www.christiancommunityconnect.com - Christian Community Connect
  • Christian Business Owners & Churches
Posted in Articles

Discipleship, Jesus's Way

Discipleship, Jesus's Way

Discipleship Jesus’ Way

Michael F. Elmore, MD 

The instruction of the wise is like a life-giving fountain, those who accept it avoid the snares of death. Proverbs 13:14 

Last year I turned seventy-five years of age. I am a medical doctor and continue to practice but no longer at full speed.   Longevity gives one perspective. Over the years I have made several observations that have been very concerning to me.  All of them in some way deal with the concept of discipleship.  Every pastor I have ever met has wanted to see real spiritual growth and transformation in the lives of the people in their church.  Repeatedly, I have seen their frustration when this has not happened except for but a few.  Why is this? If you have wondered what it takes to produce authentic spiritual growth or have personally desired to go deeper with God, then I hope you will benefit from this discussion. Most churches have some form, formula or pattern for those who come to their church to facilitate growth.  The steps usually look something like this: 

  1. Get saved - accept Christ as your Savior and make Him Lord of your life.
  2. Get baptized in obedience to the Word.
  3. Attend services and Sunday School or Bible studies regularly.
  4. Get involved in a small group.
  5. Start serving in some capacity.

There is nothing inherently wrong with these steps, however, I often found something lacking in the lives of some individuals who have faithfully followed these steps. For example, with salvation comes the Holy Spirit and being made into a “new creature.”   The Apostle Paul made it very clear that a transformation was to occur.  The presence of the Holy Spirit within fills one with love, changes his or her desires, and the individual begins to manifest the fruit of the Spirit.   Over time the working of the Holy Spirit produces a progressive conformity to Christ.  My problem was I often times did not see this happen. I tried not to be judgmental, since only God knows the heart, but a true transformation produces results.  As a physician I was taught to question absolutely everything I believed so that my diagnostics and therapeutics would always be up to date.  A person who says they have been saved but who is living no differently than their unsaved neighbors is a problem.  James said, “Faith without works is dead.”  So, my observation led to the question, “What happened?  Or what did not happen? What went wrong?” 

A second observation is that there are many members of churches who have faithfully attended for two or three decades but remained babes in Christ.  They haven’t seemed to grow and mature in their faith. I call this the “Crisis of Infancy.”  Apparently, this is nothing new since the Apostle Paul criticized some of the churches, he wrote to tell them they were immature and still drinking milk when they should have matured and eating meat.   

My last observation is that in the Great Commission, Jesus told His disciples to “go and make disciples.”  But we have seriously confused what discipleship is, and hence, we have not been obedient to His command.  The solution to solving these issues is true discipleship, but what is it? I found out through the back door, so to speak.  Let me share the story. 

In 1990, I went to Guatemala on my first medical mission trip.   I had been invited to come by a surgeon who wanted to learn the techniques of performing endoscopy.   During the week I was there, we saw about one hundred patients in our gastroenterology clinic and performed forty endoscopies.  Each subsequent year I returned to continue the training.  After a few years, the surgeon’s wife told me there was a great need for medical clinics in the villages surrounding where they lived.  So I began to recruit other physicians and nurses to go with me every year.   The clinics were a huge success, and we worked with the local pastors in each community to attend to the spiritual needs of the patients.  In 1997, a young man went with our medical team as a translator.  He had been born in Guatemala twenty eight years before.   His family immigrated to the USA when he was fourteen, and he had never been back.  During that week, he worked in the medical clinics with our doctors and translated for them.  Our doctors usually prayed with their patients, and he translated their prayers.   He was not a Christian, but as he watched how our doctors and nurses cared for these poor Guatemalans, his heart was touched.  He thought, “Even the Guatemalan people don’t care as much about these indigent people as these Americans!”  When he saw genuine Christianity in our health care professionals, it moved him.   By the end of the week, he accepted Christ.  He told me later, “If being a Christian is like that, then that’s what I want to be like.”   He was elated. 

When he returned home, he joined our church, got baptized, attended regularly, and started serving.  About two years passed, and one of his friends approached me and told me he was struggling.  So, I asked him if he wanted to go out for breakfast and talk.  He told me that his walk with Christ felt dead.  “Why can’t we have here what we had on our mission trip?” he asked.  We talked some more, and then I asked him, “Would you like to go deeper with God?”  He said he would, and we began meeting every other week for 1 1/2 to 2 hours.  During our sessions, my primary focus was to show him how to draw near to God and go deeper in his relationship with Him.   Over the weeks and months that followed, I saw the Holy Spirit transform him into a spiritual giant!  The changes were dramatic to his wife, friends, and co-workers.  He continued to grow over the years, and then returned to Guatemala with his wife and three children and worked with Guatemalans to start the Center for the Formation of Leadership.  After four years his work was complete, and they returned to the USA.  That organization continues to profoundly affect Guatemalans helping them grow in Christ just like he had. His experience was dramatic, but it was in no way unique.  I felt like the Holy Spirit was tapping me on the shoulder encouraging me to put down the concepts I had taught him in a book so they could be used to help more men.  In 2007, I published The Ancient Path, Rediscovering Manhood.  Then I wrote a companion workbook. I started mentoring men one-on-one. When I encountered a young man who I thought might benefit from the discipleship process, I would ask him, “Would you like to go deeper with God?”  If he did, then we started. With the initial five men I mentored, I saw the same dramatic changes I had seen previously.   

I learned a lot about what worked and what didn’t in the process of discipleship.  For example, the pastor of the church we were attending asked me to disciple two groups of men.  Each group consisted of five young men, and the mentoring was otherwise identical to what I had done one-on-one.  Unfortunately, working with small groups of men did not work. This was for four reasons. First, attendance was sometimes a problem. Even though I asked the men in both groups to give our sessions the highest priority, things always seemed to come up, and a man would miss a session.  It was impossible to make up these sessions. Second, when I worked with men one-on-one, we formed deep relationships, and they often shared very personal issues with me.  This did not happen in small groups. Third, the time devoted to each man working with a small group diluted the impact on each individual.  And lastly, holding five men accountable for everything they were expected to do for each session was very difficult.  I am not saying the small groups were a total failure, some men were profoundly impacted by God.  However, I was not willing to continue with the small groups. I also learned that even though some men said they wanted to go deeper with God, they were not willing to do the work involved. As a result, I developed a screening technique so men would know right upfront what was expected of them.  I would emphasize to each man that he needed to do the following in preparation for our meeting every other week: 

  1. Do, First Things First” and start each day by spending at least 7 Minutes A Day with God.   I gave them a bookmark to show them how to do this (see below for details). 
  2. After they prayed and spiritually centered, then they had to take the Scripture for the two week period and ask the Holy Spirit to speak to them about what it meant for their life.  I gave them only one Scripture to read. Then read it each day for fourteen days. I gave them a sheet with one Scripture along with accompanying questions which helped to guide them in the process of Scripture meditation.   I told them to consider only one or two questions each day.
  3. I asked them to journal what the Holy Spirit revealed to them.
  4. They were instructed to read the appropriate chapter in The Ancient Path and complete the questions in the workbook.
  5. They also had to complete the romantic homework I gave them. 

Jesus told us to make disciples because He wants us to grow and become more deeply connected with Him. He wants an intimate, personal relationship. He knew that in order for us to trust Him completely, this was crucial.   So, the key question regarding the process of discipleship is simply, “What does God want?”   

I emphasized to each man that the primary goal was for them to go deeper in their personal relationship with God.  I wanted them to fall in love with Jesus.  I wanted them to gradually look forward to their time each day abiding with God. This was not devotional time. Rather it was a time of abiding, remaining, lingering, hanging out with God.  

Devotional times often become ritualistic – something you can check off on your To Do List.”   I was not interested in that at all. I was interested in transformation.   

What Does God Want? Each man needed to clearly understand the three components of the mentoring process: INFORMATION, RELATIONSHIP, TRANSFORMATION                                                                         

  1. INFORMATION – This is the information provided in The Ancient Path and the workbook. If the mentoring process only involved this, it would be little more than another Bible study. 
  2. RELATIONSHIP – The relationship formed would be different than that formed in most small groups.  Instead of being superficial and lacking accountability, our relationship would grow deeper and deeper as time progressed. Each man needed to know that I held him accountable because I cared about his spiritual growth. 

      3. TRANSFORMATION – This is the key to a man’s spiritual growth.  He needed to understand that I had no ability             to produce his spiritual growth, only the Holy Spirit could do that, and it would only occur as he spent time each             morning abiding, remaining, hanging out with God.   He would likely need help regarding what this was all about,           since most men have never done this.  

 I told each man I mentored that if they are unable to complete the assigned work and needed extra time to please call me.  If they needed two or three more days, that was fine.  But if they needed two or three more weeks, that was not acceptable.    Sometimes due to their schedule or my schedule, we might not be able to meet every other week.  Occasionally we needed to go for three weeks or move a session up a week.  But overall, it was important to try and stay on every two week period.  This was important so that each man would have sufficient time to process the information he was reading and experience his time with God.      


Here is what the bookmark I gave each man looked like: 

Visualize and Pray the following: 

1. See Jesus standing at the door of your heart knocking wanting to come in 

(Revelation 3:20).    

2. Open the door, and ask Jesus to come in. Since Jesus says that He abides in the Father and the Father abides in Him, both of them will come in. 

3. Ask the Father & Jesus to sit on the throne of your heart and reign.  The Holy Spirit is already there. 

4. Pray:

a. Jesus, shine Your light into all the dark corners of my heart exposing the darkness - sin.

Pray like David prayed: “Cleanse my heart Oh God & renew a right spirit within me.” (Psalm 51:10)  

b. Holy Spirit, judge the thoughts & intentions of my heart. Reveal & expose them, & please transform them. 

c. Jesus, replace My desires completely with Your desires, replace My passions with Your passions, and replace My will with Your will so that I can seek You daily. Holy Spirit, pour Your love into my heart, and let it work so eminently within me that I will prefer You above all else and without reserve. 

Open your Bible and select a passage to read.  

Pray:  Holy Spirit, please give me understanding and wisdom and reveal to me the “secrets of the Kingdom.”  (Matthew 13:11) 

Think Deeply & Mediate on the words.  Recognize the Bible is not only the Written Word but the Living Word (literally Jesus revealed to us).  

Remember this is your time with God. He loves you and wants to spend time with you. He relishes this time, and He wants to speak to you. Sense His presence – enjoy being with Him. Ask Him what He wants to say to you. Listen to what He has to say. Receive His peace that passes all understanding.  

Only you can give God what He wants most – your personal love and affection.  I often wonder how God deeply wishes we would do first things first and just take a few minutes every morning to be with Him.  Have we allowed our lives to become so busy that we have forced God out?   

I believe many people are confused about what true conversion is.  Evidence of true conversion results in what Paul describes in II Corinthians 2:14-15, Now he uses us to spread the knowledge of Christ everywhere, like a sweet perfume.  Our lives are a Christ-like fragrance rising up to God.  How are we perceived by others? How do we smell? I have met a lot of people who claim to be Christians who frankly smell bad!  I don’t know about you, but the last thing I want to do is hang around people who smell bad.  The Pharisees and religious legalists of Jesus’ day smelled bad.  Paul writing to the church at Corinth said, "Your lives are a letter written in our hearts; everyone can read it and recognize our good work among you. Clearly, you are a letter from Christ showing the result of our ministry among you.  This “letter” is written not with pen and ink, but with the Spirit of the living God.   It is carved not on tablets of stone, but on human hearts.  II Corinthians 3:2-3  Our lives are to be like letters for everyone to read.   What does your letter say to those around you? 

Discipleship Jesus’ Way 

A number of years ago I was invited by Janet Michel, President and Founder of Bridges of Hope International, to come to Cartagena, Columbia.  She asked me to help her develop a program to bring medical/dental teams to Cartagena to minister to the poor.  While there I met a traveling evangelist who did crusades in Central and South America. I liked his passion for the lost. He gave me the opportunity to speak at a crusade to some 15,000 people. 

After I got home, something kept nagging at me.  I wondered, “What was really being accomplished by those crusades?”  For more than 15 years, I had been leading medical/dental mission trips to Guatemala, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, El Salvador and Peru.  We frequently encountered people who had been to similar crusades and had responded to a call to make a decision for Christ.  But several years later when asked about their relationship to God, some responded, “I tried Christianity, and it didn’t work!”  They were resistant to hearing anymore about the Gospel.   Medically speaking, we would say they had been “immunized” to the Gospel by their crusade experience.  Apparently, they had made a commitment to God, but somehow no appropriate follow up or any form of discipleship was available to incorporate them into a true Bible-believing fellowship and help them grow.   Hence, they became like the seed that fell on shallow soil or the one choked out by weeds.            

I read a book entitled Turning To God, Reclaiming Christian Conversion as Unique, Necessary and Supernatural by David F. Wells, Distinguished Research Professor at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary.  I was deeply impacted by what Dr. Wells had to say.   Some of his comments dealt with this issue of immunization.  David pointed out that “many of these decisions made at evangelistic crusades prove hollow, and that if 10% of the professed converts are still faithful after a year, the evangelists and pastors pronounce it a great success.”  He went on to point out that “what is touted by the press – the victory that is so easily declared – obscures the spiritual depression and confusion that are also sown.   What happens to the substantial number of people who ‘decide’ for Christ but find that their decision was apparently empty of spiritual reality? And who is to accept the responsibility for this situation – the person who made the decision or the person who elicited it?” 

From this sort of evangelism, often by well-meaning individuals, Christianity gets a bad rap – but often deservedly so.  David went on to point out, “However sorry the story of Christian faith has sometimes been, it has brought into this world creative men and women of conviction and courage who have profoundly changed the course of life.   And it can happen again! For the same God who undergirds life, governs our world, rules the moral order, and directs the course of history is still calling people, in the same way, through the same gospel, into the same resurrection life to serve him and preserve what is good, upright, and honorable in the world.  . . . Despite vaunting idealism on the one side, and gadgets and Porsches on the other, the hearts of men are always restless until they have found their rest in him.”  His comments made me realize all the more why Jesus emphasized discipleship. 

I came to recognize that in the Great Commission:

 Jesus did not instruct His disciples to just make converts.   He told them to make disciples, then baptize them and teach them to obey. There is a huge difference between asking people to raise their hands if they have decided for Christ and making disciples.  The discipleship program Jesus modeled was an intense sustained investment in the lives of men.  Our modern evangelism has completely stripped away the true meaning of “make disciples.”  

 I asked a pastor one day what his church’s program of discipleship looked like.  He said, “We get them saved, baptized, involved in a small group and finally serving.”  I thought about what he had said for a moment.  Then I looked at him and said, “You really don’t have a discipleship program, do you?”  He said, “No, we don’t.”  At least he was honest and recognized it. So exactly what did Jesus mean when He said, “Follow me,” follow me and become a disciple? 

During the time of Jesus, young boys studied the Torah and memorized large portions of it by the age of ten or twelve.  Then they continued to study and memorize the prophets up until age seventeen.  By the age of seventeen, those young men were very familiar with the entire Old Testament and had actually memorized most of it!  If one of those young men wished to become a Rabbi, he would go to the Rabbi he wanted to study under and ask if he would accept him as a student.  The Rabbi would interview the prospective student over a couple days or even longer.  Then he would advise the student to either go back home and continue in his father’s work or he would say, “Follow me.”  Only the best of the best students was asked to follow in the footsteps of a Rabbi and become his disciple.  It was a tremendous privilege. How long did the process of becoming a Rabbi take?  The student lived with his Rabbi, and whatever his Rabbi did, he did.  If his Rabbi ate, he would eat. If his Rabbi went to the bathroom, so did he.  He slept when the Rabbi slept, and when his Rabbi got up, he got up.  He did this for thirteen years! Finally, at age thirty, his Rabbi would tell his student he was now a Rabbi.  This required thirteen years of intense, deep discipleship.  

When Jesus called Simon Peter and his brother Andrew to be disciples, He said to them, “Come, follow me, and I will show you how to fish for people!”  Matthew 4:19 They were fishermen who lived in Galilee.  The area of Galilee was a very religious region. It would appear that since these two brothers were fishermen, continuing in their father’s footsteps, they had not made the cut to become Rabbis.  They were not the best of the best. Hence, when Jesus said to them, “Follow me,” that was huge.  They must have been thinking, “What? This Rabbi wants us to follow him? He believes in us – that we are good enough?”  And then what did they do?  And they left their nets at once and followed him. Verse 20 How long did they follow Him? They walked in the steps of their Rabbi for three and a half years.  This is the model of true discipleship Jesus gave us.  Prior to His ascension Jesus said to His disciples, Go and make disciples (Matthew 28:19).  How would they have understood this? Jesus was asking them to do the very same thing He had done with them. It was the very same process they were familiar with and had witnessed their whole lives. 

In his book Outliers, The Story of Success, Malcolm Gladwell argues “that there is something profoundly wrong with the way we make sense of success.”  He goes into great detail to explain how success is not a random act and does not arise out of nothing.  “It arises out of a predictable and powerful set of circumstances and opportunities.”   He points out how successful people owe something to parentage and patronage, and how “people who look like they did it all themselves are invariably the beneficiaries of hidden advantages and extraordinary opportunities and cultural legacies that allow them to learn and work hard and make sense of the world in ways others cannot. It makes a difference where and when we grew up.  The culture we belong to and the legacies passed down by our forebears shape the patterns of our achievements in ways we cannot begin to imagine.”   

One of the factors important in the lives of so many successful people is what Malcolm calls “The 10,000-Hour Rule.”  He emphasizes that although there is such a thing as innate talent, the more psychologists have studied this, the bigger the role preparation seems to play.    Sure, you must have a certain level of talent, but once a musician has enough ability to get into a top music school, the thing that distinguishes one performer from another is how hard he or she works.  There are no natural musicians who float effortlessly to the top.  It’s those who not only work harder but much harder who become great.  “10,000 hours of practice are required to achieve the level of mastery associated with being a world-class expert – in anything.  It seems that it takes the brain this long to assimilate all that it needs to know to achieve true mastery.  Practice isn’t the thing you do once and then you’re good.  It’s the thing you do that makes you good.  Also, 10,000 hours is an enormous amount of time.   It’s all but impossible to reach that number by yourself by the time you are a young adult.  You have to have parents who encourage and support you.   You can’t be poor, because if you have to hold down a part time job, there won’t be enough time left in the day to practice enough.  In fact, most people can reach that number only if they get into some kind of special program – like a hockey all-star team – or if they get some type of extraordinary opportunity that gives them a chance to put in those hours.”  

This principle of 10,000 hours was seen over and over again in the lives of men in the Early Church.  The Apostles lived and traveled with Jesus for 3 ½ years.  If they were taught by Jesus through His teaching and what they experienced being with Him just eight hours a day for 3 ½ years then they would have received 10,220 hours.  If you had been present at Pentecost and received the Holy Spirit, your life was changed forever.  Many of the new believers remained in Jerusalem and lived together in the homes of believers.  Six days a week they would go to Solomon’s Portico, an area in back of the Temple to listen to the Disciples’ teaching.  They did this for eight years until persecution came, and then they fled Jerusalem literally overnight in the Diaspora.  If they had listened to the Apostles’ teaching for 3 ½ hours, six days a week, for eight years they would have accumulated 10,220 hours.  What did the Apostles teach? They taught what it was like to be with Jesus and all that Jesus had taught them.  It was this teaching, living in community and growing together that enabled men like Stephan to stand up to the religious leaders of the day, proclaim their faith in Jesus the Messiah, and die for their conviction.  

10,000 hours – a recurring theme. The question for today is how do we obtain 10,000 hours of training? In the discipleship program I described entitled The Ancient Path, Rediscovering Manhood, I spent approximately two hours a session for thirteen sessions with each man one-on-one.   That was only twenty six hours. A far cry from 10,000! Where would the rest come from?  

The most important part of the discipleship program, the part that resulted in true transformation, was not the time men spent with me but the time they spent one-on-one with God.  

 I asked each man to be faithful in setting aside time each day to go to God and spiritually center using the exercise called 7 Minutes A Day.  As time went on, each man spent considerably more time with God than simple seven minutes a day.  Remember what James said, Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.  James 4:8   How will you ever get your 10,000 hours without spending daily time with God? 

Jesus commanded His disciples; I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth.  Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.  Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you.  Matthew 28:18-19  We have considered what Jesus meant by His commands.   Jesus’ disciples would have understood His commands.     

To so distort the Gospel command “Make disciples,” and interpret it to mean simply evangelism is a very serious mistake.  


First, we must each ask ourselves one question, “What does God want from me?”  We cannot escape the fact that God wants to have a relationship with each of us.    

I believe He wants His 10,000 hours.  It’s a lot of time but not as much as we spend with our wife, our kids, at work, sleeping and maybe even with some of our hobbies.   

Our relationship with God should be the most important thing in life.  

Start working on your relationship by giving Him just 7 Minutes A Day, and let it grow to be much more. 

Second, we must be clear about what Jesus meant by discipleship and not just equate it to salvation. 



Contact Editor

Contact Member