Multiply Leadership through Discipleship

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Discipleship is a process—it takes time. Watch as Afshin Ziafat, Pastor of Providence Church in Frisco, TX, describes a common pitfall leaders experience when they try to shortcut the discipleship process, limiting their ability to multiply leaders.

Afshin shared a story that described his early tendency to give all the “right” answers. He explained the paradigm shift that occurred when he was given the advice that often people learn more when they are allowed to figure out the answer themselves.

Think about how you generally respond when approached about questions relating to Scripture or faith. Are you more likely to give a quick answer, or help others discover the answer themselves? What are some ways can you shepherd someone in the right direction without directly giving them the answer?
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Afshin speaks to the value of giving people the space to fail. Think about some of the people you are currently leading. How are you currently giving those people the space to fail and learn from those failures? How do you respond when they fail?
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It is often much easier to offer a quick answer than to walk alongside someone as they seek the answer themselves. Perhaps even more difficult is letting others fail—especially when we fear how it may reflect on us. As Afshin said, “As a Pastor…its not about just getting the right answer out or having the best event, its about discipling people and people being moved further along in maturity.”

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In the first video, Afshin references an important example of successful discipleship from the Bible. Take a moment to read 1 Thessalonians 1:6–8. 

1 Thessalonians 1:6-8 (ESV)

6And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit,7so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia.8For not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in God has gone forth everywhere, so that we need not say anything.

Scripture quotations marked (ESV) are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

In this passage, Paul commends the Thessalonians for their proclamation of the gospel in the region—so much so that he “need not say anything.” Notice how Paul ties the Thessalonians’ fruitfulness in the gospel with their own discipleship. The Thessalonians “became imitators” of Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy and in turn “became an example to all believers in Macedonia and in Achaia.” Paul was able to successfully foster disciple-making disciples.

With the 1 Thessalonians passage in mind, watch as Afshin walks through his process of intentionally fostering disciples who make other disciples.

Afshin outlined three phases involved in equipping disciples:

  1. Modeling—“Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.” 1 Cor. 11:1 (ESV)
  2. Taking People Along—Give the people you disciple the opportunity to see how you operate first hand
  3. Turning It Over—Pass along the responsibility, allowing people to grow into what you have modeled 

How are you currently modeling the gospel for those you are discipling? As you model Christ for others, do you allow others to see your failings and flaws, or do you only let them see areas where you excel? How might the way you deal with your own failures be an encouragement to others?
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Afshin cites an example of discipleship through “taking people along” in his story about evangelization at the University of Texas. List a few ways that you might be able to provide opportunities for those you are discipling to “come along” as you go about your ministry.
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What ministry responsibilities exist in your church that you can pass along to those you are discipling? Think about those you have discipled who are ready to take on such responsibility. How can you encourage them as you hand over new opportunities to minister?
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As a pastor or church leader, your influence will only extend so far. However, through intentional discipleship the impact of the gospel spreads exponentially. As you invest and disciple new leaders, they are equipped to disciple others, thus multiplying gospel-centered leadership over and over again.