-like experience that helps disciples learn the basics of following Jesus, or “the elementary doctrine of Christ,” as the writer of Hebrews calls them (Heb. 6:1). As such, we understand that going through Mark’s Gospel like this is a training experience like what the Apostle Paul writes about three times in just three verses in his first letter to his young protégé Timothy. He writes:
If you put these things before the brothers, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, being trained in the words of faith and of the good doctrine that you have followed. Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. —1 Timothy 4:6-8 (emphasis ours)
As a church, we view this initial discipleship experience as a first step in fulfilling our calling to “equip the saints for the work of the ministry” (Eph. 4:12).
One “elementary doctrine” that Mark’s Gospel trains us in is the gospel itself. This being the case, our workbook curriculum is evangelistic. It teaches people what the gospel is and calls them to believe in it—to repent, believe, and follow Jesus. As such, we’ve used it with unbelievers, new believers, and undiscipled believers as a foundational experience for following Jesus. We will investigate other evangelistic aspects of discipleship in greater detail next week o the blog.