What Does It Mean to Grow Into Mature Disciples of Christ?

Jesus is called Master for many reasons. As God, He is, of course, Master over everything. That includes his powerful ability to open our senses and enable people to see the value of ordinary, everyday things we tend to overlook because of repetition and familiarity.

Our FBCH mission statement probably fits the description of repetition and familiarity. We see it each Sunday in our weekly bulletin, and its keywords are highlighted there and on the landing page of our website.

Today’s post is the second in a series looking more in-depth into those keywords of ENCOUNTER, GROW, and SERVE.

I’ve spent the past several months working on the landscape around our new home. Landscaping is hard work, but the experience taught me some lessons that easily transfer to growing as a disciple of Christ.

Timing is important.

Even though timing is essential, “the right time” for growing as a disciple of Christ is not always at the most comfortable or most logical time.

We were not able to sod our new yard until late August just as the summer growing season was winding down. Consequently, a massive amount of irrigation with expensive city water was the only way to get the grass to take root before winter.

Then I learned that it’s best to plant shrubs and trees in late fall. Planting trees while leaves were falling to the ground from mature trees seemed weird to me. I get excited about gardening in the spring--not when the days are getting shorter! And who wants to work so hard only to wait six months to see whether life remains in the spring?

Growing as a disciple is a lot like that, too. God’s timing rarely matches up with our schedule or our logical minds. And, I’ve discovered that doing the work required to grow in Christ often happens when we “feel like it” the least.

A disciple is a learner who becomes a teacher.

Good teachers do two things consistently: they keep learning, and they keep teaching. Each of those activities demands hard work, often during times that aren’t convenient or planned.

We had a neighbor a few years ago who had a knack for showing up with a plan for me to help him with something at the most inconvenient time possible. But, because I had previously sensed that this man needed some spiritual guidance and encouragement, the interruptions caused me only minor irritation. I gladly spent time with him, and eventually, the Lord gave me opportunities to help him get his spiritual life back on track. During our casual encounters, he voluntarily asked me about spiritual matters which led to more extended conversations. Gradually, he corrected some un-Christ-like habits, joined our SS class, and asked me to officiate at his mother-in-law’s funeral.

We never declared that I would disciple him. But the Lord worked in each of our lives to accomplish his plan.

Obstacles and setbacks will occur.

Now back to that Bermuda Sod. After about three weeks of intense irrigation - during which no rain fell – the grass got greener and healthier every day. Then, suddenly brown areas developed and spread quickly. The yard treatment experts came out and introduced me to a term I’d never heard before: Army Worms. I was happy to learn that quick treatment with the right insecticide got rid of the pesky larvae and the yard was soon green again.

Far and away, the most daunting barrier to discipleship is a person who is not willing to learn. Just because a person could obviously benefit by learning from someone with experience, knowledge, and wisdom, does not mean efforts will be successful. I know a young man who desperately needs to learn how to apply biblical truths to his life. But the last time I checked, he acted as though he had all the answers and any advice just bounced off like a BB hitting a brick wall.

Just like those army worms invaded my bermuda, our modern lifestyles seem to be characterized by interruptions. I’ve learned that you just have to plan for them to happen. Phone calls, text messages, and notifications occur at most inopportune times. I’ve come to accept even these as part of God’s plan. At least they help you discern the actual level of interest a person has in the conversation.

We had another neighbor who, even as a grown man, was quite hyperactive. Getting an extended conversation with him was a rare treat. But a few challenges and health issues came along which got his attention. We talked about reaching out to God and prayed together several times.

While there is a place for it, a discipleship relationship may be the most difficult to maintain when it becomes more formal and openly intentional by using printed guidelines. This can be an excellent experience, but you’ll need to mix in a hefty dose of “doing life together.”   

The soil needs advanced preparation.

The soil around a new construction is not ready to support and grow healthy plants. You’ll find a mixture of clay, red dirt brought in from who knows where, shards of brick and mortar, and pieces of plastic discarded by builders. After removing unwanted trash, it’s wise to perform some “soil amendments.” The following paragraph came from here, and it outlines essential aspects of the discipleship growth process.

Soil amendments are materials you add to the soil to improve its physical or chemical properties. You can use soil amendments to improve the permeability and water retention characteristics of your soil. Amendments can also improve the fertility and alter the acidity of the soil, making it easier for plants to access the nutrients they need.

We want to see improvement – even transformation – in ourselves and those we help in the growth process. Our minds need to be permeable, soaking in the Word of God and able to retain His precepts to direct our daily lives.

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
— Romans 12:2

Spiritual fertility allows us to multiply disciples as we duplicate ourselves again and again. A close relationship with Jesus through prayer, time in the Word, and experiences will keep a steady stream of spiritual nutrients needed for a growing disciple.

and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also.
— II Timothy 2:2

Of course, we can’t throw good organic material onto a person and make them more amenable to growth as a disciple. No, it’s much harder than that. This requires spiritual warfare.

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.
— Ephesians 6:1-13

Don’t try to do it all yourself.

I also learned that I needed help from a professional to get the look we wanted. After planting several shrubs, it was apparent the landscape still looked, well, dull. So, I called a person with training and experience to come help me. In a matter of hours, my plants were moved to a better location, and just the right ones were added to the mix. Finally, we had the effect we needed.

Plenty of resources are available from professionals to add the right touches to your discipleship experience, too. As a member of FBCH, you can access hundreds of digital programs for use by individuals or groups. Go to RightNowMedia, sign up, and start learning.

Plants need each other.

We enjoy gathering enough blueberries to freeze and eat throughout the year. So, we decided to include some of those in our yard. I learned there are several varieties and that pollination and production of blueberries will only happen when at least two different strains take root near each other.

Think about the original twelve disciples and their wide range of backgrounds and personalities. We need each other, too. Growing into mature disciples of Christ happens best in an environment of relationships with other believers with different personalities and perspectives.

A landscapers’ work is never done.

Beautiful landscapes never stop needing attention. Weeds creep in, plants need occasional pruning, additional fertilizer, adequate water, and mulching.

Even mature disciples of Christ need ongoing attention. God’s plan for that is the Body of Christ; the church. Stay involved in worship, small groups, and service in a ministry where the Lord has gifted and shaped you to contribute.