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.
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
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.
spiritual disciple begins to multiply and moves to a new level of spiritual
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?
GUIDELINES TO HELP US GROW BELIEVERS IN THEIR FAITH.
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
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.
Take stock of where you are
in your own spiritual development.
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?