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9Marks Explained : A Letter From Mark Dever

A Sacred Trust: Reflections on Discipling Women

Many of us hunger for meaningful Christian togetherness. We attend church seeking friendship and community, but often leave disappointed.

To be part of Christ’s body means growing in deeper fellowship than we can accomplish on a Sunday morning. And Jesus tells us through his words and example how to do that. Jesus said, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:19-20).

A GREAT LINE OF DISCIPLES                            

Jesus wants you to be part of a great line of his disciples. He commands this as a way of life, so that the fullness of your life in him can be passed on to others, who in turn can pass it on to others until “the end of the age.”

Think of your life thirty years down the road. How old will you be? I’ll be 92. Both of my grandmothers lived well into their nineties, and my mother is celebrating her ninetieth birthday this year. I may well have thirty more happy years of serving Christ ahead of me! Still, I don’t want to be the end of the line. I want to leave behind a trail of women who love Christ with all their hearts.

Psalm 78:1-7 challenges one generation to make known to the “coming generation the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might, and the wonders he has done.” In this way we bring Christ to distant generations as well, “that the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn, and arise and tell them to their children, so that they should set their hope in God.”

This is a generational stewardship, given to us by God. When we disciple women, their children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren stand to receive the blessings of our efforts. Our lives matter and will matter for a long time. A glacier seems to be accomplishing little at the moment but it leaves behind a Grand Canyon. Be willing to be part of a glacier. We want to leave behind generations of women who “set their hope in God.”

HOW TO GET STARTED

The first step in discipleship is to be a disciple yourself. “Disciple” is not just a verb, it is also a noun. You are, first, a disciple of Jesus. Discipleship involves “Be who I am” more than “Do what I tell you.” Who you are will make an impact.

I am deeply indebted to two women who have made a costly investment in me. Much of what I am passing on to women today is what I have learned from them. In whom do you see spiritual life and the radiant beauty of Jesus Christ spilling over into different aspects of her life? Whom do you want to imitate (1 Cor. 11:1; Phil. 3:17)? Ask her out for tea and tell her your heart’s desire. See if she is willing. The first woman I asked said she just couldn’t do it. That is okay—keep trying. Discipleship means taking relational risks.

Who are you in Christ? If you want to grow deeper in him, that’s perfect! Take others with you. If you feel weak and needy, that is when God’s power is strongest. Even in your weakness you can help other women learn what it means to trust God in theirs.

Do you know Jesus? Do you love him? Is he worth giving your whole life to? Someone needs to hear that, be close to that, see you embrace that. Someone needs to see you live those convictions up close, and more than on a Sunday morning.

Discipleship isn’t about professional Christians passing on their best practices to amateur Christians. Being a disciple, and learning to disciple others, means looking at Jesus with such intensity and delight that you actually begin to reflect his beauty in everyday life. As you grow in grace, Jesus becomes more precious, more satisfying, more exciting than anything else. And as you behold him, others will want to join you and you can begin looking to him together. The most important way you can disciple others is by enjoying Christ yourself in such an irresistible way that your enjoyment becomes contagious.

INVITING OTHERS ONTO THE PATH OF LIFE

Every single person is heading down a path to one of two places—life or death.

The path of the righteous is life, and in its pathway there is no death. (Prov. 12:28)

There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death. (Prov. 14:12; cf. 16:25)

In discipleship we ask others to walk with us down the pathway of life. Should we challenge and exhort them along the way? Yes, but as a fellow pilgrim, not as one already across the finish line (Phil. 3:14-15). We should help them to recognize, admire, esteem, respond to, and enjoy Jesus, whose yoke is easy and burden is light (Matt. 11:30).

Love those you’re discipling as Jesus loves you (Rom. 15:7). Remember, it is not our mission to show others how sinful they are, but how beautiful Jesus is! So link arms as you walk together in your common need for Jesus.

Discipling does not always have to structured. Some people do not work that way. But you might also find it helpful to build systems of intimacy and accountability. Here are a few suggestions from my own discipleship groups.

  • We commit to how often we will meet, and for how long.
  • We take turns sharing our own “biography bag” filled with meaningful symbols of our life so far.
  • We spend time worshiping God together.
  • We study different Bible passages.
  • We share prayer requests and pray for each other, keeping requests confidential.
  • We learn a song or a hymn and sing it together.
  • We read and discuss a book.
  • We memorize passages of Scripture.
  • We serve together.
  • We try to get to know each other’s families.

Obviously, this takes time. What will work for you? Make it your own.

OUR SACRED TRUST

We must cultivate in our sphere of influence—our homes, churches, neighborhoods, workplaces—spiritual daughters who in turn can pass on the Truth. The younger women among us are our sacred trust from our heavenly Father. Making disciples is not just a nifty idea someone thought up—it is a biblical mandate.

In this beautiful relationship of discipling, everyone wins. Think what we gain—a new friend, a prayer warrior, a fresh look at life, a deeper understanding of a different generation. In our giving we will be filled, blessed, encouraged, loved. Isn’t God kind to reward obedience with such joys?

Jani Ortlund is a member of Immanuel Church in Nashville, Tennessee, which is pastored by her husband. She is also the vice president of Renewal Ministries and the author two books, Fearlessly Feminine and His Loving Law, Our Lasting Legacy.

September/October 2012
© 9Marks

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Topics: Discipleship