“Maturity is measurable. In zoology, when an animal is mature, it reproduces. In botany, when a fruit tree is mature when it reproduces. So the end result of all parental care is that they will reproduce.”
— Jim Downing
If you’ve been around The Navigators at all, you’ve probably heard of The Wheel Illustration. It’s a Navigator “classic” because it so simply illustrates the life of a mature Christian. Its minimalist design easily allows you to quickly identify areas of strength and growth, and it offers a multitude of analogies to help the person you are discipling understand not only what a holistic approach to spiritual maturity looks like, but why each element is important to living a life that is both wholly unified with Christ and also bears fruit for Him. It equips you to equip others to grow in spiritual maturity and bear fruit (the end game of discipleship). It is, in our minds, practically perfect in every way.
However, we’ve realized that even though many people have heard of The Wheel, and some can even draw it, very few know how to practically use it in a discipleship relationship to help inspire someone towards and equip him for spiritual growth. So we’d like to break it down for you today.
We’ve found that one of the best times to use The Wheel is early on in a discipleship relationship. We like to use it in the beginning for a couple reasons:
- This is one of the best diagnostic tools out there to identify areas of strength and growth. If you don’t know the spiritual state of the person you are meeting with, or if you want to challenge them to think critically about where they are and how they need to challenge themselves to better walk with Jesus, this is the tool to use.
- It provides an excellent framework for deciding how to proceed in the discipleship relationship. If the person you are meeting with realizes s/he is weak in prayer, you can create a plan to establish them in their prayer life. This plan could stretch as long or short as you’d like. Or, if you are meeting with a new or immature believer, you could take 6 meetings to cover each of the 6 topics in more depth after first drawing out the illustration and explaining why each element is important. (We have ideas on how to do this for you below!)
First, ask (if you don’t already know for sure), “What is your relationship with Christ?” (If it seems like they don’t have one, this is not the illustration you want to use! Consider The Bridge instead.)
Then ask if you can share a great illustration with them about what a life lived fully for Christ looks like.
Begin by drawing the middle circle only: “Christ the Center.”
- Read 2 Corinthians 5:17 and Galatians 2:20.
- Ask/discuss: “What does it mean to accept Jesus as Savior according to these verses?” [Help them understand that becoming a Christian doesn’t mean all of a sudden being perfect or having a perfect life. It also doesn’t mean needing to follow a bunch of rules to become a “good person.” Rather, it means that miraculously, we are new and renewed! It means that we choose to no longer live for ourselves, but to live for Christ out of His rich provision.]
- Ask/discuss: “What prevents us from allowing Christ to become the center of our lives?” [Draw out their answers! If they give a vague, “Life is busy,” follow up with “What kinds of things make you busy?” “What is it about those things that captures your time and attention?” “Do you find rest and fulfillment when you give yourself to those things?” etc. Also, be sure to share your own struggles!!!]
- Ask/discuss: “What are some practical ways this week you could practice placing Christ in the center?”
- Point out: When a wheel is spinning along quickly because it is well balanced, what is the only part you can see? The hub. So, too, when our Christian life is well-balanced, all someone will be able to see when they look at us is Christ!
Draw the two vertical spokes. In the first, write “The Word.”
- Ask: “What is your relationship with the Bible like?” (They may not even know how to look up a Bible verse, or they may regularly do inductive Bible study on their own – this will help you know how to proceed!)
- Read 2 Timothy 3:16-17.
- Ask/discuss: “What do we learn about The Bible here? What is the difference between teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness? How do each of these things (and The Bible itself) equip us for every good work? (How) have you experienced each of these as you’ve read the Word?”
- Read Joshua 1:8.
- Ask/discuss: “Why do you think it’s a command to not let the Word depart from our mouths and also meditate on it day and night? Does being prosperous and successful mean we’ll have lots of money and status and nothing bad will happen to us if we do this? If not, what does it mean?” [Emphasize this verse is not promoting a prosperity gospel!]
In the second vertical spoke, write “Prayer.”
- Ask: “What is your prayer life like? (Again, this will give you insight into where they’re at/what they’ll need!)
- Read John 15:7 and Philippians 4:6-7.
- Ask/discuss: “Why is prayer important? What is the purpose of prayer? When we abide and pray, can we really use it like a magic wand to get anything we want? What does John 15:7 mean?” (Again, emphasize prayer does not equal acquisitive sacrifice [I’ll do this so you give me this], but rather it draws our hearts into deeper understanding of who God is and who we are, and aligns our hearts with His.)
- Point out that the vertical spokes are key elements in how we directly build our relationship with the Father.
Draw the two horizontal spokes. In one, write, “Fellowship.”
- Read Hebrews 10:24-25 and Matthew 18:20.
- Ask/discuss: “What does true, Biblical fellowship look like? Have you experienced this? How? Do you find today’s church to model this well? Why or why not? What are stumbling blocks to fellowship? Is it okay to pursue a walk with Christ separate from the Body? How are you doing in fellowship?” (Emphasize that we are called to be in community, that we can’t do it alone, and that it’s not easy but necessary! Help them brainstorm ways they can be involved in the Body of Christ if they are currently not.)
In the other horizontal spoke, write “Witnessing.”
- Read Matthew 4:19 and Romans 1:16.
- Ask/discuss: “What does witnessing mean? What is your experience? Even if we’re not gifted like Billy Graham, are we still called to evangelize?”
- Cast the vision for spiritual multiplication through discipleship! (For more on this, see below.)
- Point out that the horizontal spokes address how we interact with the people around us. Some people struggle with the fact that these are so linear, and that the illustration separates these. However, remind them that once the wheel is spinning, these elements all blend together and work as a cohesive whole to place Christ at the center – none are more or less important than the others!
In the outer rim, write “Obedience.”
- Start by pointing out that there is a reason that obedience is on the outside: this is where the rubber meets the road. Our obedience is what protects our ability to relate to Christ, to relate to our brothers and sisters in Christ, and to make Christ the true center of our lives. And this is also where we’re going to feel the most pressure in a lot of ways: we make one big decision to surrender our lives to Christ in the beginning, but then for the rest of our lives we’re going to have to make hundreds of little decisions to surrender our thoughts, desires, emotions and will to Him daily. Obedience is what equips us to say “yes” to Jesus over and over again.
- Read John 14:21 and Romans 12:1-2.
- Ask/discuss: “What is obedience? How do we choose obedience? Where should our desire to obey come from? Where does it come from? What happens when we choose to disobey?”
Obviously, your conversation is not going to follow this pattern exactly. In all probability, your conversation will fall into one of two categories:
At some point, the person you are talking about will struggle with one of these elements. That’s ok! It’s important to be honest with where we’re at, and this will let you know what you can focus on to help equip them in their spiritual foundation. At the bottom, we’ve included recommendations to help build out each of these elements either in one sitting or by stretching it over several meetings! (Also, feel free to develop your own plan! Here’s a great resource to help you get started.)
The person you’re meeting with may feel like they’ve got these basic elements down. Hopefully, they do! But, there are always ways the Enemy wants to cause us to stumble; carefully evaluate with them each element and ask them to think about how they could grow in each area. Below, we’ve provided ways to challenge someone in each category. OR, maybe they’re ready to begin equipping someone else in one of these areas! Work through an Establishing Resources sheet with them on one (or all!) of the elements so that when the time comes, they’re ready to help someone else grow towards maturity!
Christ the Center
- Dig in deeper by exploring these passages: Philippians 3, John 15:1-17, Colossians 2:2-13
- Do an Inductive Bible Study (tool coming soon!) on “Christ the Center” or Grace. [We’d recommend starting with the passages in #1.]
- Read The Practice of the Presence of God by brother Lawrence.
- Read The Pursuit of God by A.W. Tozer.
- Dig in deeper by exploring these passages: Psalm 19, Psalm 119, Matthew 4:1-11, Deuteronomy 6:1-8
- Do they know how to have a quiet time or spend extended time alone with God? If not, teach them! (If you don’t know either or how, click the links to use our resources!)
- Do an Inductive Bible Study (tool coming soon!) on what The Bible says about The Bible. [We’d recommend starting with the passages in #1.]
- Explore why Scripture Memory is an essential element to knowing God’s Word and important in a disciple relationship. Want to know more/how? Check out this great blog post.
- Begin with The Navigators’ Topical Memory System
- Read Meditation by Jim Downing.
- Together read The 2:7 Series
- For great background on why it’s important to pray with the person you are meeting with, challenges to prayer, and how to practically incorporate prayer in new ways into your discipleship relationship, check out this great blog post; this corresponding 7 Ways to Pray tool, or the Navigator classic Prayer Hand Illustration.
- Read through the prayers of people in the Bible, noting common characteristics of each. [We recommend 1 Samuel 1:1-2:10, 1 Chronicles 29:10-20, 2 Chronicles 20:1-12, Nehemiah 1, Luke 1:26-56, John 17, Acts 4:23-31]
- Do an Inductive Bible Study on prayer.
- Do the Bible Study Praying from God’s Heart by Lee Brase together.
- Read Prayer by Richard Foster.
- This has the potential to be a very polarizing topic, as many Christians believe they can grow apart from a church body / go at it alone (which is not true!).
- Explore what else the Bible has to say about Christian community. (Start: John 13:35, Romans 12, Romans 15:1-13, 1 Corinthians 13, Philippians 2:1-18, 1 John 4:7-21)
- Do an Inductive Bible Study on the Body of Christ.
- Read True Community by Jerry Bridges.
- Together, read (or study) The Great Commission in Matthew 28:18-20. What are Jesus’ last words to us? Why is this important? What does it mean to make disciples?
- Discuss: How are discipleship and evangelism connected? Why is evangelism essential to discipleship? We’ve had guests talk about that in our Blogs and Podcasts; this post is one of our favorites.
- Read: Check out our Necessary Bookshelf for some of our very favorite books on this topic.
- To help the person you are meeting with figure out where they are with witnessing and making disciples, use this handy flowchart.
- Take time to read/study the Parable of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15:11-32.
- Do an Inductive Bible Study on God as Father, us as His Children, and how obedience ties into all this. (Start with 1 John 3:1, Luke 15:11-32, John 15)
- Read The Return of the Prodigal Son by Henri Nouwen.
- Check out our Transforming Thought Patterns tool for a great resource on (spoiler) transforming your thought patterns- a key element in obedience.
- It’s hard to obey what we don’t understand. Check out this great resource on developing Biblical convictions and work through the resource to equip the person you are meeting with to build their own convictions and, therefore, a strong spiritual foundation.
We hope you enjoy this tool as much as we do! We’re excited to be on this journey with you!
The Apprentice Approach is about helping every-day people master the art of disciplemaking and grew out of the fact that…. Many Christians struggle with making disciples, they feel busy, overwhelmed and not qualified. We understand this struggle which is why we created a Bible based framework so any believer can master the art of disciplemaking! One of our outcomes is seeing the folks we engage with walk away saying, “I can do that!”