Getting Started with the Believer
People who identify as BELIEVER can range from cultural Christians with no personal relationship with Jesus to sincere followers of Christ who have never been discipled. It is likely that the majority of our churches are in this stage. When discipling a believer, our role is like that of Peter with Cornelius. Cornelius “feared God” and obviously “believed” that the God he was praying to exists (Acts 10:1-2). But God used Peter to fill in all the gaps in his understanding of what it means to follow Jesus. The focus of discipleship for the believer is a firm grasp of the gospel (“gospel fluency"), resulting in assurance of salvation and a growing personal relationship with Jesus in His Word.
1. Even if someone identifies as a DISCIPLE, suggest to them that you spend time in the BELIEVER stage since they will soon have to take others through it as a part of their training (it also serves to make sure key steps haven’t been skipped in their own discipleship).
2. Remember to be patient because the BELIEVER stage is one of the most crucial for many reasons like:
The Bible starts to become their primary authority.
Free exploration transitions into committed following.
Identity in Christ is not only explained but experienced.
The first sense of sharing our faith and experience with others is born.
The curse of sin is broken and the (sometimes painful) process of sanctification begins.
The integration into a healthy community is never more crucial.
Connecting with God through personal prayer, study, and worship becomes fuel for life.
We are indebted to our friends at the Canadian National Baptist Convention for the Discipleship Stages visual and helpful descriptions. See Hebrews 5:12-14, 1 Corinthians 3:1-2, Ephesians 4:13-16, 1 Peter 2:2-3, Colossians 1:10 for further study on spiritual formation as a process.