Oh Baby!

What’s the difference between follow up and discipleship?

In truth, many people lump them both under discipleship, but I find it really helps to maintain the distinction.

When someone first becomes a Christian there is a need to follow them up.  The Bible uses the metaphor of being born again, and when someone’s just been born we call them a baby.  That’s where we get the term “baby Christian.”   Whereas in discipleship the focus is on helping people grow and become more like Christ as they follow Him, when you do follow up – you are following them, just like babies aren’t expected to follow their moms and dads, their moms and dads have to follow them!!!

So there are totally different expectations going into this, as well as needs to be met!

Think about what a baby needs – to be fed, cleaned, protected, with lots of love lavished on them… Seriously, that last part is THE most important.  When babies fail to receive adequate attention and care many simply give up and die.  Those that don’t are often impacted for the rest of their lives.

But they also aren’t going to last very long if they aren’t fed.  In the very beginning you are providing the sustenance for them, and sometimes you need to be creative in helping them eat!!!

I love to have shared quiet times with baby believers – frequently!!!  In truth, in the very beginning they often get more out of what I share from my quiet time than from their own.  But before you know it they’ve grown to the place where they can start feeding themselves.  That’s why a key goal when you first start following up someone is to help them learn how to feed themselves.  Having a shared quiet time will usually be all we do together until I see them start doing this on their own (granted, I often select specific passages for us to focus on related to what’s going on in their lives!).  But after loving them, their next greatest need is to learn how to feed themselves – adequately and regularly!  (you can read more about this in the article “How to have a shared quiet time” located in the Helps! section).

The second key goal in following someone up is helping them grow in trusting God.  Of course they have to trust God to become a Christian in the first place!   But it can often be one thing to trust Him for your eternal destiny and quite another to trust Him with the details of your life today ~ especially when His ways aren’t your ways!

Helping them get to know who God is and experience Him is so very key for this occurring.  One key gift He’s given to facilitate this are His very great and precious promises!  I have found time spent helping them learn God’s promises and how to apply them in their life is a HUGE help, spurring them on in trusting Him.  (I’ve just placed a second article in the helps section entitled, “Promise Based Follow Up” which explains in more depth how you can help someone with this!)  

Discipleship begins when someone becomes a disciple – as soon as they’ve reached a key point in their walk with God where they are willing to say, “Not my will, but yours be done.”  Usually there is one issue that the Lord will highlight, a fork in the road where they have to decide, “Am I going to go my way or the Lord’s way?” followed by a time of intense wrestling (like Jacob with the angel of the Lord!) that finally ends in surrender.   It can really be helpful when first meeting with someone to share what that looked like for you and then ask if they’ve experienced anything like this.

For me that happened the summer after I became a Christian.  I’d always been incredibly ambitious, with a ten year plan already set in motion!  I was studying Broadcast Journalism and by the end of my freshman year was already the Assistant Programming Director for a local radio station.  In high school I’d hosted a television program for two years, so I was making certain I had extensive experience both in front and behind the camera.  But then the Lord called me to give up my plans and follow Him – to follow Him without knowing where or how He was going to lead.  You’d better believe I wrestled!  By mid-July I finally reached the point of surrender, writing in my Bible, “Tonight I said “Yes” to giving up my plans and following Jesus wherever He leads.”  When I got back to campus that next month I quit my job at the radio station and dropped my major, just taking general ed classes, waiting for the Lord to show me what He wanted me to do.  That was when I had a friend ask Barb if she’d disciple me!  And you better believe after making that sacrifice I was ready to do whatever the Lord (and Barb!) asked me!

In all honesty, I would not have been ready to give up my major, let alone say no to everything for a month the way Barb asked me to (see “The Challenge!” posted August 8th if you’re wondering about this story!) right after becoming a Christian!  God has a timing for all of this!  It’s like a flower blooming – you can’t try to force it without doing damage.  Your expectations for a flower just starting to form has to be different than once it’s fully opened!

I run into people all the time who get so frustrated because they are trying to disciple someone who still needs to be followed up.  “She never does what I ask her to do!” is a common complaint!  Or “I’m just not sure how serious she is.  Sometimes she’ll do exactly what she believes the Lord wants her to but other times that’s not even on her radar screen!”  That’s a key symptom of someone who is still struggling to trust God.  She trusts Him when His way is her way and it makes sense to her, but when that fork in the road comes, she’s not yet sure about giving up what she thinks is best to follow Him.

All too often, people think discipleship is about helping someone become a disciple of Jesus!  But that is the goal of follow up!  Discipleship begins once someone has become a disciple, once they are ready to follow Jesus and learn from Him – not just in a soak-things-into-your-head way, but to make his teachings “the rule of conduct for their life” – not to earn His favor, but to be with Him and increasingly become like Him.  And you don’t have to take my word for it!  The online dictionary defines discipleship as “The state of attempting to follow the example of Jesus or another leader.”  It’s not about making the decision to follow as much as once you’ve decided to follow learning how to do this!

So follow up is helping people come to the point where they are ready to head in Jesus’ direction.  Discipleship is coming alongside someone as they are heading in Jesus’ direction to help them persevere and learn what He wants them to, so they are increasingly transformed into His image for His glory!  And then able to help others in this way too!

If you can understand the goals of follow up and how they differ from the goals of discipleship can that ever help you! And them!  And save you both from a ton of frustration!

So here’s my big suggestion for the day  – Don’t expect a baby to follow you up a 14er!  And don’t get upset if she’s easily sidetracked!  Love her!  Feed her!  Help her get to know and experience Her daddy!  If you do, it shouldn’t be too long till she’s ready to start following Him – even when it involves jumping off cliffs!

Get Ready For Grandkids!!!

I became a grandma at the age of 23!  :0)

It happened when one of the girls I’d been discipling shared with a neighbor about Jesus.  After this neighbor came to know Him, my friend began passing on to her what we’d been doing. When I went to visit it was such a treat to meet my first grandbaby!  Imagine my surprise when I learned she was almost double my age!   Got to love the miracle of spiritual reproduction!

Paul writes to Timothy, “And the things you’ve heard me say in the presence of many witnesses, entrust to reliable men who will also be able to teach others.” 2 Timothy 2:2

There are four generations represented in that verse… can you spot them?

Now there are all sorts of organizations devoted to discipleship, and it can take many shapes and forms, but I’ve found most of them focus on just getting one generation established.  If you want to see spiritual “generations” take place there needs to be intentionality and certain things taken into consideration.  It needs to be something on your heart!  And clear in what you’re aiming towards.  It must influence what you do!

For example, I once knew a woman who many considered an amazing discipler.  She would show up for her one on ones with elaborate Bible studies and handouts.  When she met with women they did go deep into the scriptures and the content was extensive and intense!  The problem was those she met with never thought they could disciple because they couldn’t do what she did!

When you are discipling with the desire to see spiritual generations take place there is much value in adhering to the old acronym K.I.S.S.  (Keep It Simple Sweetie! :0)

And the more organized something is, the more pass-on-able it is!

This is one reason why I love to use the Look -Listen- Live it Out format for sharing a quiet time with someone.  It’s not only been life changing for me, but it’s also simple, easy to remember, and very easy to do with someone else!   (There’s an article on how to do this in the Helps section).

From the beginning of meeting with someone I seek to mention their future “children” often (eg., “When you have a shared quiet time with someone you will want to…”).  I want them to catch a vision for this, to understand this isn’t something an elect few do, but something the Lord has called all believers to do!  (Matthew 28:19)  I want them to experience the joy John writes about in 3 John 1:4 “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.”  (and note in the context John isn’t writing about his physical children, but those whom he has invested in spiritually!).

There is a special joy that comes when you intentionally join in with what the Lord is doing in the life of another believer.  And that joy is magnified when they turn around and, walking in the truth, start investing in others.

This isn’t just for the good of the next generation!  There is nothing that’s kept me pressing on after Jesus, like having younger believers whom I’m investing in.  When I’m helping them learn how to feast on the Word, does it ever spur me on to continue to do so myself!   Honest!  My best seasons of faithfully memorizing and reviewing scripture really do occur when I’m helping someone else with this!  If I want those I’m discipling to finish strong, persevering as Jesus’ disciple throughout their entire life one of the best things I can do is prepare them to disciple others!

And can you imagine the delight that will await in heaven when we get to meet all those generations who have followed?!

Don’t set your sights too low.  Don’t just disciple to help one person in one generation get on their feet.  Pray for and plan for those grandbabies, and great grandbabies and great, great grandbabies… for spiritual generations who will continue to follow Jesus as His disciples and help others do so too until the day He returns!