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The Guiding Principle in Training
     Dr. Rodrick Conerly, Executive Director

Many times our initial reaction to training for anything depicts an arduous and grueling regimen. Perhaps this explains part of the reason why training for spiritual growth in our churches is so often absent. Most of the time when we think of spiritual growth, we think of a new Christian beginning to read the Bible and perhaps a short class on ďWhat it means to be a Christian.Ē Beyond this effort, training for spiritual growth seldom takes place. If we can consider spiritual growth as a growth pattern of a baby, then perhaps our conception of training for spiritual growth can be changed and our efforts for training and leadership development augmented. Letís look at the Growth Pattern and our role as the trainer/mentor.

The Growth Pattern
The Growth Pattern pictures a personís spiritual development from unbeliever to believer and as a new Christian to becoming a full partner in ministry. As a trainer/mentor, it is our responsibility to urge the people with whom we are working to keep growing.


The first stage is that of the nonbeliever in which we present the Gospel. As we identify an unsaved person, then we will intentionally think of our role as the trainer/mentor as beginning prior to conversion, not after.

The second stage begins when the nonbelievers are born-again. The new believers are spiritual babies. If not helped, it is likely that they will remain spiritual babies.

We feed spiritual babes when they will drink. We cannot force feed them, but we must plan on what to provide them so that they will develop and grow spiritually. Our task at this level is to love the spiritual babies and concentrate on developing them as people.

The next stage is that of a spiritual disciple. This is a broad stage and people are at various points along the road. Our role at this level is that of servant and our task is training. The servant cannot cause growth but his task is to enhance the climate for growth and fruitfulness. We can make the environment conducive to growth by creating the right situations for fruitfulness.

Too often we think that when a person reaches the spiritual disciple stage, the discipleship process is completed and the final goal is reached. Unfortunately, too few disciples go on to become multiplying leaders.

Our role as the trainer/mentor is important here. Our role shifts to that of a steward and our task is that of equipping the fellow servants. We must help the disciples develop basic convictions, sound doctrines, and principles of living that will stand any test.

Now the spiritual disciple begins to multiply and moves to a new level of spiritual growth.

The last stage is that of a co-laborer. The role of the trainer/mentor at this stage is encourager and our task is supporting. We are to support the other personís ministry. God desires many co-laborers in the church who can produce multiplying leaders. This is why the local church is the best environment for spiritual training. Can the church raise up its own leaders from within the membership? Do all of our leaders need to be recruited from outside the churchís membership? Must they be called from another church? Must they come from a college or a seminary?


A.  As the person develops, he or she should be encouraged to help a person who is going through the same spiritual stage he or she has just completed. Passing on what one has learned is the best way to make it a part of oneís life.

B.  We should help different people at each stage simultaneously. We need to keep in mind that we are the model for the people we are training. As we help our disciples develop, we must encourage them to relate to individuals at every stage of spiritual growth they have already passed through.

C.  As our disciples show more interest, we need to give them more time and help.  The natural tendency is to neglect the growing people to help those who are not growing. Focusing on one who is growing produces multipliers and co-laborers to help with those who are not growing.

D.  You and I are not the only determining factors in the process. God, the people involved, the materials you use, the discipling group, the church, and the environment play vital roles in a believerís development. Consequently, you and I should not claim all the credit for success. Neither should we feel completely responsible if a disciple fails to develop.

E.  We do not work alone. We need to work with our co-laborers to help people become all God intends for them to be.

We must keep our vision of what God wants to accomplish through us, through those we train, and through His church. Keep looking at the need and look beyond it to the purpose of God. Be faithful.

PERSONAL REFLECTION: Take stock of where you are in your own spiritual development.

Where are you? Do you need to move up a stage? Have you skipped a stage or failed to develop fully as you should? For example, did you really become a spiritual disciple before becoming a multiplying leader? If not, has it resulted in some flaws in your leadership? Are you helping people at all of the stages that you already have passed through? If so, are you exhibiting the appropriate attitude of the discipler relative to those stages? Are you assuming the proper amount of responsibility and expecting others to grow in the amount of responsibility they accept? If Godís fire of judgment were to test your work today, would you have enough gold, silver, and precious stones invested in building others? As you examine what you have done to date, will you commit yourself to help people come to know Christ, to follow-up, disciple, and equip them until they become multiplying leaders and co-laborers?

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