When you think about discipling a teenager, what comes to mind? There are a plethora of discipleship models and curriculums that are marketed today. How do you know which one is right? How do you know which one teenagers need? How do you know which one is the most biblical?
The best way to disciple a teenager is to keep it simple, clear, and focused. Discipleship is simply following Jesus and bringing others with you. God’s big idea is for His people to be conformed to the image of His Son (Rom 8:29). As we are following Jesus, we are becoming like Him. The way we follow and become like Jesus is through the gospel. The Apostle Paul tells us the gospel is what we receive for salvation, what we remain in for our sanctification, and what we hold on to throughout our lives (1 Cor 15:1-2). However, whenever and with whomever you do discipleship, make sure that the purpose is to become more like Jesus. This is done specifically through the gospel.
What I would encourage every youth pastor, Sunday-school teacher, small group leader, youth ministry volunteer, and involved parent to do is to simply keep following Jesus personally by living the gospel. As you follow Jesus, bring the teens whom you are ministering toward Him. Have regular conversations that walk them through the gospel. The more you ask gospel-pointed questions, the more they will think through the gospel. The more they think through the gospel, the more they will understand and be able to live out the gospel.
Here are four important areas of the gospel that we must help teens think through, discuss, and pray about whenever discipleship opportunities arise.
Jesus’ Life: Our Identity and Acceptance
Because of Jesus’ perfect obedience, His Father was fully pleased with Him. When we are saved, we are united with Christ. Disciples need to be constantly reminded that they share in Jesus’ perfect identity and the Father’s full acceptance. We live from God’s acceptance and not for it. Here are some discipleship questions to ask regarding Jesus’ life:
- Do you believe that God is fully satisfied with you through Jesus?
- How do you live differently knowing that you have God’s full approval and acceptance?
- Have you been trying to find your identity in anything or anyone else over the past week?
- Have you been seeking anyone else’s satisfaction or acceptance more so than enjoying God’s satisfaction and acceptance of you?
- How has God’s full acceptance of you through the gospel motivated you to obey Him this week?
- How has Jesus’ identity in your life changed the way you lived this week?
Jesus’ Death: Our Forgiveness and Repentance
Jesus not only took on our sin, He became our sin. His sacrificial death bought our forgiveness from the Father. Jesus’ death for sin is our greatest motivation to repent. We should act not out of duty but love and thankfulness for his sacrifice. Here are some questions to ask regarding Jesus’ death:
- What temptations have you resisted this week?
- How has God reminded you of Jesus’ death and His wrath against sin to help you hate sin more?
- What victories over sin have you experienced this week?
- Of what sins has God forgiven you, of which you still don’t feel forgiven?
- In what areas this week have you had to practice repentance?
- What did you need to repent of this week that you didn’t?
- If you were Satan, what temptations would you be throwing at your weaknesses?
Jesus’ Resurrection: Our Faith and Obedience
Jesus’ resurrection is our ongoing power for obedience (Eph 1:15-23). The Apostle Paul constantly emphasizes that the resurrection is essential to the gospel. Since Jesus rose from the dead, we can live for Him because He is living. Here are some questions to ask regarding Jesus’ resurrection:
- In what ways have you thought about Jesus’ resurrection?
- How differently did your life look this week because Jesus has risen?
- What have been your victories this week when it comes to obedience?
- Tell me an example from this week of how you made the right decision by choosing to obey Christ.
- How has your faith grown in Jesus and His truths?
- Did you find yourself obeying more out of love and enjoyment this week, or more so out of fear and legalism?
- What did God teach you most from His Word this week?
Jesus’ Lordship: Our Trust and Submission
Salvation is simply a switch from the lordship of Satan to the Lordship of Jesus (Col 1:13). Disciples need to be reminded weekly of their call to trust and submit to His Lordship. Here are some questions regarding the Lordship of Jesus:
- In what ways this week did you acknowledged Jesus as your Lord?
- How did your trust in Jesus grow this week?
- What has been the hardest part about trusting Jesus?
- When was it necessary this week to actively submit yourself to Jesus’ Word?
- What are some big decisions coming up concerning which you will need Christ’s guidance?
- If you were one of Jesus’ original disciples, would you be seen as someone who walked with Christ?
- This next week, what goals do you need to set in the process of trusting and submitting to Jesus more?
- About what have you been praying?
Gospel-centered discipleship is simply running our conversations through the grid of the gospel. Don’t carry these questions with you, use a clipboard, or ask the same questions from week to week. Just think and talk through the teens’ walks in light of the gospel.
As a disciple-maker, think through the gospel-grid for your own life. God’s goal is for us to be transformed through the gospel by being conformed to the image of his Son. Start to shape your discipleship discussions around the gospel specifically.
What are some ways you can do that?
Chip Dean is the Middle School Pastor at FBC Woodstock. He understands the importance of investing in students.
You can follow him on Twitter: @ChipDean or visit his website: http://youthgrouptruth.com