Attributes of Discipleship

Bible Book: Matthew  28 : 16-20
Subject: Discipleship
Introduction

Research now allows us to begin with the end in mind. Lots of books written about how to “make disciples,” survey says! Let’s hear about 5 attributes:

One study broke down church members into 4 categories:

1. Exploring Christ (passive & active)

2. Growing in Christ

3. Close to Christ

4. Christ-centered

Found that the most influential personal spiritual practice for every segment and across all of these movements is “reflection on the Scriptures.” The second most influential practice in spiritual growth is significantly far behind. To those considered “close to Christ” and “Christ-centered,” it is twice as catalytic as any other factor on the list.

Maturing believers are more likely to exercise their faith by trusting God even in difficult circumstances

I. BIBLE ENGAGEMENT/REFLECTION ON THE SCRIPTURES.

1 Peter 2:2, “as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby”

James 1:18, “Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures.”

1 Peter 1:22-25, “‘Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart, having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever, because ‘All flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of the grass. The grass withers, and its flower falls away, but the word of the Lord endures forever.’ Now this is the word which by the gospel was preached to you.”

Psalms 19:7, “The law of the Lord is perfect,

converting the soul; the testimony of the

Lord is sure, making wise the simple”

Psalms 19:11, “Moreover by them Your

servant is warned, and in keeping them there

is great reward.”

Psalms 119:92, “Unless Your law had been my delight, I would then have perished in my affliction.”

Psalms 119:97-98

“Oh, how I love Your law!

It is my meditation all the day.

You, through Your commandments, make me

wiser than my enemies;

For they are ever with me.”

Psalms 119:67

“ Before I was afflicted I went astray,

But now I keep Your word.”

The Bible engagement helps me to:

Stay right with God
Exclusivity of Jesus Christ
Obedience
Praying for the lost
Increasing spiritual growth which leads to reading other spiritual helps
Discipling/Mentoring (Modeling)

II. OBEYING GOD AND DENYING SELF.

Making personal, sacrificial decisions in order to better obey Christ is a key attribute to an individual’s spiritual growth.

Each of these five attributes consistently show up in the lives of believers who are progressing in spiritual maturity.

Obeying God and Denying Self does not measure a specific list of sins to avoid. Rather, it gauges whether an individual has an obedient posture.

When it comes to obedience, spiritually mature disciples of Christ have a loving motivation to obey God, the self-awareness to know they must be proactive to avoid bad decisions, and the humility to confess sins they commit.

Obeying God is only easy when a person’s own desires match God’s. Until believers have the same mind as Christ, denying their own natural desires will be hard.

75%, “I try to avoid situations in which I might be tempted to think or do immoral things.”

80%, “When I realize my attitude does not please God, I take steps to fix it.”

Actions that can positively impact the scores of individuals in Obeying God and Denying Self:

1. Attending a worship service.

2. Making a decision to obey and follow God with an awareness that choosing His way may in some way be costly.

3. Being discipled or mentored one-on-one by a more spiritually mature Christian.

4. Reading the Bible or a book about what is in the Bible.

5. Praying for the spiritual status of unbelieving acquaintances.

6. Setting aside time for prayer of any kind.

7. This attribute was predicated by more frequent worship attendance.

“Many people think of obeying God as something they must do on their own. However, it’s clear that the teaching, encouragement, and accountability of corporate worship have a direct impact on obedience.”

III. SERVING GOD AND OTHERS.

The survey shows 58% of Protestant churchgoers in the United States agree with the statement, “I am intentionally putting my spiritual gift(s) to use serving God and others.”

A greater percentage of respondents indicate they look for opportunities to serve others in the community. “I intentionally try to serve people outside my church who have tangible needs.” 60% agree – although on 17% strongly agree.

“Serving God and Others” is one of eight attributes of discipleship that consistently show up in the lives of believers who are progressing in spiritual maturity.

“Service doesn’t just happen in a church, it must be modeled and encouraged. The breakdown of attributes and correlated disciplines shows that praying expectantly, getting involved in the community and discipling others fosters a posture of serving.”

Churchgoers indicate much lower agreement related to sacrificial giving. Just 9% of churchgoers strongly agree with the statement, “I intentionally give up certain purchases so I can use that money for others.”

“Service and activism have become popular in our culture today, especially among young adults, however, most of this benevolent activity is fairly low-level involvement that does not cost the giver much. The Serving God and Others attribute reveals lots of good intentions and some occasional actions but much lower intentionality, consistency or sacrifice.”

Serving clearly impacts growth. “The study shows that individuals who have positive scores for Serving God and Others have higher scores in the other seven attributes. For example, scores for Sharing Christ jump 24% when individuals have positive Serving God and Others’ scores and 51% for individuals with the highest Serving God and Others scores.”

“Growth leads to service and serving leads to growth – it’s deeply connected.” Positive scores in Bible Engagement result in a 17% increase in scores for Serving God and Others compared to those who do not have positive scores for Bible Engagement.

The Bible says everyone should “…use it to serve others, as good managers of the varied grace of God.” (1 Peter 4:10)

IV. SHARING CHRIST.

1. 80% of those who attend church one or more times a month believe they have a personal responsibility to share their faith, but 61% have not told another person about how to become a Christian in the last 6 months. Of the 8 attributes, “Sharing Christ” has the lowest average score among Protestant church attendees.

2. Three-fourths (75%) of churchgoers say they feel comfortable in their ability to effectively communicate the Gospel. Yet, even though 1 & 2 may be true, 15% have shared once or twice, and 14% have shared 3 or more times over last 6 months.

Invited an unchurched person to attend church:

48% - zero

33% - 1 or 2 times

19% - 3 or more in last 6 months

New Christians are most active? No New believers find it natural but mature are more intentional

Praying more frequently for the status of people who are not professing Christians is best indicator of more spiritual maturity in the entire Sharing Christ factor.

21% pray for unsaved every day.

Intentional about sharing calls for praying for others to start.

Praying is seen as imperative because it affects both

V. EXERCISING FAITH.

Among the eight attributes of discipleship tested, churchgoers have higher scores for Exercising Faith than any of the other attributes. Yet, only 13% of attendees were able to give the best response to all of the questions in this attribute.

“It is easy to say God has a purpose for everything in life, but it requires faith to enjoy seeing His plan unfold in difficult times.”

More that 90% agree with the statement: “I believe that God has a purpose for all events in my life, regardless of whether I perceive each event as being good or bad.”

86% “express praise and gratitude to God even in difficult circumstances.”

78% disagree that in the midst of difficult circumstances, they “sometimes doubt that God loves me and will provide for my life.”

The survey shows the longer someone has trusted Christ as their Savior, the better their responses are for exercising faith. Being involved in a Bible study group, praying for Christians and non-Christians, and witnessing to nonbelievers also make a positive impact.

Faith is also exhibited in the belief that God can change lives. More than 80% disagree with the statement, “I sometimes doubt that God can change the lives of non-Christians I know.”

“Exercising faith is a mindset that says God the Father knows best.”

The survey also reveals those stronger in their faith are less prone to doubt God’s involvement, even in unexplainable circumstances.

“Exercising Christian faith is more than believing God exists; it is believing in God’s promised presence, provision, and compassion for us. It is exhibited in a life that depends on Jesus Christ for salvation and is filled with the expectation of His daily activity.”