Be The Church: Shape Disciples (John 15)



DTR: Define The Relationship[1]

“Jack and Diane met through a mutual friend. From day one they seemed to be the perfect match. Diane was everything Jack had always wanted. She was beautiful, outgoing and caring – always there when Jack needed her.For the first five months they were inseparable. Jack could hardly think of anything but Diane . He didn’t need to look further, he told friends. “She’s the one.”
Now almost three years have passed. Jack still enjoys the comfort and familiarity of being with Diane, but the spark is gone. Diane flaws seem more obvious. He’s not sure he finds her as attractive as he once did. And he’s beginning to resent all the time she wants to spend with him.
One night, when she asks if they can define the nature of their relationship, Jack blows up. “We’re together, aren’t we?” he asks angrily. “Why isn’t that enough for you?”

Obviously, Jack isn’t ready for commitment. And it’s unclear if he ever will be.

Have you ever been in a relationship like this?

Numerous couples today have or need to have a DTR conversation. Signs you need to have a DTR [2]:

  • Frequent togetherness. There’s evidence on social media, or dinner receipts, or items in each other’s cars or house. The expectation is that you will be together rather than not (evenings, weekends, holidays, etc.).
  • You are yourself when together. You don’t have to put on a front or act a certain way to keep appearances.
  • People assume you’re a couple.
  • You share everything… even significant life happenings you discuss with them before everyone else.
  • They are the first person you talk to in the morning and the last person you talk to at night.
  • You are not actively pursuing anyone else.
  • You talk about time shared together in future days, weeks, months, and even years ahead.

Today’s message helps us define our relationship with Jesus Christ… and even w/ our local church.

  • Being a disciple implies daily dependence upon God, distinct devotion to Jesus and daily denying self (Matt 8:18-22; 16:21-28).
  • Building other disciples implies seeing people as Jesus sees and where Jesus saw them – at work, at worship, and in the world (Matthew 4:18-25).
  • Selecting other disciples starts with substantial prayer, and also specific limitations – Jesus chose 12 (Luke 6:12-15).

à Who are you selecting to be discipled by or to disciple?

  • “Follow Me and I will make you fishers of men.”
    • Follow = Obedience
    • Me = Relationship
    • I will make you = Spiritual formation / shaping disciplines
    • fishers of men = mission

be the church_logo

EXAMINE                       Mark 3:13-15; John 15:1-15             SHAPE DISCIPLES

Shaping disciples requires specific purposes (Mark 3:13-15)

Mark’s Gospel provides the purpose for which Jesus called the disciples. In calling His disciples – also named apostles – he went up on the mountain [to pray] and then called those whom He desired and they came to Him. Jesus appointed twelve so that 1) they might be with Him, and 2) they would be sent out to preach [κηρύσσω  public proclamation to announce news and be heard among all other talk or news] and have authority to cast out demons. The two-fold purpose of Jesus selecting disciples seems to contrast each other. How can a disciple be brought near while being sent out? Thus the purpose of discipleship is to be understood in light of mission. Community with Jesus and His people should results in being commissioned to others who are not with Jesus.
In Jesus’ eyes, there is no such thing as an unsent disciple.

Jesus transformed the twelve from being disciples (followers) to apostles (sent ones).[3] Except in prayer, Jesus was rarely alone as He intensified relationships “to be with him” (Mark 3:14). “The Twelve enjoyed a relational proximity to Jesus beyond that of the multitudes.”[4] The disciples’ training experience involved Jesus modeling the life and actions for the disciples to follow. Training included modeling (“I do, you watch”), instructing (“I do, you help”), coaching (“You do, I help”), and delegating (“You do, I watch”).[5] In essence, modeling is “massaging the truth until it becomes understandable and usable. It’s what we call adding life-on-life into the discipling process.”[6] Jesus was providing on-the-job training as the disciples observed, asked questions, and in time imitated Jesus’ pattern for ministry. The Gospels show a back and forth movement from Jesus modeling to sending the disciples into ministry.[7]

à Disciplemaking belongs to Jesus – He called/summoned the disciples for His desires/will. Generally, Rabbi’s did not choose their disciples but the opposite. “Rabbinic disciples would ideally see in their tutor a means of mastering the Torah and a model of what they themselves might become.”[8] Therefore, Jesus’ calling of disciples affirms His deity. Jesus was greater than the Torah/Law and therefore faith in Him showed approaching God not through learning or obeying the Law but by the elective grace of Jesus.

à Disciplemaking requires prayer for selection…

  • SPBC application: Pray… by Jan/Feb 2016 we will be initiating D-Groups. See 3-5. See previous message.

à Disciplemaking requires deeper commitment, moving from crowd to the core.

  • SPBC application from Worship Gatherings to Bible Groups are a starting point but growing deeper and real with a few. Jesus selected 12 but also had 3 whom were closer. So, 3-5 with goal of multiplication.
    • Eventually, some may start in the D-Groups because they would never enter thru church on own.

à Disciplemaking requires listing of names.

  • SPBC application is for our church to keep tabs on people in order to effectively encourage and equip them. Bible Groups… CM/YM… Deacons with families… Church directory…

à A disciple of Jesus who is not making other disciples of Jesus implies a lack of understanding of either Jesus or discipleship. Which is it for you?

  • SPBC application: This series is calling you to clearly see Jesus and to more clearly experience discipleship. It’s ok to not understand discipleship – there has been a great discipleship deficit in the church. But it is not ok to continue this deficit.
    • Some may continue through their passivity. You will miss out on 10K joys (Mat 13:44-45; 25:21).
      • unfortunately calls for mowing around tree stump…
    • Some may continue through their opposition. You will indicate your discipleship (Luke 14:28-30).


Start as a disciple. See people. Select disciples. Shape disciples. Send disciples.


Shaping disciples requires abiding in Jesus (John 15:1-15)

Every person must DTR when it comes to Jesus. Jesus instructed the definition for His disciples was abiding in Him. Those who abided in Jesus bear fruit, while those who did not abide were bare of fruit. So, what does it mean to abide in Jesus?

Jesus declares, “I am the true vine”. This is the last of several “I am” statements in John’s Gospel to declare Jesus’ identity as God.

  • Jesus is the bread of life (6:35). He is the sustaining and essential ingredient for all of life.
  • Jesus is the light of the world (8:12). He is the joy and hope of the world.
  • Jesus is the gate (10:7). He is the only entry to the kingdom of heaven.
  • Jesus is the resurrection and life (11:25). He has power over the grave.
  • Jesus is the way, the truth and the life (14:6). He is exclusive reality for relationship with the Father.
  • Jesus is the true vine (15:1). He is the source and strength for life.

Jesus, as the true vine, implies that He is the source and sustainer of life; there is no life outside of Jesus. Abiding is a connection and participation – as a branch of a tree, or as food to the body… “unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal lif, and I will raise him up on the last day” (John 6:53-54).

Abide (μένω/ meno: remain, dwell, be present, make your home) is used 14x in Gospel of John with 7x in chapter 15. The word references a condition of life as well as continuity of relationship. To abide in Jesus is not so much what you are doing but resting in what Jesus has already done/accomplished for you; it’s being rather than doing. Theologians call this “gift righteousness” and is seen in Jesus’ statements “you are already clean because of the word that I have spoken to you” (John 15:3).

  • kite flying: A kite cannot fly by itself. It must be connected to the kite-flyer holding the string and is reliant upon the wind. Likewise, we must be connected to Jesus and reliant upon the Spirit of God. In this sense Christians pray for hurricane-like winds of the Holy Spirit – dangerous but O can we dance!

4 results of abiding in Jesus:

1) Life. Life in the Jesus and with the Father (John 15:1).

2) Learning / pruning. Pruning is God’s removal of areas or items that hinder growth. The Gardener never removes anything that is significant and never keeps anything that is superfluous. “He takes away… that it may be more fruit (John 15:2). Pruning is for our good, like a father’s discipline (Hebrews 12:4-11). Pruning teaches us to obey Jesus and His commandments (John 15:10).
Quote: Jerry Bridges, The Discipline of Grace (116)

“My observation is that most of us who are believers practice what is called a ‘cruise-control’ approach to obedience. …we press the accelerator pedal of obedience until we have brought our behavior up to a certain level or ‘speed.’ The level of obedience is most often determined by the behavior standard of other Christians around us. We don’t want to lag behind them because we want to be as spiritual as they are. At the same time, we’re not eager to forge ahead of them because we wouldn’t want to be different. ”

“By contrast consider race-car drivers. They wouldn’t think of using a cruise control. They are not interested in blending in with the speed of those around them. They are not out for a Sunday afternoon drive. They want to win the race.

Race-car drivers are totally focused on their driving. Their foot is always on the accelerator as they try to push their car to the outer limits of its mechanical ability and endurance. Their eye is always on the track as they press to its limit their own skill in negotiating the turns of the track and the hazards of other cars around them. They are driving with all their heart, soul, and mind.

3) Loving community (John 15:12-17). Connection to Jesus will result in community with God’s people. Jesus commanded His disciples to love one another. Their love would be like no other – sacrificial and shared friendship.

4) Leading others in connection with Jesus and community with God’s people (John 15:16). Jesus appoints disciples to bear fruit. In fact, there is a warning those not abiding in Jesus will not bear fruit and will be futile; “you can do nothing” (John 15:5); “thrown away… into the fire and burned” (John 15:6).

– Fruit is always observable and enjoyable to others. We may be unable to identify a person’s inward beliefs for their faith but we can observe their external behaviors for their fruit.

4 benefits of abiding in Jesus:

Effective prayer “ask whatever you wish” (Jn 15:7, 16)

Assurance of salvation “Father glorified… and prove to be my disciples” (Jn 15:8)

Fellowship with God “abiding in love” (Jn 15:9-10)

Fullness of joy “God’s joy in you and your joy full” (Jn 15:11)


So how does abiding in Jesus relate to disciplemaking?

  • Disciples will select others to be shaped by Jesus and His word….

2 Last Actions: – Abide in the presence of Jesus  – Apply the commands of Jesus

[1] Illustration adapted from, “Stop Dating The Church”, Joshua Harris.

[2] Adapted from various sites from google research.

[3] Neil Cole, Cultivating a Life With God, 4.

[4] Michael Crow, 92.

[5] Greg Ogden, Multiplying Disciples, 82-96.

[6] Randy Pope, Insourcing, 32.

[7] Matthew 10; Mark 6:7-13;

[8] James Edwards, The Pillar NT Commentary on Mark.

[9] Jim Putman, Real Discipleship, 40.

[10] Hull, 135-141.

[11] Hull, The Complete Book of Discipleship, 261.

[12] McCollum & Lowery, 23. See also Ron Bennett, Intentional Disciplemaking: Cultivating Spiritual Maturity In The Local Church (Colorado Springs, CO: Navpress, 2001), 31.

[13] Putman, 132.

[14] Alvin Reid, As You Go: Creating A Missional Culture of Gospel Centered Students (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2013), 95.

[15] Ibid., 96.

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