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MAKING DISCIPLES ONE-TO-ONE - Courses for Christian Growth 

A new book by Peter Thomas

“Spiritual friendships”    “Soul friends”   “Prayer buddies”  “Spiritual direction”   “Spiritual formation”   “Mentoring”

Most Christians would agree that meeting One-to-One for prayer and encouragement is a great idea. But very few actually do it. Here are practical resources to help believers at every stage become more devoted disciples of Jesus Christ by meeting together. The book is in five parts

· Jesus Calls Us to be His Disciples
· Twelve Great Reasons for Meeting One-to-One      
· Spiritual Friendships - ideas to help established Christians begin meeting One-to-One.
· One-to-One for New Christians   an eight session course on the basics of Christian discipleship
· Fan the Flame - a guided course in discipleship for mature Christians meeting with a Guide.

The topics covered in Fan the Flame are:-

1) Knowing God better
    a) Loving God and enjoying your relationship with God
    b) Devotional Bible reading and understanding the Bible,  doctrine and ethics
    c) Worship
    d) Your devotional prayer life
    e) Intercessory prayer

2) Becoming like Jesus
    a) Repentance and  Holiness
    b) Christian Victory and Overcoming Temptation
    c) The Renewed Mind
    d) The Fruit of the Spirit and Mastering your Emotions
    e) Total surrender to the Lordship of Christ

3) Living in Christ’s body
    a) Amazing Grace! Forgiving yourself
    b) Forgiving other people – wounds needing healing
    c) Loving other Christians and sorting out relationships
    d) Church – Living in Fellowship and Community
    e) Belonging and Accountability

4) Becoming a servant
    a) The Cross as our example of sacrifice
    b) Serving in the church
    c) Being a faithful Steward
    d) Loving our neighbour
    e) Our Witness to the World

5) Be filled with the Spirit
    a) Sharing Christ’s resurrection life - the empowering Spirit
    b) The gifts of the Holy Spirit – Serving in God’s strength
    c) Signs and wonders – the surprising Spirit
    d) Passion for God
    e) “Be filled with the Spirit” – experiencing the Holy Spirit

POSTSCRIPT: How you being a Guide can help other Disciples

Making Disciples One-to-One is now only available directly from me.

Email: peter@pbthomas.com  

Meanwhile, below are some extracts to whet your appetite.

An extract from Making Disciples One-to-One PART 1

Jesus Calls Us to be His Disciples 

As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen.  "Come, follow me," Jesus said, "and I will make you fishers of men."  At once they left their nets and followed him. (Matthew 4:18-20 NIV)

Jesus gives the same command to every person in every age. “Follow me.” He did not say things we might have expected, like read your Bibles more, or pray more, or worship God more, or serve God more, or tell others about me, or start a church. He said simply, “Follow me.” On twenty different occasions Jesus said, “Follow me.”

So this will be God’s way forward for every Christian. Whether we have been a believer for 50 years or 50 minutes the command is the same. “Follow me.” This shouldn’t surprise us, although perhaps it does. It sounds so basic, so simplistic. After all, many of us have been involved in the church for many years. When we think of expressing our Christian faith, we think of “church membership.” But the Bible never speaks of “church members.” Not once, ever. In fact, the Bible only uses the word “Christian” three times.  And the word “believer” only comes 27 times in the New Testament and only 14 times in the Gospels and Acts. Much more often, around 100 times, the Gospels and Acts talk about people being followers of Jesus, following Jesus. So that is what God calls us to be. Followers of Jesus. People who obey that simple command, “Follow me.”

God loves us so much more than we can possibly imagine! Jesus Christ sacrificed everything so that we could be forgiven, become God's children, share His eternal life and have the happy certainty of sharing His glory in heaven forever. If we want go on with God, if we really want to respond to God’s love and grace, we must learn how to follow Jesus. We must learn more about what following Jesus means. Even more than that, we must learn HOW to follow Jesus, and put what we learn into practice in our lives so that we actually DO follow Jesus in our thoughts and words and actions. As Oswald Chambers said, "One step forward in obedience is worth years of study about it."  

And this is where we must come to grips with perhaps the most challenging word in the Bible. The most demanding word in the Bible. The word which is used over 300 times to describe those people who followed Jesus. The word which is the New Testament name for followers or believers or Christians. That word is DISCIPLE. If we want to follow Jesus, we must become His disciples. Jesus was a Rabbi, a teacher. And those who followed him were called his disciples, those who were taught by Him. Those who learned from Him. Those whose lives were shaped by Him and became like Him. If we really mean business with God, if we really want to go on with God, we need to stop thinking of ourselves as Christians, or believers, and start thinking of ourselves as disciples. Many people claim to be Christians. Many people claim to be believers. But not all Christians and not all believers are truly disciples of Jesus Christ.

William Barclay wrote: “It's possible to be a follower of Jesus without being a disciple; to be a camp-follower without being a soldier of the king; to be a hanger-on in some great work without pulling one's weight.  Once someone was talking to a great scholar about a younger man.  He said, "So and so tells me that he was one of your students."  The teacher answered, "He may have attended my lectures, but he was not one of my students."  There is a world of difference between attending lectures and being a student.  It is one of the supreme handicaps of the Church that in the Church there are so many distant followers of Jesus and so few real disciples.”

What next? Where do we go from here? If we really want to go on with God we need to hear the call of Jesus to “Follow me.” We need to stop being distant followers, stop playing at being Christians, stop playing church and discover what it means to become real disciples of Jesus Christ.


An extract from PART 2

Twelve Great Reasons for Meeting One-to-One

Disciples are learners. Through the ages disciples of Jesus Christ have learned through the teaching of the church, especially through sermons. And they have learned individually by studying the Bible and the teachings of the church, and by praying. At times disciples have also emphasised the importance of meeting in small groups, from the Benedictine and Franciscan monks and the Methodist Class Meetings, to today’s Home Groups or Cell Groups for Bible study, fellowship, encouragement and prayer. But one way in which disciples through the ages have always learned has been neglected in these self-centred days – the immense value of believers meeting together One-to-One.

Who were the people who have made the most impact on your Christian life? Who brought you to faith in the first place? Who has helped you most to grow along the way? It might have been a speaker at a big event, or a memorable sermon in your local church, or the books or music of somebody you have never met. But many people would agree that for them a Minister, a Youth Leader, a Home Group Leader or close Christian friends were much more significant. And the times which have shaped our faith were not so much occasions in crowds or even in small groups, but the times which we spent with those precious individuals One-to-One.  

When two or three people who regularly meet to talk about God and pray together are at roughly the same stage in their Christian experience, expressions like “Spiritual Friendships”, “Soul Friends”, “Sustaining Friends” “Prayer Buddies” or “Peer Mentoring” are appropriate. When a more mature Christian helps a younger Christian find their way, a better description might “Spiritual Direction”, “Christian Formation”, “Coaching” or “Mentoring”. All of these are immensely helpful in the process of knowing God better and becoming disciples of Jesus Christ. Sadly in this age of individualism very many Christians have yet to discover the blessings of meeting with others One-to-One.

There are at least twelve excellent reasons why it is good for believers to get together One-to-One. Some of them relate more to the context of Spiritual Direction, a more mature Christian sharing the spiritual journey of a younger Christian. Others are more significant in Spiritual Friendships as two Christians at roughly the same stage share their journeys with each other. Any one of these great blessings would be reason enough for believers to begin to meet together and share their spiritual lives One-to-One.

1. Anybody can do it!

 We can’t all give lots of time to lots of other people – but everybody can give time to just one or two! Even Home Groups or Cell Groups can’t be just right for everybody all the time. But meeting One-to-One will always be at just the right level for both. A meeting of just two is totally flexible – you can always get together when you want to.

Meeting with the intention and the expectation of talking about Christian things gives freedom to actually talk about Christ without awkwardness or embarrassment; because that is the very reason you are meeting. And there are things you would be prepared to share One-to-One which you would never share even in a small group. You can feel amazingly safe. Going on a journey into unknown territory it always feels better to share that adventure with somebody else than going there by yourself, especially if the other person has been there before.

2. Dialogue teaches the parts monologue can't teach

 We learn all kinds of things much better by talking about them and by doing them with other people than just by reading or by listening to a professor or a preacher talking about them. Talking things through with another person brings so many blessings – blessings for you and blessings for person you are meeting with so double the blessings! Talking helps us understand the things we have heard in sermons or read in books. It helps us think through decisions we are making and find ways through problems we face. It brings encouragement in difficult times and helps us keep going when we feel like giving up.

So often Christians only talk to another person about their faith when problems arise. The wonderful thing about meeting regularly making disciples One-to-One is that in times of trial the relationship of “sustaining friends” already exists.

3. Jesus tells us to pray together

 “Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven.  For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.” (Matthew 18:19-20 NIV)

Here Jesus very clearly makes two promises which are tragically overlooked in our individualistic world. The second promise (in order of the saying) is that Jesus the Risen Christ is present when believers meet together in some special way in which He is not present with them when they are apart and alone. And this is linked in some way to the first promise which is that God the Father will answer the prayers of believers who come together in agreement about what they are praying for, more than if they had prayed alone and separately.

If it was not already abundantly clear from other parts of Scripture, Jesus here is specifically promising to bless Christians who meet together and pray together. And that doesn't have to be at a church service or a prayer meeting or a Home Group. The minimum number meeting together to claim these promises is precisely two. Making disciples One-to-One. Praying together is good. Intercessions carry more power because they are united. Praying for each other is good. Praying through each other's decisions and problems is good. And having somebody else committed to praying for your personal spiritual growth is guaranteed to be good – because God answers prayer.


Extract from Part 4 of Making Disciples One-to-One

PART 4  -  One-to-One for New Christians

 This is an eight session Course for a new Christian meeting with a mature Guide. The topics are:

  A new life has begun - what it means to be a Christian
  Being sure of our salvation
  Getting to know God - Bible Study and prayer
  Belonging to the family - the church
  Playing your part - serving God in the church and in the world
  Tug of war - the battle against temptation
  Go and tell - sharing your faith
  The Holy Spirit – the Helper

Extracts from PART 5 of Making Disciples One-to-One


Fan into flame the gift of God (2 Timothy 1:6)

Don’t burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame. (Romans 12:11 The Message)

There is usually training and even sometimes “apprenticeship” for pastoral ministry or missionary service or evangelism. But there is a much broader and deeper need for Christian Formation to help every Christian become mature in Christ, to know God better and to become more like Christ. So often the work of a pastor is dealing with people’s problems. Pete Gilbert has made the point very well that the work of pastoral care should be building spiritual muscles, not wiping spiritual noses. In Spiritual Direction for Every Christian Gordon Jeff makes an excellent case that Spiritual Direction of individuals in their congregations should be a part of the work of every priest, minister and pastor.  Jeff explains, “Direction is not essentially problem-centred but growth centred.” It is not counselling or therapy or visitation, but “spiritual stock-taking”. Jeff’s particular emphasis is on helping people to pray better and helping them to discern God’s will, deepening their relationships with God.

If you are a mature Christian and are serious about your discipleship, consider finding a Spiritual Director you could meet with regularly to walk with you on your spiritual journey. If that is not possible, consider setting aside a week for an Individually Guided Retreat at a Retreat Centre, where daily meetings with a Companion will at least give a glimpse of the blessings Spiritual Direction brings. If neither of these are possible (and there are far fewer experienced Spiritual Directors or Retreat Centres than are needed) then this course FAN the FLAME will be of help to you.

FAN the FLAME is a tool to help mature Christians deepen their discipleship. It combines personal study and prayer with periodic One-to-One meetings with a Guide. It was designed to allow a Priest, Minister or Pastor to act as Guide and so share the spiritual journeys of a number of members of his or her congregation. The Guide could equally be any mature Christian, in particular one who has already gone through FAN the FLAME as a Participant. For such a person, revisiting the materials in the role of Guide, focussing their attention on the needs of their Participant, will be a blessing as well as a service.

This is a challenging and demanding course for mature Christians who are serious about wanting to move on with God. For five weeks you will need to set aside periods of at 20-30 minutes for reflection and prayer on five days each week. You will also have a weekly meeting with your Guide for an hour, or longer if you choose.

Each week you will think and pray about a different theme in Christian discipleship. Each week has five separate studies on the theme, each with a Bible passage and a few pages of notes to read and think about. Each study also has two or three questions for prayer and reflection. The week ends with a One-to-One meeting with your Guide to discuss and pray through your answers to the questions.  The themes  of the 25 studies are listed at the top of this page. To save you having to look there, he topics of the five weeks are

1)    Knowing God better

2)    Becoming like Jesus

3)    Living in Christ’s body

4)    Becoming a servant

5)    Be filled with the Spirit

As an example., here are the questions for the first study, which are accompanied by four pages of notes to read.  

Week 1.  Knowing God Better

a)  Loving God and Enjoying your Relationship with God

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they will be satisfied.”   (Matthew 5:6)

Read Psalm 63:1-8 and reflect on it.

Read the notes below and then consider these questions:

·       How much have you grown in your relationship with God in the last year? In the last 5 years?

·       How hungry and thirsty are you to know God better and serve Him more?

·       What do you hope will be the results in your life of following this FAN THE FLAME course?

Something to do:

Learn the “Day by Day” prayer off by heart. Commit yourself to starting and ending every day of this Fan the Flame course by praying the “Day by Day” prayer.

If you want to follow the questions and study the notes for the whole course - read the book!