After disciples have prepared the soil of the heart with friendship and service and created interest by planting the seed of God’s Word, the next phase in the disciple-making process is to cultivate the growing spiritual interest. This is the longest and most labor-intensive part of the disciple-making process and is best accomplished by engaging in ongoing personal Bible studies.
In John 15, the word repeated often is “abide.” Using again the motif of agriculture, Jesus likens spiritual growth to the biological growth of plants, namely the vine. The concept of the vine-branch connection is intimately related to the Word. Two hypotheticals are presented in the text, where verse 6 posits the case of anyone who is not in Christ and verse 7 posits the case of anyone who is in Christ. We abide in Christ just as His Word abides in us; it is by the power of the Word that growth occurs. In addition to the Word of God being the seed that gets spirituality started, it is also the means by which spirituality is cultivated.
Bible studies are needed not just as a prerequisite for baptism, but on-going Bible studies are needed to feed the individual (as discussed in lesson 4). Rather than have a disciple only receiving personal Bible studies, it is just as important for them to give ongoing Bible studies, or at least bring friends and people to small-group Bible studies or evangelistic meetings. “Let ministers teach church members that in order to grow in spirituality, they must carry the burden that the Lord has laid upon them,—the burden of leading souls into the truth” (Christian Service, p. 69). “The more one tries to explain the Word of God to others, with a love for souls, the plainer it becomes to himself” (Christ’s Object Lessons, 354).
The best way to lead someone who has shown an interest in spiritual truth is to invite them to take regular, weekly Bible studies. These Bible studies aren’t sermons but rather opportunities where questions can be asked, similar to Haskell’s Bible readings. Like the Ethiopian in Acts 10 (see lesson 5), many people are looking for help to understand what the Bible means. As Christ’s disciples, we have a responsibility to ensure that their spiritual hunger is satiated with the Word of God.