Understanding the Multiple Levels of Maturity Becoming a Follower of Jesus - Session January 2013

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1 Understanding the Multiple Levels of Maturity Becoming a Follower of Jesus - Session January 2013 Introduction: Welcome to our journey together in becoming a follower of Jesus. Thank you SO MUCH for considering these 13 weeks of the Following Jesus experience. Many Christians want to enjoy a fruitful, victorious Christian life. They want and need better spiritual disciplines. They have a desire to spiritually grow. If you want to grow in your faith and walk with Jesus, these weeks are designed with you in mind. We have begun praying that God would hand-select the people He wants to participate. Thank you for praying and considering being one of these handselected people who follows Jesus down a new path of spiritual growth. Exercise 1: Getting to Know You On the table are sheets of two name tags each. Each person at the table is to take one of the sheets of name tags. On the first name tag, write your first name. Put the name tag on your left shoulder. On the second name tag, put your nickname or a nickname from your past. (If you have never had a nickname, put one you would have liked to have.) Put the second name tag under the first one. When instructed, find at least three people in the room you do not know well. Introduce yourself and tell the story about how you were given your nickname. Key Memory Verse: John 15:8 This is to my Father s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. Objective: This Coming Week s Reading: Matthew 4-6; Proverbs The purpose of this lesson is to more fully introduce the process of disciple-making, overview the 8 different levels of Christians we work with in the church and encourage a commitment to passionately follow Jesus wherever we are currently at in our spiritual journey. Key Definitions or Concepts: 1. There are several levels in the process of following Jesus. As we follow Him, we grow in our Christian life in our commitment, maturity and disciple-making. Jesus gave each of us the mission to go and make disciples (Matthew 28:19). This is not a hard duty we struggle to fulfill. This is simply the result of everyone within the church, following Jesus. We have and should always have baby Christians and spiritually maturing saints. The Bible talks about children, young men and fathers in the faith (1 John 2:12-14), noting there are various levels of maturity within the church. There are those who

2 merely believe in Jesus and those who will die for Him. People s obedience and commitment levels are different. 2. In this session, we want to make a beginning attempt to identify the various levels we will lead our people through on their journey from sinners being converted, to believers being Spirit-filled to all growing in Christlikeness. We will only achieve our mission if we understand the entire process clearly. Where are you in the process of following Jesus? Each of us must identify our current location on the spiritual growth journey. Wherever you find yourself today, remember it is God s will that you keep growing. We pray, we grow and we serve. We never stop as we lead the church to demonstrate God s love through worship, fellowship and service so that sinners are converted, believers are Spirit-filled and all grow in Christlikeness. This is the entire process of disciple-making. To insure we achieve the mission of Jesus, we must develop a clear plan to Follow Jesus. We are beginning to do this as a church. The Master s Plan for Disciple-Making is what we call the entire process. 1. UNBELIEVER We pray and we serve to reach the unbelievers that Jesus puts in our path. He said, Come, follow me and I will make you fishers of men (Matthew 4:19). We don t have to worry about finding these people. We will meet them naturally. They are relatives, friends, neighbors, co-workers, etc. In our churches, we plan to regularly pray for people who are unbelievers, using our Prayer of Three cards. Every quarter following diligent prayer, we create an opportunity to invite them to church. We pray, plan and expect a supernatural touch from God on their lives. 2. UNCOMMITTED PROFESSING CHRISTIAN Because America is a Christian nation, there are thousands of people who claim to be Christian, but are not living a Christian life. We pray and serve this group of people as well. We do not criticize or judge them. We cooperate with the Holy Spirit and every week try to create a spiritual environment where uncommitted, professing Christians can begin a commitment to pray, grow and serve. Jesus talked about this group in the Sermon on the Mount when He said, Not everyone who says to me, Lord, Lord will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father in heaven (Matthew 7:21). 3. BELIEVER These are people who believe in Jesus. They have been saved, born again and they are a child of God. They have put their faith in Christ and have prayed a prayer of repentance. For a variety of reasons, they don t really understand or know what it means to follow Jesus. They are basically unaware of God s ways and may know only a little of God s Word or what God expects of them. They need the milk of the Word (1 Peter 2:2). They need worship, fellowship and service to help them begin to grow. Some believers have old-lifestyle habits and friends that make a tasty meal for Satan, the roaring lion (1 Peter 5:8). They may still have various sins and vices that

3 continue to plague them. They need to be baptized and lovingly mentored and discipled to take the next step in their life with Christ. Some of them have been in the church for several years and while they are technically a Christian, they may not be living the true definition of a Christian, which is one who bears (or carries) Christ, one who resembles Christ. We are not content until we achieve the Bible s clear directive to grow in Christlikeness (Romans 8:29). That is why we must help every believer to pray, to grow and to serve. This is why every believer needs involvement in a Life Group and a Ministry Group. We don t want them to be like the believers in Jesus day who believed but were afraid to identify too much with Jesus and His cause (John 12:42-43). 4. FOLLOWER OF JESUS The first discipleship step is to become a believer in Jesus, to put our faith in Him, just like the disciples of Jesus did. They believed and then they simply began to follow (John 1:37). They brought their relatives and friends to meet Jesus (John 1:38-46). It was later, from this large group of followers that Jesus would choose twelve (Luke 6:12-15). But they were first believers and then they became followers. What is a follower of Jesus? These are believers who have truly decided to follow Jesus. They are learning more about Jesus. They are learning to spiritually feed themselves. Their life values begin to change. They want to become more like Jesus. Their priorities and time commitments to the things of God begin to change. They are becoming more committed to their Life Group and Ministry Group. They have begun to pray, to grow and to serve. They are caring about unbelievers more. They are learning to pray for lost people and to fast. They have begun to tithe and put God first in their finances. They are sensing there is something more to being a Christian, to following Jesus and they are hungering to be more like Him. Their sins and inner sinfulness starts to bother them more. They want God to truly sanctify and cleanse them of everything that is spiritually harmful (2 Corinthians 7:1). They start to hunger for God s power and His Holy Spirit so they can do the works Jesus did (John 14:12). 5. SANCTIFIED CHRISTIANS These are followers of Jesus who are truly concerned about becoming like Jesus in all areas of their lives. They are sanctified by the Spirit of God. At a moment of time in their lives, they have surrendered their entire lives to Jesus and asked Him to baptize them with the Holy Spirit. Their hearts were filled that day with His fresh anointing and love. However, for the sanctified Christian to keep growing, they must regularly keep being filled with the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 5:18). They know they can t continue on as a disciple of Jesus without daily being in the presence of Jesus and regularly drenched with a fresh baptism of God s Spirit. The simple progression that seemed to happen in the lives of the disciples of Jesus and those that have followed within the church: unbeliever believer follower -- then sanctified Christian at Pentecost! Jesus knew His followers could never fulfill the Great Commission He gave them to go and make disciples without the power of the Holy Spirit. That is why on Resurrection night he breathed on them and said, Receive the Holy Spirit (John 20:21-22). The Bible calls this definite act of grace on God s part to be sanctified entirely. That is, set apart for God s special service, cleansed, made holy like Jesus, and empowered by His awesome Spirit. This is what God did to the original 12 disciples

4 of Jesus. This is what He wants to do for all of us. However this is not the end of discipleship. It is near the beginning. 6. DISCIPLE A disciple, by definition, is a disciplined learner of someone else. A disciple is someone who sits at the feet of a master or teacher (called a rabbi in Jesus day) and who wants to learn everything he can from the teacher, and indeed, it is the fervent desire of the disciple to become just like his teacher or mentor, in every way including: knowledge, wisdom, skills, style and personality. From those who had believed in Him and had become His followers Jesus prayerfully chose a few who would be His disciples. These would, in effect, leave everything behind and follow hard after Jesus. They would spend every day and night with Him for almost 3 years. They would eat with Him, sleep near Him, talk to Him, listen to Him, participate in His work, do whatever He told them to do, observe Him, question Him, and model their lives and ministries after Him. They were disciplined learners in that they were committed and disciplined in applying themselves to what He was trying to teach them. To be disciplined means that we have to say no to a lot of good things to go after something that we think is a whole lot better. These disciples were also disciplined in the sense that Jesus often had to discipline them in the form of verbal rebukes, correction and admonishments. A disciple doesn t enjoy the discipline or correction of his or her teacher but they recognize that they need it and they are ultimately very grateful that their teacher loved them enough to discipline them when needed (Hebrews 12:5-11). The disciples really felt the love and the loving discipline of Jesus. A true disciple submits with joy to this and wants to become like their teacher, just as Jesus taught (Luke 6:40). Disciples are people who are beginning to live out the implications and commands of a number of verses in the Bible, including the following: John 13:34-35 A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. John 15:8 This is to my Father s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. John 8:31 To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Luke 14:26-27, 33 If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters yes, even their own life such a person cannot be my disciple. 27 And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. 33 In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples. It is clear that not every believer or follower of Jesus is a true disciple. That was not the case in Jesus day and it is not the case today. Not everyone in our church is even a believer, or a real follower of Jesus. Not everyone who worships with us on a Sunday morning is a disciple of Jesus, that is, a disciplined learner of Jesus who really wants to become like Him. However, while this is an accurate observation of reality, this is certainly not where Jesus wants our church to be. His desire is that every believer become a follower and every follower become a disciple! Jesus wants you, invites you, to make the decision to become a disciple of His.

5 As we recall Jesus last command (Matthew 28:19) we are not commanded to go and make converts, believers, church-goers or even followers of Jesus we are commanded to make disciples. Only when we are disciples of Jesus ourselves and follow Jesus fully (Matt 4:19), can we make disciples of Jesus. In the disciplemaking process, we can teach what we know but we only reproduce what we are. Like begets like. This call to make disciples from our Lord Jesus that we first become disciples of our Jesus ourselves. This is what we are about and it is exciting. Disciples want more and more to be like Jesus. Becoming like Jesus becomes their deepest passion. They hunger to be cleansed of all impurity and uncleanness. They want to be sanctified by the Spirit of Jesus and continually filled with His power, purity, love and wisdom. They want to live like Jesus, think like Jesus, love like Jesus, listen like Jesus, speak like Jesus and react like Jesus. They know that they need more of Jesus to do this. They hunger and thirst for righteousness. They want more It was after the 12 of Jesus had become believers, followers and disciples that God sanctified them on the day of Pentecost by sending His anointing on them and baptized them with the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:4-5; 2:1-4). 7. DISCIPLE MAKER Remember, this is the original assignment from Jesus that we become people who truly make disciples, not of ourselves, but of Jesus. God has called every single believer to become a follower of Jesus, a sanctified disciple of Jesus and a maker of disciples of Jesus. This is God s goal and will for each Christian. It is God s will for you and for me. We are just now beginning the process as a church where we are developing The Master s Plan. It is a plan designed to take a brand new believer in Jesus and in about a year s time, move them to the point where they are becoming Disciple- Makers of Jesus. Disciple Makers are very focused and intentional about their lives. These are the fathers and, by implication, mothers in Christ that John addresses in I John 2: These are the ones who are becoming the spiritual parents of brand new infant Christians. In the disciple-making process, these are people who have progressed through the various learning stages and have become Life Group Leaders. They have opened their own Life Group and they are spiritually coaching the people in their little open, evangelistic group that does life together. They are feeding others and encouraging others in their faith. They delight in serving others. They are shepherding (in the Bible, this is the same word as pastoring) the few people who are in their Life Group. As they grow, they intentionally begin doing what Jesus did. They begin praying about selecting and developing a group of disciple-makers. 8. DISCIPLE MAKING LEADER Beyond Life Group Leaders, these maturing leaders have been through all of the above levels of discipling and now they are intentionally discipling Disciple Makers. They are feeding and shepherding or pastoring Disciple Makers. These are the grandparents in Christ. Their spiritual children are now beginning to have spiritual children of their own. How exciting! They are a Life Group Leader. They attend a closed Leader s Group of 12 where they receive on-going, continuous, care, love, prayer, encouragement and coaching. Now they have opened their own Leader s Group of new Life Group Leaders. God is giving each of these key leaders their own group of 12 one by one, over time.

6 Someday, with God s help, there will hopefully be 12 Disciple Makers in his/her closed Leader s Group. If every person in this group of 12 leaders develops a Life Group of 12, someday there will be 144 precious people who are all being intentionally led under the care and shepherding of this Disciple-Making Leader. It is God s Will that we grow and multiply His church. Think of it! This could be God s Will for you if you dare to believe that God can do impossible work in you and through you as He is doing in and through others. Zech 4:6 says, Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the LORD Almighty. EXERCISE 2: Select a group facilitator for tonight: the person at your table attending your church the most number of years. Role of a group facilitator is to: keep the conversation moving around the group assure everyone in the group has the opportunity to participate in the conversation not talk more than the group participants Role of group participants is: assure everyone has the opportunity to participate by monitoring their own talk time (the Holy Spirit speaks to every person in the group; be aware there may be someone He is speaking to and He wants you to hear what they have to say) bring themselves fully to the conversation be attentive to and supportive of participants comments not be judgmental of anyone s contributions be open to sharing your thoughts and feelings (it may be exactly what the Holy Spirit wants others to hear) Questions For Sharing Reflect on the 8 levels in the spiritual growth journey (unbeliever, uncommitted confessing Christian, believer, follower of Jesus, sanctified Christian, disciple, disciple maker, and disciple making leader). 1. At what spiritual growth level do you place yourself? With that placement in mind, read the next level in the spiritual growth journey. Think about what you need to go to the next level. (If you place yourself at the level of a disciple making leader, think about what you need to strengthen your leadership.) Share your thoughts with your group. 2. Think about the role of life group leader. As we began our Following Jesus training in the Fall Semester, we learned to Follow Jesus means to not put constraints on the leadership of the Holy Spirit in our lives (such as, I will never... ). As you keep an open mind to the possibility of becoming a life group leader, consider the following: What is scary about it? What is inviting about it?

7 3. Think about the characteristics of a good group facilitator. Together, develop a list of the top 5 things that make a group facilitator good. Have someone write down the list and turn it in at the end of our time together. PRAYER IN YOUR GROUP

8 The Commitment We Ask For 1. The first two weeks are orientation and getting acquainted. At the end of the second week, we will ask participants to make a decision about the remaining 15 weeks. 2. Once we begin, we ask for consistent attendance during the 15 weeks. This is not only for your benefit, but for the benefit of everyone around you. Each week builds on the previous one. We certainly want to give grace in the case of unavoidable absences relating to work, illness or serious emergency. In other circumstances, three unavoidable absences are allowed. If you have to miss four times, we encourage you to participate at one of the tables designated for this group. 3. Memorization of all assigned scripture verses. 4. Participate in sharing about how you are applying what the Holy Spirit is teaching you. 6. Complete the assigned Bible reading each week. 5. Make an honest attempt to pray with a prayer partner each week. 7. Read the lesson handout before coming to the training session. We will put all lessons on-line in pdf format so they can be easily downloaded and printed. To the best of my ability, I will commit myself to the next 15 weeks of Discipleship Training. I will do my best to faithfully attend each session and wholeheartedly attempt to apply what the Holy Spirit teaches me during this time. Signature Print Name Name of Church Date

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