A Discipleship Compass

In the book of  Titus, we see a close link between deed (actions or good works) and word (speech and teaching): "Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us" (Titus 2:7–8; see also 1:6; 2:14; 3:1, 8, 14).

Bill Clem drew up a compass above to help explain these aspects of discipleship.

  1. Grace + Word = Knowing: The relational dynamic of shepherd and sheep communicating suggests sheep that are known and a shepherd that is being known and followed (John 10:3–4). You as a disciple must be willing to both disclose and communicate. Disclosing your sticking points or hurdles to following Jesus and communicating your picture of what life looks like pursuing Jesus will involve your relationships, affections, and thoughts. The role of a shepherd in knowing you and in developing a loving transformational relationship with you includes spending time with you and asking questions, not just as a fact-finding mission but for the purpose of opening up communication and trust. While communication is being established and deepened, the shepherd must discipline himself or herself to be a good listener. There will be a time to inform, clarify, or correct, but in getting to know the disciple, the shepherd has a primary responsibility to listen for attitudes of the heart. If a disciple feels that he is just one more disciple, dismissed or “clichéd,” chances are that the shepherding is springing more from a template than from a relationship.
  2. Truth + Word = Feeding: In this quadrant the dynamics include learning and feeding. As a disciple you must have a life rhythm of learning. As a learner you are committing to a trajectory of drawing closer to all three persons of the Trinity, living a life that images the God who creates, redeems, and matures you. The role of shepherd as a feeder is to teach the disciple how to observe (live out) the commands of Christ. This means time in the Word together along with discussions about applications and implications to life. A good shepherd at this point knows how to assign learning projects to the disciple, which can range from a focused study, to disciplines like journaling, to a day of solitude and prayer, to challenging the disciple to frame “what a win looks like” in a reconciled relationship. The bottom line is that most of what it looks like to follow Jesus is caught rather than taught. If you are discipling someone or preparing to, you should schedule a half day of solitude and ask God to help you recall all that you have had to learn to follow Jesus.
  3. Grace + Deed = Leading: As a disciple, your challenge is to integrate being with doing. For this to happen, it becomes even more critical that you have a picture of what your life looks like when you’re following Jesus. Whether you call this a vision, a mission, or a purpose statement is not the point; having a compelling picture that calls you to action is. This means taking the aspects of discipleship and personalizing them as your own. When done well, shepherding will call people upward in their pursuit of Jesus. Disciples will seek God for the direction to set faith goals for their lives, as well as for divine empowerment to follow Jesus. Grace without action can degenerate into enablement or encouraging disciples merely to “do their best” or to “keep trying.” Shepherding is all about exposing grace as God’s delivery system for life change.
  4. Truth + Deed = Protection: As a disciple there are certain elements you should establish in your game plan. The first is repentance. No disciple shoots 100 percent. A second element or strategy to your game plan is how to deal with temptation. As disciples, we must develop discernment to realize when we are being influenced by our flesh and to flee, and a discernment to realize when we are being influenced by the Enemy and resist so that he will flee. Having someone else speak into what this looks like is exactly what it means to enlist the protective role of a shepherd-coach.

This article is adapted from Disciple: Getting Your Identity from Jesus, by Bill Clem.

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