Discipleship Training at Your Own Pace

Life is a journey, a voyage, a quest, a pilgrimage, a personal odyssey, and we’re all at some unknown
point between the beginning and the end of it.
– Os Guinness

The Jackson Institute is committed to providing excellent training in Christian disciplemaking for those whose hearts have been stirred by Jesus’ command to take the gospel to “all the nations.” As the gospel continues to spread rapidly across the world, there is a growing demand for godly leaders who are trained to introduce others to Christ, guide them to spiritual maturity, and equip them to reach others with the gospel. This is the win, build, and send model that we have all heard about for many years – from the time of Jesus himself.

The Issachar Initiative, a think-tank “committed to being a trusted source of collaborative information to Christian leaders and reporting on the progress of the Church, relating to each Biblical element of fulfilling the Great Commission,” has highlighted the great need for disciplemakers to be in EVERY people group so that the gospel can be taken to EVERY person. In collaboration with churches, mission organizations, academic institutions, Bible translators, church planters, evangelists, and kingdom donors, the Jackson Institute is seeking to do our part in training multiplying disciplemakers for the Global Church. Our strategy involves training Christian leaders who, in turn, train additional believers to be involved in the harvest.

It should be noted that many are unable to attend personal training sessions because of time, distance, health, or finances. Dietrich Bonhoeffer reminded us that “Christendom is a scattered people,” that “God’s people must dwell in far countries among the unbelievers,” and that “it is a grace, nothing but grace, that we are allowed to live in community with Christian brethren” (Life Together, p. 20). For these reasons, we responded to God’s call to offer online training in discipleship for those whose hearts have been prepared, but whose circumstances have prevented them from learning how to disciple others for the glory of God and the advancement of Christ’s kingdom. While desiring life together as we train others, we accept the reality that this is not always possible. On the other hand, we acknowledge that offering training without the personal relationships is better than offering no training at all.

For whom have we prepared this training in discipleship?

  1. Those who love the Lord Jesus Christ and are determined to follow him, through the power of the Holy Spirit, without reservation.
  2. Those who are eager to get started right away – as soon as they are ready to pursue further development as a disciplemaker.
  3. Those who are willing to make sacrifices in order to become prepared as disciplemakers. The Communists used to say that “if you make mean little demands upon people, you will get a mean little response which is all you deserve, but, if you make big demands on them, you will get an heroic response….They work on the assumption that if you call for big sacrifices people will respond to this and, moreover, the relatively smaller sacrifices will come quite naturally” (Douglas Hyde, Dedication and Leadership, p. 18).
  4. Those who are self-motivated and self-disciplined.
  5. Those who will seek the Father for his grace and strength through prayer.

Our Model for Discipleship

Our self-guided courses are based on the life of Christ and how he trained the Twelve. Scottish theologian A.B. Bruce made the important observation that there were “three distinguishable stages in the history of their fellowship with him (Jesus). In the first stage, they were simply believers in him as the Christ and occasionally accompanied him when it was convenient and during times of celebration… In the second stage, their fellowship with Christ assumed another form. They were present with him most of the time… The Twelve entered into the last and highest stage of discipleship when they were chosen by their Master from the masses of his followers. He then formed them into a select band of men whom he would train to accomplish the great work of apostleship” (Training of the Twelve, Chapter 2).

The reason Jesus spent approximately 3½ years training the Twelve is because it took that long. A six week’s or six month’s “leadership development program” would have certainly failed, and the very name of Jesus would have almost certainly disappeared from human history. From the time they were introduced to Jesus by John the Baptist until the “cloud received him out of their sight” (Acts 1:9), it was necessary for them to undergo a thorough transformation. Considering that each one of them was created in the imago Dei (the image of God) – including rational, moral, volitional, and emotional aptitudes, the capacity for self-transcendence, spirituality, immortality, and dominion over the earth – but were sinners who had experienced what Carl F.H. Henry called a “catastrophic personality shock” from Adam’s fall in Eden, there was extensive work that Jesus had to do with them before they were ready to be his representatives to and before a lost world. Their hearts and minds had to undergo significant changes before they would be ready to meet the multifaceted challenges that awaited them in the Roman world of the first century. “In fact,” as A.B. Bruce suggests, “they had to learn so much that the time it took in their apprenticeship for their apostolic works seems much too short, even considering that their training began from the commencement of Christ’s ministry” (Chapter 2).

Another useful term that can be substituted for transformation is alternation. Os Guinness cites sociologist Peter Berger, who uses the term alternation “to describe what happens when some event or experience acts as a ‘culture shock’ that smashes against our normal way of seeing things, and causes a breach in our given views of reality that opens up the possibility of different and alternative realities” (Fool’s Talk, p. 151). In this light, it is impossible to calculate the full, smashing impact of the life of Jesus upon the lives of the Twelve.

The quality and quantity of the training received by the Twelve stands in stark contrast to the spirit of the modern age. As a caution for all who are tempted to disciple others using the quickest and shortest route to growth, Dr. Guinness offers the following critique:

“The world of fast food has long been the place where quantity has conquered quality, efficiency has trumped excellence, and both have excelled at the expense of health. But the so-called McDonaldization of the world means that the same spirit and process have now invaded many other areas too. All of life, we are told, can be transformed by the magic touch of the McDonald’s formula, so that when we copy the four secrets of ‘the golden arches’ (calculability, efficiency, predictability and control), we can multiply quantities of any kind – whether hamburgers, computers, health clinics, new churches or new converts. (‘Billions and billions of hamburgers sold’; Millions and millions of converts won)” (Fool’s Talk, p. 30).

Perspective On Curriculum

These courses are intended to increase your knowledge, understanding, and practice of biblical discipleship in order to help you grow in your relationship with Christ and become more effective – wherever God has placed you – as a discipler who is committed to what Eugene Peterson titled his book, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction: Discipleship in an Instant Society. If you are eager to move deliberately and slowly through our recommended readings and assignments, testing everything presented to you by the Scriptures and submitting your heart and mind to the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit, you will soon discover that you are on the path that began with the Great Commission and ends at the Final Consummation.

Depending on where you live in the world, the resources available to you may vary. We have always argued that there can be (literally) thousands of curricula designed by global Christian leaders to get the job done. It must be remembered that the only curriculum available in the early church was the Bible. Today, even in countries without a written language, Christian discipleship is possible – orally – as demonstrated by the life of our Lord. Therefore, the curriculum that we are suggesting for this training is offered for you only if it meets your established growth objectives and creates practical pathways for incremental growth in disciplemaking for yourself and for other followers of Christ.

Suggested Learning Enviornments

These courses may be taken by individuals or by groups of people invested in learning together in various environments under a skilled facilitator, including:

  1. Church-planting networks
  2. Academic institutions
  3. Church leaders
  4. Community groups
  5. Discipleship groups

The Necessity of Prayer

You will be amazed at how the Lord will prepare you to influence other lives for his kingdom as you take your time learning and assimilating the principles of discipleship He modeled for us. We encourage you to begin your studies with prayer and to follow the suggested order we have outlined.