A FOUNDATION FOR FAITH: THE IMPORTANCE OF DISCIPLESHIP
Discipleship is an important part of a believer’s journey, for both the new believer and the believer leading the process. Discipleship began with Jesus and His friends—the 12 disciples—and it continues in our relationships today.
The core of discipling a new believer is training in Bible study and prayer. These 2 spiritual disciplines help new believers build their relationship with God and learn how to hear God speak.
STUDYING THE BIBLE
Teaching a new believer how to study the Bible can seem intimidating but is simpler than you think.
First, explain the structure of the Bible. Point out the major differences between the Old and New Testaments. Explain that different books of the Bible have different purposes. Some are poetry and others are narratives. Some use parable while others reveal prophecies.
Second, read the Bible regularly with the new believer you’re discipling. Pick a book of the Bible to study—for new believers, 1 of the 4 Gospels would be a good choice. Or choose a topic like prayer, church, evangelism, or another building block of the Christian faith and study Scriptures about that topic. Read a few verses together every time you meet, and ask questions to better understand the text:
- What does this say about God?
- What does this say about man?
- What does this say about me?
Follow the same pattern of study each time so the new believer you disciple can, in turn, disciple someone else. The Three-Thirds Method is one pattern you can follow. Divide the time you spend together into thirds. The first third of the time, talk with the new believer about how things are going for her, what she has read in the Bible, or spiritual questions she may be facing, and pray over what is shared. Eventually, this should include talking about how the new believer is sharing her faith with others.
In the second third, study a passage of Scripture with the questions you’ve chosen. In the final third, train and encourage the new believer to share what she has learned and pray to close out your time together.
When it comes to teaching new believers about prayer, emphasize prayer is an ongoing conversation with God. Prayer is not a one-and-done thing or only done at certain times—we can do it all the time. Use a simple acronym like A.C.T.S (Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication) or J.O.Y (Jesus, Others, You) to help explain to a new believer the content of prayer. The A.C.T.S acronym might look like this in prayer:
A—Adoration: Praise God for who He is—His faithfulness, grace, love, etc.
C—Confession: Confess sins to God, repent, and ask for forgiveness.
T—Thanksgiving: Praise God for what He does, thanking Him for answered prayers and what He has provided for you.
S—Supplication: Pray for the needs of others and yourself.
Similarly, the J.O.Y acronym might look like this in prayer:
J—Jesus: Praise Jesus for who He is and thank Him for what He has done.
O—Others: Pray for the needs of those around you (family, friends, neighbors, coworkers, etc.).
Y—You: Pray for any needs you have or specific situations in your life that require God’s wisdom.
Scripture is also a great starting point for learning about prayer. Read passages like Matthew 6:5–13, where Jesus teaches His disciples how to pray; psalms of praise; or 1 Thessalonians 5:16–18 to start a conversation about what rejoicing in prayer and praying without ceasing looks like.
The most important part of discipleship is teaching new believers to grow in Christ (by reading the Bible and praying) and share Christ with others. When we spend time with Jesus and share our faith, we are doing what Jesus’ disciples did and what He has called us to do.
Emily Todd* is a former cross-cultural worker who served among university students in South Asia. Currently, she lives in Nashville, Tennessee.