As churches seek to fulfill the Great Commission, individual believers must understand and practice what it means to be a disciple.
14 Habits of Highly Effective Disciples, released by BaptistWay Press in May, is a Bible study that provides in-depth discussion and practical application for those seeking to embrace the lifestyle of a follower of Jesus Christ.
"We need spiritually mature people to lead the body of Christ," Dr. Dennis R. Wiles, co-author and senior pastor of First Baptist Church Arlington said. "The only way for that to happen is for us to partner with God in the process of growth."
In his 31 years of leading congregations, Wiles has noticed when church members have, or have not, pursued the habits related to discipleship.
"You look for signs of formation, health, and obedience, and people attending to the Scripture," he said. "If you're paying attention as pastor, you're shepherding your people, you have a sense of whether or not they're taking their own personal discipleship seriously."
Wiles expounded upon the first four characteristics found in the study: Bible study, confession, faith and fasting. Other habits in the study include fellowship, love, obedience, prayer, purity, service, stewardship, thankfulness, witnessing and worship. Together, these characteristics provide the building blocks of a prepared and mature disciple.
Just as a person who seeks good physical health will eat right, exercise and get rest, there are also steps to maintaining spiritual well-being, says Wiles.
"We've got 2,000 years of church history and another 1,500 years or so of Israel's history," Wiles said. "We have an advantage to look back over time and see the kind of exercises God's people have engaged in historically to develop their life with him and to maintain a healthy spiritual life."
Today the Church is experiencing a discipleship deficit. As this study mentions, nearly all denominations are experiencing a decline in membership and Southern Baptists have seen a drop in the number of baptisms in recent years.
"Without discipleship, there is no spiritual growth to speak of," Wiles said. "It's disastrous if the church is not populated by serious disciples."
14 Habits of Highly Effective Disciples is a study that will guide churches in facilitating an environment that seeks to understand the true meaning of discipleship. Teachers will find the resources for each chapter easy to understand and communicate. At the end of each lesson, discussion questions will challenge members to evaluate their own roles as disciples. "Churches looking to produce disciples and not just converts must act now to reverse the trends of spiritual apathy plaguing believers," Wiles said.
Additional authors include Ellis Orozco, pastor of First Baptist Church in Richardson; Alice Stegemann, veteran Sunday school teacher from Hendersonville, Tennessee; Byron Stevenson, senior pastor of The Fort Bend Church in Sugar Land; as well as Dr. Elijah Brown from East Texas Baptist University and Dr. Todd Still from Truett Seminary.
To order this study, visit baptistwaypress.org or call 1-866-249-1799.