Discipleship, The Key to Christian Growth

Each week I have the privilege to sit down with a group of men in the chapel to discuss life and the gospel. During my time in settings like this, I’m reminded of the importance of discipleship. Though discipleship can take on many forms, however it always involves honesty, seeking advice, and Scripture, and someone willing to do all of the above. This time is essential in the growth of a Christian!

The Preacher in Ecclesiastes writes, “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!” (Ecclesiastes 4:9–10). The Preacher here is writing about the benefit of working together. Two are also better than one as we live out our faith in Christ. We really need each other, though we often try to go at it alone. We really need reproof and instruction, though we seldom seek it out. This is why discipleship is so important.

Discipleship builds humility. Our temptation might be to think we know what is best for ourselves. But Proverbs says that a wise man will hear and learn, and will acquire wise counsel (Proverbs 1:5). So we can safely assume that an unwise man will not hear from others, will shut them down and will not listen, will lack understanding and will not acquire wise counsel. We need to resist the temptation to be wise in our own eyes (Proverbs 3:7). We must humble ourselves!

Discipleship also unites us with fellow believers. The body of Christ isn’t meant to simply exist for us to gather together on Sundays and then move along with our lives the rest of the week. God’s word paints a picture of believers doing life together (Acts 2:44–47). Seeking counsel and discipleship is one way to invite others into your life. And also discipleship equips us for faithfulness. We become faithful when we make ourselves available. In I Corinthians 11:1, Paul tells the church of Corinth to follow his example as he follows the example of Christ. Paul was in the process of raising up leaders in the church and through this discipleship process he wanted them his example. If we want those who we are in discipleship groups with to follow our example then we better walk in faithfulness. And for those who are struggling in this area can learn and be equipped by those who are faithful.

Discipleship needs to happen among Christians! I would never trade the times I have and have had with these men. I have learned so much and I pray they have received from me as well.

Featured Book “Real Life Discipleship”

51XvzMM4mwLI don’t believe there is any book besides the Bible that has influenced me more on the topic of discipleship than “Real Life Discipleship” written by Jim Putman. The question on the back cover of this book grabbed my attention even before I had opened it up. The question, “Is your church making disciples…who make disciples…who make disciples?” spoke to what my own vision, mission and goal in ministry is. Once I opened the book up I wasn’t able to put it down as the author led me into his world of disciple making.

The book is divided up into three parts, 1) Setting the Stage for Discipleship, 2) Mastering the Discipleship Process, 3) Letting Disciples Emerge as Leaders and has a total of 15 chapters. The author writes of the beginning of his church Real Life Ministries which began when two couples met in one of their homes and began to pray that God would work in and through them to bring a disciple-making church to a sparsely populated area in Northern Idaho. This little group loved the Lord and longed for something more than the church experiences of the past. Today this church has grown to 8,500 strong and many in this church are not just sitting on church pews but are engaged in making disciples.

The author continues to challenge readers to embrace the discipleship process Jesus modeled in His plan to reach the world and that it is the job of every believer to make disciples. In John 17:3-4, Jesus made the claim that His work was finished even though He had not yet gone to the cross. As believers we know that Jesus’s primary purpose for coming to this earth was to pay for the sins of all who would accept His grace through faith. The cross is clearly central to Jesus’s mission, so why did Jesus say that he completed something before going to the cross. The author writes that he believes Jesus was referring to the training of His twelve disciples.

Too often Christians focus rightly on the gospel message of the cross but forget about the discipleship process Jesus revealed and modeled. If Jesus had not trained disciples who could in turn train others, the gospel message would have been lost. No one would have heard about it after the disciples were dead. The author writes about the 5 different stages of spiritual growth beginning with spiritually dead, spiritual infant, spiritual child, spiritual young adult and spiritual parent. He writes of the different characteristics of each stage, their typical beliefs, behaviors, attitudes and also what the spiritual needs are of each one of the stages. You can find a chart with this information on it in the appendix portion of his book.

This book has helped shape my view of discipleship and how I approach it daily. I have barely scraped the surface of this great book as the author writes about being intentional, relational, and strategic in making disciples. He challenges believers to share their faith with those around them and then disciple those who decide to follow Jesus. The reality for much of the church is that we lead people to the cross but then leave them to sort through the Christian life on their own.

Near the end of the book there is a chapter titled “Finding Leaders for Your Church.” The author encourages the church to look within for their leadership. Any where there is a body of believers gathered around God’s word and discipleship is happening, leaders are birthed. He urges the church to keep in mind that while some people may be born as natural leaders, they may not be spiritually mature. While people aren’t mature disciples, they cannot value making mature disciples because they don’t understand what one looks like. The author then closes out the chapter with a list of qualities that are found in strong and spiritually mature leaders.

You will find this book a very insightful and definitely worth your time spent reading it. Like I mentioned before this book has been very impactful in my life and I would highly recommend for you to read this book. You can purchase it by clicking on the books image.

“Behold Your God”

Last June in the Faith Based Honor Dorm, I begun a journey through a study called Behold Your God for 12 weeks with 16 men. Behold Your God is born out of a desire to see the glory of God manifested once again among God’s people. The class attempts to answer two questions, “Who is the God I profess to know?” and “How must I live if I am to live faithfully unto this God?” After the class I had each student write two essays on how the study had effected the way they think about God and how the study might had impacted them long term. These are some of the responses from these men.

How has this study affected the way you think about God?

Mark- This study made me realize that I had only scratched the surface in my relationship with God. It made me want a deeper relationship with God. I have a desire to seek the god of the Bible in a way I never did before.

Earnest- This study has showed me how God is made visible to me. I have to learn to open my eyes and search for Him. It has also inspired me to stay in the Word, stay away from the temptation in this camp. I love the Lord and I know that I am saved and want to feel His presence each day of my life.

David- This study has given me a better understanding of what God expects from me in my relationship with Him as well as how I should pursue that closer relationship with Him.

Courtney- This study has helped me draw near to God and know that He will draw near to me. No one has ever seen God, the only way we get to know the Father is through His Son Jesus Christ. This study made the invisible God, visible to me and my peers.

Joshua- This study has made me realize that if you’re going to follow the Lord then it is something you need to do 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. In the past I followed the Lord on my time and when it was convenient for me. I know that is not how things work and I need to change things.

Roger- This study has caused me to take a more serious look at God and led me to rethink the way I worship Him.

Marvin (A Muslim in search for the truth)- It is always a pleasure to be involved in a study designed to generate deeper thoughts about God. It has been refreshing and enlightening. This study has greatly affected the way I think about God.

How has this study impacted you long term?

Roger- This study has inspired me to sow into the lives of the men in my cell-block.

Samuel- I want the impact of this study to become a habitual lifestyle.

Mark- It has made my desire to know the God of the Bible grow stronger, which will have a long term impact.

Earnest- Evangelism is what God has called me to, but if I don’t put God up front, the rest is no good.

David- I must be more diligent in my pursuit of my true relationship with God, put my life in the hand of God and trust Him.

Billy- This study has challenged me to share who God is and what He has done for me to my family and those around me.

I am excited and blessed as I see God’s work in these men’s lives. Feedback like this gives me reason to continue sharing the Gospel message with those who are not yet following Christ and to help nurture personal growth and holiness to those who have surrendered their lives to following Christ. My prayer is that they would recognize their depravity without God, experience His forgiveness, and then surrender their lives to Him in worship.   “Forgiven much, Worship much”

Miller Family Update

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“Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples!” [Psalm 96:3]

Greetings from the Miller family.These last few months have been going well at St. Clair despite the rough start this year. We hosted Kairos Prison Ministry at St. Clair on the last weekend in March, which turned out to be a great success, thanks to the many men that sacrificed their time to facilitate and participate in the event. During the Kairos weekend we had several men participate that were very active in some gangs here in the prison. The weekend had a major impact on several of these men, which led us to have a weekly Discipleship Class with them and their fellow gang members in the chapel. One of these men described his experience this way, “I have 3 Life Without Paroles convictions. Justice demanded blood for blood and that I should be put to death, but God didn’t allow it. I couldn’t figure out why, or what purpose He had for my life, why would He keep me alive and in prison for the rest of my life? Even though I could feel God pulling at me like a moth drawn to a flame, I just wasn’t ready to let go of the world and surrender to God. I was still young and had a fearsome reputation. I was a Gangster Disciple and chose to follow a man instead of Jesus, but I still knew in my heart that it was wrong. While in the Chapel one day I was encouraged by a brother to sign up for the upcoming Kairos weekend. He shared that Kairos was the greatest experience he had ever had in 19 years in prison. Even after all I heard about it, I still wasn’t expecting it to be one of the most awesome things that has ever happened to me in my life; inside and outside of prison. This was the major event that allowed me to see God and experience love, caring and understanding. Kairos showed me what it means to be strong. The last day, at closing, I cried like a baby even though I told myself I wouldn’t. When I really thought about how Jesus died on the cross for me; how He gave His life for me out of His love for me, and experienced the true love of God through other people, it was more than I could take.” Please continue to pray for these men as I believe God is calling them to repentance and a life of service to Him.

In April I was honored to baptize two of my incarcerated brothers at an evening chapel service. The service was centered on the subject of justification and that the necessary means of justification is a personal faith in Jesus Christ as the crucified Savior and risen Lord. Explaining that justification is a judicial act of God, pardoning sinners, accepting them as just, and restoring permanently, their previously estranged relationship. Before they were baptized they each shared their testimony in front of the church and as I listened to their testimonies I was reminded once again of the urgent need for all men to know Him. I echo the words of Oswald Chambers, “So long as there is a human being who does not know Jesus Christ, I am his debtor to serve him until he does.” Pray, that as I go through my daily activities at the prison that I would always be aware of lost and hurting around me.

This last month I have begun several new classes in the Faith/Character Based Honor Dorm and the Therapeutic Community, in which I am excited about. Every Wednesday, I meet with 8 guys in the Faith Based Honor Dorm and study together the importance of prayer, Biblical meditation and the need for personal holiness. On Friday morning at the Therapeutic community I meet with 10 guys as we study a call to courageous manhood. As men, we all face decisions in life that demand integrity and courage. This course tackles head on the call to living, breathing manhood, offering a powerful vision for what it means to be a man who truly conquers and wins. It identifies 5 stages of a man’s journey through life-boyhood, adolescence, manhood, mentor, and patriarch-and examines a man’s responsibilities at each step. Friday evenings I meet with 16 guys as we study what it means to rethink God Biblically. Our understanding of God affects every other area of our lives and what you believe about God will always influence what you think of yourself. What you think of God and yourself will affect what you think of sin. And what you think of all three of these will determine what you think of salvation.

We do ask for your prayers as we continue to serve at St Clair. Pray that I would continue to foster healthy relationships with the inmates by sharing encouragement and friendship, while understanding the urgency of sharing the Gospel message with those who are not yet following Christ. Pray that I would help nurture personal growth and holiness to those who have surrendered their lives to following Christ, by mentoring them and offering spiritual guidance. Pray as I continue to teach and facilitate Biblical studies and practical life skills, to have an emphasis on preparing inmates for successful re-entry into society and a deeper communion with our God.

I am currently in the process of raising support so that I will be able to continue this ministry at St. Clair. My wife and I, along with our three small children, have committed ourselves to this ministry and are grateful to each of you who currently support this ministry or who have offered support in the past. Since long-term ministry at St. Clair is what we believe God has called us to, and in order to be able to serve in the capacity that we do now, we need the financial and prayer partnership of individuals like you. We pray that you may consider partnering with us and trust that God will provide as He has in the past. If you decide to partner with us financially you can do so either by a one-time financial gift or a monthly recurring financial gift.

Make all checks payable to, We Care Program and send your financial support to: We Care Program 3493 Highway 21 Atmore, Alabama 36502.Include a note stating that it is for Jeremy Millers support. Without God, your prayers, and monthly financial support this ministry would not be possible.

Jeremy Miller

Octobers Ministry Update

Matthew 25:36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’

I want to thank all of you that have invested in this ministry either through your prayers and or fiances and would ask you to remember our family in prayer as we continue pursuing God’s direction in our lives. Below are several updates of what God has had me do inside of the prison ministering to the least of these.

In the last few months I believe God has been shifting my focus of ministry from doing a lot of classes and programs to mostly one on one discipleship. It is kind of ironic that I say that when the last few months I have found myself in the chapel office in more of an administrative role due to the head Chaplain’s increased military responsibilities. But I believe it was in this role that I found more time for personal one on one discipleship and less time for leading classes. One day while in the office working on some memos a younger man that I have known for a long time came in and sat down. We engaged in a conversation about his absence in our chapel services and his struggle of being consistent in studying his Bible. While talking I felt led to ask if he would be interested in meeting once a week to study the Bible together. He was overjoyed with the offer and since than we have been meeting once a week studying our Bibles. Two weeks ago I was speaking to another man that had asked me on several occasions for prayer, during our conversation he told me of his struggle at being faithful and asked if I would keep him accountable. We also meet once or twice a week to pray, study the Bible, or sometimes just talk. I currently meet with four different men weekly, and have noticed and have been told that God is working in their lives. My experience these last few weeks with these men has also quickened my faith and renewed a passion inside of me for the ministry that Christ has purposed.

A few weeks ago while in the chapel I received a call from a local drug rehab ministry, where one of the inmates daughter was currently going through their program. Her father was housed in our infirmary, and was only given a few days to live due to his struggle of cancer. The drug counselor requested that I would join the daughter while she visited her father for the last time, stating that it had been 15 years since they had seen each other. The next morning I met the daughter in the infirmary as she spent time with her father for the last time. There were many tears shed as her dad wasn’t responding very well and had changed immensely since she had last seen him. She was very concerned of her father’s salvation and I was grateful to share with her that he had chosen to follow Christ. I struggled through our 2 hours that day as part of me wanted to be angry at her for abandoning her father in prison until he was dying, and also wondering about the hurt she must of felt for him abandoning her at an early age and going to prison. I believe there was a lot of forgiveness that happened that morning as her father tightly gripped her hand and we spent time reading the Bible and praying. A few hours after her visit, her father went on peacefully to be with his Lord.

Personal Holiness

“My people’s greatest need is my personal holiness.” -Robert Murray Mc’Cheyne-

I recently took a couple weeks away from my blog, and spent that time focusing on some goals I had set in my life. I mostly spent the time in study, prayer, and seeking Gods will and direction. I had just finished a class at our church called “Being a Disciple” and during that class God has convicted me in several areas of my life. One of those convictions came after reading this familiar quote from Robert Murray Mc’Cheyne “My people’s greatest need is my personal holiness.”

I often get so focused on the ministry at hand and seem to lose sight of the real important things in life, being a disciple. How many hours do I sit at my Lords feet and learn from Him? How many times do I rush through my prayers and ignore my Father speaking to me? How many times do I act on my own will and not Gods? Do I tend to lean to self on a daily basis or is my life totally focused on Christ? You see we so often get wrapped up in making disciples that we tend to isolate making one from being one. We as Christians should avoid blurring the distinction between the two of them. Jesus creates the distinction between being a disciple and making one when He rebukes the Pharisees for attempting to make disciples when they themselves were not disciples. In Matthew 23:15 He said, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves.”

I have to admit that during the course of ministry there are times I find myself not being a very great disciple. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing more that I want than to serve my Lord with a pure and humble heart, and follow Him with radical, sacrificial, risk taking obedience. But often in the course of life I find myself not always having the purest of motives, not being humble, not being sacrificial, and rather taking care of my needs than those that God would have me to. I believe we as disciple-makers have to step back and evaluate our relationship with Jesus before we can be effective in disciple making. In the Bible to be a disciple of Jesus was, first and foremost, to be where He was. It wasn’t, in the first place, a call to do what He did, but to be where He was. Before we are called and after we are engaged in disciple-making, we are still primarily called to be with Jesus. So going deep with our own walk, with our personal struggles, with our need to be more honest, less harsh with those around us, more present at home, more diligent in our service, more humble when corrected, may be the best thing we can do for the disciples we are called to make.

Disciple-Making Is Ordinary Christianity

The following is an article I recently read written by Erik Raymond. As you read this keep in mind you can not be a disciple-maker without first being a disciple. When I think of the so called Christianity today, I am often reminded by the question Author Kyle Idelman poses in his book “Not A Fan.” Are we a fan or a follower of Christ? If we are a follower (disciple) of Christ than disciple-making should be ordinary Christianity.

What is your job as a Christian? If God gave you a job description for the Christian life, what would he put on it?

At the core of the Christian’s job is the task of discipleship. We read this clearly in our Lord’s preascension words:

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Mt. 28:18–20)

What does it mean to make disciples? A disciple is a learner and a follower of Jesus. When we make disciples we are working to see people who do not follow Jesus come to follow him (conversion) and then teaching them to faithfully follow Jesus in every area of their lives (maturity).

Many Christians hear this and file it away in a cabinet of idealism. Sure, I’d like to disciple people but I really can’t. They feel like discipleship is above their pay grade. Is this true? Is discipleship something that only pastors, elders and the “mature” do? Or is it for everyone?

Here is my main point: disciple-making is ordinary Christianity. It is fundamental to it. Like learning to count and say your alphabet in the natural realm, there is scarcely any part of the Christian life where discipleship does not touch. In so far as Christianity is a community faith, it is a disciple-making faith.

There may be a dozen different paradigms flying around when you hear discipleship. Some people insist on reading a book, meeting for coffee, eating a meal, working out, etc. All of these may aid the work of discipleship but they are not a prerequisite for or the necessary substance of it. Jesus never gave us a program for discipleship but he gave us his example and a broad, far-reaching command to do it. As a result, we have great freedom and a great burden for discipleship.

What does it look like? When Jesus commands us to make disciples he intends for us to live our lives in obedience to him in the presence of other people (believers and unbelievers). This intentional living seeks to show others the worth and the power of Christ. In short, we let people in to see how we live out the Christian faith.

Let me give you some examples:

Discipleship happens when a guy wants to be married but doesn’t have a game-plan for how to go about it. He asks another brother for guidance and help. This brother takes him out for lunch and talks through some biblical and practical principles. He then commits to pray for him, to be available for questions, and to meet occasionally to talk about his progress.

Discipleship happens when a mom with two toddlers drops something off that she borrowed from another sister at church. During the exchange they get to talking and the young mom expresses her feelings of fatigue and failure to measure up to her perceived standards of motherhood. The other woman listens to her, reminds her of Scripture, prays with her, and then continues to come alongside of her for encouragement in the gospel.

Discipleship happens when a dad points out a scantily dressed lady and tells his teenage sons that what they see is not beauty. He explains to them what beauty is as it relates to God’s character and will. He continues to tell, show, and emphasize the true beauty that God delights in (1 Pt. 3:3–4).

Discipleship happens when a brother notices another brother is running hard after his job and neglecting his family and ministry. He comes alongside of his brother to remind him of the true and lasting treasure, and the proper perspective on work.

Discipleship happens when a mom is at the park with her children. At one point the kids become unruly and she patiently, graciously but faithfully, disciplines her children. There are many watching eyes around her. Both the believing and unbelieving women are intrigued. Conversations begin and soon the fruit of the Spirit points to the matchless worth of Christ.

Discipleship happens when a home-school mom breaks away with free time only to go to the same coffee house hoping to make new friends and open doors for sharing the gospel.

Discipleship happens when a single woman senses another single woman’s discontentment in being single. She makes it a point to come alongside of her for encouragement in the goodness of the gospel.

These are just everyday, ordinary occurrences. In fact, I picked them from the ordinary lives of people in our church family. It is this ordinary work that pushes the church ahead toward maturity while protecting her from spiritual shipwreck.

But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end. (Heb. 3:13–14)

Discipleship is the ordinary practice of believers. You could say that Christianity is more than discipleship, but it is not less. We are our brother’s keeper. It’s in the job description.