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Discipleship in the Moment – Part 3

One of the most important things I can ask a person is where they are in their spiritual pilgrimage. This is a great beginning point for conversation, and listening to the answer is a way to express care and build a relationship.

In any given ministry context, we must rethink discipleship and develop a strategy of gospel discipleship that emphasizes Scripture, prayer, and the kingdom. This approach arises because of the importance of each personal interaction in the discipling experience. I call this “discipling in the moment” or DIM for short.

Discipling in the moment is a way of discipling without a program that sees Christians and non-Christians brought closer to their Savior over the course of the conversation or interaction.

DIM arose because I realized that when I meet a new person, I do not know what kind of contact and interaction I will have with them in the future, if at all. I also realized my obligation and duty as a minister of Jesus Christ to see some good come of  our meeting together regardless of the prospects of where they will attend church. Rather than make a high pressure sales presentation about the church or force feed them a four point outline of the gospel, I move forward in faith actively listening for where the three DIM components can be applied. The three DIM components are the Scripture, prayer, and kingdom.

DIM is my way of gospel discipling that puts the priority on the good and benefit of others. I am serving as a spiritual midwife trusting that God will use our interaction to take the other person one step closer to Him and into a fuller embracing of the gospel. When I am discipling in the moment (“DIMing”), authentic ministry and shepherding are carried out and I am truly concerned for their spiritual state, even though I do not know their future commitment to the church or if I will see them again.

The Place of Scripture in Gospel Discipling
Since we understand discipleship as gospel re-presentation, then we must know that the content for a depth presentation of gospel happens in the moment through the Scripture. The Scripture as the Word of Truth is a principle means the Spirit uses in sanctification (John 17:17). The Scripture must be preached, meaning that “God’s redemptive work [must be] the content, the motive, and the power behind all biblical exposition.”[1] For until “people look beyond themselves for spiritual health do they find their sole hope and source of power to do what God requires.”[2]

Not only must the Scripture be preached, but also the Scripture must fill my DIM conversations so that disciples can look beyond themselves for understanding and integration. God uses His Word to call people to believe (Romans 10:17, Galatians 3:2) and His Word is the interpreter of our experience (2 Timothy 1:9). One of the goals of discipleship is to stop living for ourselves and start living for our Savior.

When we seek to understand our life through the lens of God’s Word, our self-orientation is challenged and kingdom priorities become a possibility for us to pursue.

Both in preaching and conversation, I have been impressed with the need to be biblical in discipleship. This means to point people to the Scripture for answers, to read the Scripture to people, and to guide people in looking at the Scripture for God’s plan and purposes. Scripture is at the heart of gospel discipling because it contains the transformative content the Spirit uses to make disciples.

The Place of Prayer in Gospel Discipling
If Scripture is the content of gospel discipling, then prayer is the power for pursuing gospel discipling. Over familiarity with the message of the gospel[3], apathy, confusion, and demonic forces—all obstacles which disciples struggle with—are best addressed when I engage in prayer (Mark 9:29). So often I am tempted to trust and rely on my own resources: verbiage, personality, and gifting rather than the power of God to make His message through the Scripture clear and evident to a disciple in the moment of ministry by the power of His Spirit.

In my current setting, I am meeting new people almost every day. Before I meet with people, as I meet with people, when I shake hands, when I am listening to them, I should engage in prayer for them. I can also pray for them when I share the Spiritual Birthline and hear their story. I can praise God for His work in their life through prayer and I can pray over the Scripture passages I will preach and teach. In praying, the power for gospel discipleship is brought to bear in ministry.

The Place of Kingdom in Gospel Discipling
The third and final component to gospel discipling is the kingdom of God. The Scripture is the content for gospel discipling, prayer is the power for gospel discipling, and kingdom is the purpose for gospel discipling. Participating in the advancement of the kingdom is where discipleship leads and requires that the disciple maker is an expert in how the Holy Spirit works in the lives of people.

It is my role in discipleship to listen, observe, and biblically guide how a disciple can connect with kingdom involvement.

Kingdom involvement connects the content of discipleship with the “nations” of Matthew 28:19. Sitting with people and talking through the implications of the gospel leads to a transformational and missional conclusion that affects family, friends, colleagues, community, city, country, and the world. Inviting people to participate in the advancement of God’s kingdom is where they can be challenged to grow in their reliance upon God as they come into contact with the truth of the gospel.

In the fuller context of kingdom involvement, the disciple orients his life with Christ at the center and is propelled outward in ministry. This centering on the King of the kingdom provides a continual energy of renewal for discipleship that scatters disciples in purposeful living and gathers them again around the Savior to push outward in worship, community, and power (Acts 8:4).

Conclusion
In ministry I have made the journey of discipleship from a one-size-fits-all rigid program to rethinking that approach and seeing emerge a biblical and theoretical framework which is flexible and applicable to any person.

The components of Scripture, prayer, and kingdom are not part of a program and are not sequential. This allows for the components of gospel discipling to be presented in any order and to overlap. For example, we can begin discipleship with an invitation to join in kingdom purposes (a mission trip), followed by the Scriptural basis (John 3:16) , and both driven into the heart by prayer (“Thy kingdom come…”).[4]  A hierarchy of discipleship and Christian pride are avoided since the discipleship process can be started at any point, is perpetual, and less structured. As a result, both the neophyte and the experienced are challenged by the same message of the gospel.

Discipleship is vital to any church ministry. I have been challenged by studying discipleship to seek in ministry to make disciples and not just converts. I have been challenged to enter into the process with people to assist in the Holy Spirit’s shaping them into Christlikeness. I have been inspired to seek to obey Christ’s last command using the means he gives to see him glorified.

This is Part 3 of the 3-Part Series, Discipleship in the Moment by Allen Taha. Here are parts One and Two of the series.


[1] Bryan Chapell, Christ-Centered Preaching: Redeeming the Expository Sermon, (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1994), 310, quoted in Stephen Smallman, The Pastor as Physician of the Soul. Grace-Centered Discipleship class notes.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Peace explains this problem with encounter evangelism (see Conversion in the New Testament, 296).

[4] Two seminary classmates of mine expressed in their testimonies how they took mission trips before they became believers.

Dr. Allen R. Taha is pastor of Trinity Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Boerne, Texas. He also serves as a chaplain and firefighter for the Boerne Volunteer Fire Department. He graduated from Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis (M. Div., DMin.). He likes to bowhunt the backwoods of Texas in his spare time.