Pastor Craig has been in ministry for over 28 years and has taught in churches throughout the US and abroad.  He has spent countless hours encouraging and helping pastors and church leaders in their endeavors to implement discipleship in their churches.  This booklet will help you to better understand exactly what discipleship is. It will also help church leaders to formulate a vision for their own discipleship strategies in their church and men's and women's ministries.

This outline has been written for the purpose of edifying the Christian church in the elements of the different components of family ministry. We have made some basic assumptions in preparing this material, such as: Most Christian churches are now performing some of the basic functions of family ministry that include pre-marital counseling, annual marriage retreats, men’s and/or women’s ministry bible study, small group home fellowship, and youth ministry. Our hope is that you will find this information helpful for enhancing discipleship of your church leaders and your flock in God’s will for the family.

Raised in a Catholic family, I had an early interest in the church, served as an altar boy, and by age 11 spoke of becoming a priest. My thirteenth year, however, brought a complete turnaround; anger and bitterness toward my parents resulted in rebellion against God and seeking consolation in pornography, drugs, alcohol and women. In 1979, at age 21, I repented of my sins and lack of faith, received Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior, and returned to the familiarity of the Catholic Church. Eighteen months later I married my high school sweetheart.
The next three years of my life passed while I floundered around, unsure of who I was in Christ, what salvation really meant, or what God wanted me to do with my life. I knew that He wanted me to stop drinking, doing drugs, cussing, and hanging out with those who did. But I also knew that my life was not yet what God intended, that things were not right in my marriage, and that there was more waiting for me in Christ but I didn’t know how to find it.
In 1982 my wife and I took a trip to Texas to visit her brother, Dennis. He and I used to party together, but reuniting with Dennis made it very clear that he was a changed man. The drinking had stopped and instead he exhibited an unusual measure of what I would call peace. When I finally got him aside to ask why, he replied that he got “saved.” Then, as I shared with him what had happened that night in my apartment when I confessed my sins and begged God’s forgiveness, at that moment the Holy Spirit fell upon us and we both started weeping with joy. I felt the presence of God as I had felt it that night when I repented. As Dennis and I talked further, he challenged me to attend a Bible-believing church where teaching was from the Word of God.
Within a few hours after returning home from Texas, my wife and I received a call from my twin sister inviting us to try a new church. I could not believe how fast God was working. We attended the next Sunday and I remember thinking that if these people really knew me, they would kick me out of their church. During the first year after receiving Christ, I had returned to drinking and struggling to control my language and lustful thoughts. Keeping my secrets, however, I continued to attend this church and after nearly eight months these old friends who attended this church approached me about meeting together each week to study the Bible. They had both received Christ while at college and been involved in a group called Campus Crusade for Christ.
As I remember, the three of us never used the word discipleship. We merely agreed to meet weekly, and study different books in the Bible by each reading a section and then discussing it together. We also challenged one another to daily read God’s Word and be accountable for our walk with Jesus, and to keep our thoughts, words and deeds pure. Over the next two and a half years, the Lord used these men to teach me how to be a Christian, how to have a daily devotional, and how to study the Bible by using important tools like commentaries and word search dictionaries. This all helped me establish a strong foundation upon which I could build my faith. These men gave me my first experience of being discipled and it forever changed my life.
The Fruit Brings a Perspective.
Over the last 20 years, God has led me deeper into a ministry where, among others, I meet and counsel many Christian men. Most of them have not been involved in discipleship and actually feel that the opportunity has never come their way. In fact, most men in the Body of Christ do not know that this is something they can ask for, or even initiate themselves. In short, they have little understanding of the meaning and process of becoming a disciple of Christ.
Matthew 9:35-38, is one description of Jesus’ ministry and deep concern, which He passed to His disciples with some instruction:
“Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people. But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd. Then He said to His disciples, ‘The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.’”
When Jesus speaks of the “harvest,” He means those who have already responded to His call. In other words, they are the ripened plant waiting for the harvesters, or laborers, to gather them. The emphasis is on equipping these people, and the laborers are those who are equipped to help them. This can accurately be called the “mission field,” but more than a distant field, do we realize that this “field” exists within our churches?
The word “weary” is “eklou,” (in the original Greek), which means “one who is weak and exhausted; those faint of heart, not having the strength to move forward”. The word scattered is “rhipto,” which “to be thrown or cast down repeatedly”. It also means, “going astray, going their own way, or going the wrong way.”
Considering Jesus’ instructions, what does He see in His church today? Perhaps too many who are weak, not experiencing God’s power and grace because they lack a daily devotional relationship with Jesus. Is it because of ignorance? They don’t know that this time of study and devotion will provide the strength they need to walk in obedience to God. How many Christians are suffering from discouragement and guilt because they are not walking and living in righteousness?
If a Christian is not walking according to God’s Word, which really means moving forward to spiritual maturity, then eventually they will find themselves slipping back into sin, with serious consequences. How many believers are ignorant of what it takes to be victorious, ignorant of the importance of being discipled? If we are not growing then sin will creep in and eventually the symptoms will affect our lives, such as family problems like divorce or rebellious children, and even the refusal to associate with God’s people can result. Statistics show that Christian marriages are failing at a similar rate to non-believers, and some 70 percent of children from Christian homes are rebelling by age 18 and walking away from the faith.
Ephesians 4:14 says, … “that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting…” This indicates that there is a process of growth in spiritual understanding and strength, which is necessary for our very survival, that we not be tricked and led astray.
Jesus Showed us How to Disciple
Although Jesus had the power of God within Him while on the earth, and still does as He sits at the right hand of the Father in Heaven, still the plan for mankind as described in Matthew 9:36 involves the activity of men. He told the disciples to pray for laborers, which reveals His desire to use us to minister to one another. The word “laborer,” in this passage means “spiritual workman,” or disciple. Just as it was then, many believers (the harvest) are weak because there is a lack of faithful disciples to come alongside and teach them the things of God. Experience has shown that this will not be accomplished through the pulpit, youth groups, Christian schools, or more Christian books. These things are good, and helpful, but not what Jesus asked us to do. He was specific about the need for laborers, sent for the purpose of discipling, to do this work.
This concept of mutual service is emphasized in Ephesians 4:15-16, and reads “…but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head-Christ- from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.” Notice the phrase, “every part does its share,” which indicates that all are called to help in the edifying, or building up, of the body of Christ.  
Jesus also said in Matthew 28:19-20 (referred to as The Great Commission):
“Go, therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all thing that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
Commonly this passage is taught as a call to evangelism, a mandate to send out missionaries. This is good, but an equally important, and less common, interpretation is to reach out to the people around us. The word “go,” in the Greek, is poreu-somai, which means “to be in motion,” or “to be about doing.” Of course, this includes sending disciples far and wide, but couldn’t it also include ministering to those close by? And once again, as a person can only be a disciple after receiving Christ as Savior and Lord, it makes sense this is more about equipping the saints than evangelizing unbelievers.
We have an adversary on this planet, called Satan, whose goal is to keep Christians (those in the Body of Christ) ignorant of this call to discipleship. He can distract us when we are weak and uninformed, and works constantly to keep God’s children from maturing and helping others do the same. Our goal as followers of Christ’s word is to keep ourselves and others always maturing in the faith. In Matthew, it says “…make disciples of all…,” which means all believers. And the word “go,” translates to be in motion and about doing this discipleship at all times. In short, all believers are becoming disciples and eventually being about the work of discipling other believers themselves.
By this point, maybe you have wondered what characterizes a true disciple of Christ. Following are four criteria, taken from Scripture, which could describe the qualities of a disciple:
1.    One who has accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Throughout the New Testament, every reference to a disciple indicates a believer and follower of Jesus.  (John 1:12, “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name.”)
Did you pass the first one?
2.    One who is a student of the Bible, God’s Word. This person is investing time studying and seeking the will of God for all areas of life.
(2 Timothy 2:15, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
(John 8:31, “Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, ‘If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed’.”)
Being a disciple of Jesus involves diligent study of the Bible. We can hear God’s Word at church, but personal study is where we really begin to develop a personal relationship; learn the foundational principles of our faith; trust in God’s promises to us; and learn how to abide in Christ daily by walking in righteousness.
To illustrate my point, let me ask a few questions. Did you attend college, or any other vocational training? Did you ever expect to be hired, or to advance when you had no knowledge, or experience, in the work you would need to do?
Christians seem to be mentally disconnected from this understanding as it applies to growing in holiness, which includes practical instructions on such everyday living as family, marriage, finances, work, and really any other topic imaginable. God expects us to tend to His business: to “tend” means take care of, or manage, according to need and purpose. For example, the first three priorities in a married believer’s life are Jesus, the spouse, and the children. According to God’s Word in 1 Timothy 3:1-3, and Ephesians 5:22-27, men are to be the leaders in this.
Most believers are not looking for a mature person in the church to help them study and understand Scripture. A disciple comes along side and helps the baby Christian grow in knowledge and understanding of God’s Word.
Regrettably, most men are not being discipled, or even aware of what is required of them in these areas. Some advisors recommend doing one’s best, but when it comes to being a husband, father, wife or mother God wants us to do His WILL. Too often the advice at church is to attend the next men’s or woman’s retreat! Retreats are good and can help, but they are not the answer for the weary and scattered masses. At the rate marriages and families are failing, it is essential that we change what we are doing or we can’t expect anything to improve.
Have I lost you? Or, have you already been studying God’s Word as it pertains to tending your family?
3.    One who receives the Word of God with the intention of applying what is learned.
(James 1:22, “But be doers of the Word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.”)
(John 15:8, “By this is My Father glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.”)
God’s grace enables us to do His will. But here is the question: Is it truly your desire to do the will of God when you hear it? Many Christians see the Word of God as a list of suggestions, and randomly choose what seems best for them. Humanistic views have slipped into Christianity emphasizing happiness as the highest goal rather than obedience; and teaching that Christians under God’s grace will suffer few negative consequences for sinful choices.
As disciple encourages and exhorts young believers when they learn those hard things from God.
Hebrews 10:24–25 " And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching."
Titus 2:6–7 " Likewise, exhort the young men to be sober-minded, in all things showing yourself to be a pattern of good works; in doctrine showing integrity, reverence, incorruptibility,"
Hebrews 3:12–15 " Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God; but exhort one another daily, while it is called “Today,” lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. For we have become partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end, while it is said: “Today, if you will hear His voice, Do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion."
We need to be encouraged and have an example to help us work out these truths and principles especially when we are spiritually immature.
As a counselor, I meet many Christians who are suffering the results of not knowing God’s Word, not to mention those who are living in disobedience. In Galatians 5:22-26, the Bible says “…the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such there is no law. And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.
These verses describe the results of living God’s way. But what are the consequences of disobedience? Galatians 5: 20-21 says, “idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like;
Current statistics show that more than 40 percent of Christians are using anti-depressants.
Many believers today are experiencing depression or mental duress as a result of living outside of God’s instruction either by ignorance (not knowing God’s will) or rebellion. Most Christians do not know that the suffering we are experiencing is often to bring us to the point where we examine our lives to see if we are walking according to God’s will and authority in ALL areas of our life. Jesus said, " If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full (John 15:10–11)." Our part is to keep God’s commands and He promises us joy, His joy. But we must also recognize that God promises believers that He will complete the work He begun in each of us. (Philippians 1:6, “He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.”). Completing means; becoming more like Jesus, Him having His way IN and THROUGH us as we learn to walk according to His will, and that includes tending to our responsibilities in accordance to His Word. Obedience will bring success, joy and can heal much of the depression today. In Luke 11:28, Jesus says, “…blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it!
How are you doing so far?
4.    A disciple will manifest (in behavior) a gradual, consistent transformation into the image of Jesus.
(Luke 6:40, “A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone who is perfectly trained will be like his teacher.”)
As we are trained, our nature will reflect Jesus’ nature, and our thoughts, words and deeds will glorify God. Jesus came to do the Father’s will, which included discipling 12 men to carry on His work. In John 13:15-18, Jesus says, “For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you. Most assuredly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.
Not all are called to be pastors, teachers, youth ministers, etc., but all are called to become disciples. This means, according to Matthew 28:19, “…making disciples of ALL…”, and John 13:16, “…a servant is not greater than his master…”, that all in the body of Christ, no matter what the position of service, are called to a life of discipleship.
Final Reflecting Thoughts
So how did you do? Do you need to make changes in your life? If so, praise the Lord for revealing it! Do not let Satan trick you with guilt, but rejoice as you confess your desire to be Jesus’ disciple.
Satan has done a masterful job of distracting believers, which has caused confusion and kept the church from placing discipleship as a main priority. Even many Bible colleges and seminaries offer little instruction in this area. Christ has asked us to make disciples of all men. This does NOT mean a six-week basic training course, which is foolishness to consider as a fulfillment of Jesus’ intention. Jesus worked with His disciples for three years, day and night!
Statistics have shown that lack of spiritual maturity in Christians can result in such problems as depression, drunkenness, anger, failed marriages, rebellious children, and more. Due to ignorance, or lack of interest, believers are not involved in discipleship, which gives Satan an opportunity to tempt and confuse with all types of sin, guilt and failure. Discipleship is essential to living a powerful, victorious life in Christ.
Have you answered the call to be a disciple for Jesus Christ? If not, you can do it right now by reading this prayer and committing yourself to the Lord today.
Prayer:
Today, Lord, I am saying “YES” to that call to be Your disciple. Help me to be a student of Your Word, to walk in Your will, and tend to everything You have given me. Please lead me to those who can help me mature spiritually. And use me to come alongside others to teach them, build them up, and encourage them. I ask these things in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Copyright © 2014 Family Discipleship Ministries