As we think of leading teenagers to become more authentic Christ-followers, the process of how we actually go about doing this looks slightly different from place to place. (Granted, there are some common distinctives, for sure.) Our specific ministry contexts dictate our processes, to some extent. Our church structure, age group breakdown and number of adult volunteers are just examples of factors that will dictate our disciple-making processes.
But, no matter what our specific process may be, I think there are some unique characteristics of Jesus’ model of discipleship that need to appear in our own processes.
Let’s call these characteristics of biblical discipleship. If we look at Jesus and how He lead the 12 on their discipleship journey, we can see at least these four characteristics:
#1: A Call to Something
When Jesus called the disciples, He called them to a purpose, a goal of sorts.
Luke 5:10-11—Then Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will catch men.” So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him.
Matthew 9:9—As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him.
Matthew 16:24—Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”
I think this is actually a characteristic that’s missing in a lot of our discipleship efforts. I think we too often take this characteristic for granted. Do your teenagers see their faith as a movement? Do they see themselves as part of a mission? Or do they see their faith as little more than a moralistic framework to live as good people? How many of your students are you “discipling” simply because their mom and/or dad just keep dropping them off?
Jesus called His disciples to be part of a world-changing movement. The call is still the same today. We just have to make sure we’re not underselling or misrepresenting it. How many of your students, if you asked them right now, could articulate a purpose or vision behind the disciple-making process they are in the midst of? We need to be sure that our students understand the call and accept the task.
#2: Faithful Teaching of the Bible
“Faithful” as in true, accurate, deep and transformative. “Teaching” as in helping students know and apply the truth of Scripture. And “the Bible” as in God’s primary tool for the foundation for discipleship. We see this all throughout the Bible:
Proverbs 1:7—The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline.
Matthew 5:1-2—Now when he saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them, saying … .
Luke 24:27—And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.
Mark 4:2—He taught them many things by parables, and in his teaching said … .
We have to lay the foundation for discipleship in the way we teach students the Bible. Here at ym360, we work hard to help you in this area. If you’re looking for a fresh approach to your Bible study material, here are a few resources we’ve developed that are true, accurate, deep and transformative: The Jesus Studies, The Elements Curriculum, The All-Access Bundle, New: First Steps for new believers and DNow Online.
#3: Real World Application
Jesus constantly guided His disciples in applying the spiritual truths they were learning. Jesus allowed His disciples to succeed and to fail. Both aspects are a part of helping students apply their faith.
Matthew 10:1—He called his 12 disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out evil spirits and to heal every disease and sickness.
Luke 9:10—When the apostles returned, they reported to Jesus what they had done.
Mark 9:17-18—A man in the crowd answered, “Teacher, I brought you my son, who is possessed by a spirit that has robbed him of speech. Whenever it seizes him, it throws him to the ground. He foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth and becomes rigid. I asked your disciples to drive out the spirit, but they could not.”
#4: A Release to Live as Disciples
This one is the trickiest part as it is the end. There will be a time when your students pass through your time of leading them in discipleship. This is the moment where they will step out from under your role as leader and they will serve, minister and grow out of the foundation that has been laid. And how well they do this is based on how well you and their parents (and other adults) have led them in the process.
Take a second and think about your current programs or principles.
Do you see these characteristics in them? If not, what can you do to make it happen?