Biblical discipleship course
How to help Christians grow in their faith and become mentors
“What’s the greatest need at our church?” Our pastor asked the church council in 2015. Several council members said, “Biblical discipleship.” A number of new people who needed discipleship had recently joined our church. Participating in a biblical discipleship course is an excellent way for Christians to grow in their faith and for them to go on to become mentors to others.
Starting the course
A year after this conversation, we began a successful ongoing bilingual church discipleship course as part of the biblical education ministry at our church (the course was developed by the pastor of Osaka International Church and its council). Its purpose is for any Christian to be mentored by a more mature Christian. In this context “a more mature Christian” means someone who has been a respected, active Christian for a long time. At our 2016 church retreat at Japan Mission in Ikoma, about 30 people signed up as participants, approximately 15 people as mentees and the other 15 or so as mentors. The church staff drew up a list of suitable pairs. Men mentored men, and women mentored women. Language skills, nationalities, culture, and availability were also considered when pairing mentees with a suitable mentor. For example, English speakers were generally paired with English-speaking mentors and Japanese speakers with Japanese mentors.
How the course works
Mentors and mentees went through the course together at their own pace. Most took about three years to complete it. Each mentor met up with their mentee every few months for study and discussion. In their own free time, mentees read the course books and the complete Bible in a year. The Japanese mentees read through the Bible and God’s Big Picture in Japanese. They also went through other material in Japanese that the church staff had produced.
The final part was memorising scriptures from a list of verses in the Navigators Topical Memory System Workbook. From this list, our pastor chose 60 key verses. We could choose to memorise all 60 verses or one verse from each of the following categories:
- Living the new life
- Proclaiming Christ
- Reliance on God’s resources
- Being Christ’s disciple
- Growth in Christlikeness
Scripture memorisation actively improves a Christian’s journey of faith in so many ways. For example it
- strengthens a Christian’s relationship with Jesus;
- equips Christians for spiritual warfare; and
- provides help, inspiration, motivation, comfort, and instruction.
Memorisation helps Christians recall key scriptures of encouragement when they are in a situation with no access to a Bible. This happened to one course mentor who was stranded outside all night during Typhoon Jebi (4 September 2018). Recalling Scripture was a huge comfort in this situation.
How the course achieved its aim
At least two mentees who had backslidden in their Christian faith returned to Jesus with renewed love, passion, and commitment. It was so encouraging to witness this! As a result other people at church signed up as mentees.
Several reported that they had benefitted from the scripture memorisation. This strengthened their relationship with Jesus, improved their biblical knowledge, and provided motivation for them in further biblical study and future ministry. Others said it was helpful to read through the whole Bible and see the big picture of God’s story of redemption. Some reported that they had a better understanding of the Bible and how to apply biblical truths to real-life situations such as prayer, giving, relationships, and employment.
A Bible-based discipleship course is one of the best ways for a congregation to grow in their Christian faith. It is an effective way to help Christians to maintain an exciting and vibrant Christian faith and to go on and mentor others to have the same kind of faith!
Some helpful resources:
- John R. Cross, By This Name (Alberta, Canada: GoodSeed International, 2007).
- John R. Cross, The Stranger on the Road to Emmaus (Alberta, Canada: GoodSeed International, 2009).
- Vaughan Roberts, God’s Big Picture: Tracing the Storyline of the Bible (London, UK: IVP Books, 2012). Available in Japanese from: http://www.jclglobal.org/bookshop/order
- The Navigators, Navigators Topical Memory System Workbook (Colorado Springs, Colorado, USA: NavPress, 2006).
- Dr. Henrietta C. Mears, What the Bible is All About (Carol Stream, Illinois: Tyndale House Publishers, 2016).