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The Practical Side of Discipleship (Part 2)

08.01.17 | by Larry Gates

    Disciple-makers love and live out the Word of God on a daily basis. As they come alongside young believers they are always inviting them to engage in the Scriptures regularly and live life by the way of the inspired Word. Wise disciple-makers know that engaging with the Scriptures on a regular basis is essential for the healthy growth and ultimate maturity of the individual they are mentoring.

    The impact of the Scriptures on a person’s life is significant. The Scriptures are profitable for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training (2 Timothy 3:16-17). The Scripture’s ministry of teaching puts one’s feet on the right path for living a godly life. When we get off the right path, the Scriptures have a way of rebuking us to show us the error of our ways. Then the Holy Spirit guides us into truth through the Scriptures and corrects us, showing us how to get back onto the path. Training in the Word is the Holy Spirit’s way of using the Word of God to keep us walking more consistently on the pathway of holy living. Sage disciple-makers know that they must keep their mentee grounded in the Word in order for them receive all the beneficial effects of the Word. There is no substitute resource for the divine Word of God in the disciple-maker’s tool box.

    You may be asking, “Why should the Word of God be at the heart of a disciple-maker’s life and ministry? Numerous reasons can be given. A few of those reasons are enumerated below.

    1. Scripture reveals the essence, nature, works, and ways of the triune God.
    2. Scripture reveals the manifestation of the Godhead as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
    3. Scripture reveals man’s sinful condition and the just punishment due him by persisting in sin.
    4. Scripture reveals the only pathway to a right standing with a holy God.
    5. Scripture gives us all we need in matters of faith.
    6. Scripture gives us all we need in matters of life.
    7. Scripture give us all we need in matters of hope for life eternal.

    Disciple-makers know the importance of exposing their mentee to multiple ways of getting a “grip” on the Scriptures. Each approach supplements other methods and collectively they provide a balanced spiritual diet of feeding on the Word of God. To get a firm grip on the Bible, wise disciple-makers encourage the people they are mentoring to:

    • Regularly hear the Scriptures preached and taught
    • Daily set a time aside to read the Bible
    • Plan time for personal Bible study
    • Make practical application from what is read and studied
    • Memorize selected passages of Scripture
    • Set aside time for contemplative meditation on the Word

    In the Scripture love and truth are often linked together. The writer of Proverbs clearly understood this in stating, “Do not let kindness and truth leave you; Bind then around your neck, Write them on your heart” (Proverbs 3:3, NASB). The Apostle John described Jesus’ life as one lived with a balanced perspective of love and truth. John stated, “The Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14, NASB). The Apostle Paul encouraged the Ephesians to practice truth telling in love – “Speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ (Ephesians 4:15, EVS). Skilled disciple-makers practice truth telling in love and train their mentee to do the same. This sharing of truth in love happens in a practical way when the disciple-maker and the mentee share God’s Word with each other.

    Disciple-makers have the privilege and responsibility of showing a mentee how to dig deep into the Bible. The sage disciple-maker knows that casually skimming the words and paragraphs of Scripture will not transform a life. Mining the treasures of the Scriptures is like mining for gold. It requires effort and sometimes it requires moving a lot of rock to discover a precious nugget of gold.

    Going deeper into the Scriptures starts by asking the Holy Spirit to help guide our study and illuminate our understanding. The Psalmist puts it this way, “Open my eyes, that I may see wonderful things in your law” (Psalm 119:18, NIV, 1984). One practical way to help a mentee to dig deeper into Scripture is to employ a simple three- step process.

    • Observation
    • Interpretation
    • Application


    Observation involves becoming a Bible detective.   You ask and answer the question, “What do I see”? As a Bible detective you are looking for facts and clues. No detail is trivial. The following six basic questions can be helpful in directing and honing the mentee’s observational skills.

    • Who - Who are the people in the text? Who wrote it? To whom?
    • What - What is happening in the text? What are the events? In what order? What         happens to the characters? What is the argument? What is the point? What is the writer trying to communicate?
    • Where - Where is the narrative taking place? Where are the people in the story? Where are they coming from? Where are they going? Where is the writer? Where were the original readers of the text? (use maps and atlases)
    • When - The question of time. When did the events in the text take place? When did they occur in relation to other events in Scripture? When was the writer writing?
    • Why - Why is this included? Why is it placed here? Why does it follow that? Why does it precede that? Why does this person say that? Why does someone say nothing? There is an infinity of Why questions to be asked.
    • Wherefore (so what) - What difference would it make if I were to apply this truth?


    As a mentee reads a Scripture passage, the skilled disciple-makers will encourage them to look for things that are:


    1. Repeated - repetition reinforces.
    2. Emphasized - amount of space, stated purpose, order, lesser to greater and vice versa.
    3. Related - a connection or interaction with another.
    4. Alike - identify similarities.
    5. Unalike - identify contrasts.
    6. True to life - authenticity, reality.


    The mentee should be encouraged to read and enjoy the scriptures, but they should also be challenged to read with the intent of understanding the meaning of Scripture as well. As the mentee’s understanding increases, their ability to apply the truth of Scripture will be enhanced.  


    Interpretation is a matter of accurately handling the Word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15). The better your mentee understands Scripture, the better they can apply it. Disciple-makers must communicate clearly to their mentee that the meaning of a Scripture passage is not based on man’s subjective thoughts read into the text but God’s objective truth read out of the text. The task of Bible study is to think God’s thoughts after Him.

    The sage disciple-maker also knows that interpretation of scripture is not always easy. However, there are five basic keys that are essential and helpful to a mentee in the process of interpreting the Bible. They include the following:


    1. Content - The raw material, the database with which you will interpret observations.
    2. Context - That which goes before and that which follows after. Always consult the     neighbors of the verse, that paragraph, that section, that book. Whenever you get lost, climb a contextual tree and gain some perspective. Consider the literary, historical, cultural, geographical, and theological context.
    3. Comparison - Comparing scripture with scripture offers the greatest safety net, because the greatest interpreter of scripture is scripture itself. Use a concordance.
    4. Culture - You have to see it with the right light shining on it to capture its meaning. Pay attention to the cultural and historical context—to factors that led to the writing of the passage, the influences they had on the text, and what happened as a result of the message.
    5. Consultation - The use of secondary sources such as a concordance, Bible dictionary, Bible handbooks, atlases, and Bible commentaries.



    Application involves allowing the truth of Scripture to impact one’s personal life – living the truth out practically. Understanding the Bible is simply a means to a larger end. That end is to practice biblical truth in everyday living. The Bible was not written to satisfy our curiosity; it was written to transform our life; it was penned to reveal “the truth that leads to godliness”-- Titus 1:1.

    To help a mentee apply Scripture effectively, a skilled disciple-maker often used the following four guiding principles in coaching an individual through the application process.


    1. Know the text. If your interpretation of a passage is erroneous, your application will be erroneous. Interpretation is one; application is many. There is one ultimate    interpretation of a passage of scripture. Whatever it means, it means forever. But you will never cease the process of applying that truth to your life.
    2. Relate it to your experience. Jesus wants to renew every area of your life. That is why Christian growth is a dynamic and continuous process.
    3. Meditate. Ponder the truth with the purpose of allowing it to readjust your life. The key to spiritual prosperity is to meditate on the word day and night.
    4. Practice the truth. Scripture was not written to fatten geese but to train athletes and equip soldiers for the realities of life. Run to win and fight to win. Continually ask, “Is there some area of my life for which this truth is needed”?

    Helping a mentee understand how to apply the Scripture to their life can be made easier if they are instructed to consider the following nine questions. 

    1. Is there an example for me to follow?
    2. Is there a sin to avoid?
    3. Is there a promise to claim?
    4. Is there a prayer to repeat?
    5. Is there a command to obey?
    6. Is there a condition to meet?
    7. Is there a verse to memorize?
    8. Is there an error to mark?
    9. Is there a challenge to face?

    One final word - there should always be an open Bible between the disciple-maker and the person they are discipling!