On August 28th, independent Christian film “War Room” was released to theaters across the nation. The film soon gained media attention and caused a buzz among industry leaders who were surprised as box office sales soared. The feature length drama tells the story of a real estate agent, Elizabeth, who is struggling with her marriage, starts to be mentored by an older woman, Miss Clara, and comes to understand that the real battles, against Satan, are fought and won in prayer.
While the film’s main message is a call to personal prayer and intercession, I found the underlying lessons on discipleship to be just as impactful. As someone who has spent years investing in the lives of other young women, I was encouraged and challenged by the discipleship principles shared through the movie.
As Christians, we are all called to make disciples - teaching and modeling to others what it means to walk with & follow after Jesus (Matthew 28:19-20). Any believer who has gained maturity and experience in their faith has an obligation to pass those lessons on to those a few steps behind.
Below I have outlined five lessons in discipleship I saw communicated through “War Room.” As you read, I hope you will be encouraged, challenged and reminded of the importance of discipleship.
1. Discipleship is intentional.
Initially, Clara was not laid back in her desire to get to know Elizabeth. She made a point to pursue Elizabeth and be clear in her intentions to invest in her life. Afterwards, she allowed Elizabeth to decide whether or not she wanted to move forward.
In the same way, you must be intentional to pursue opportunities for discipleship. This begins by praying and asking the Lord to highlight a young woman to you. Once you have chosen someone to begin discipling, be purposeful and clear in your relationship with that individual. Approach the young lady and ask if she would be interested in meeting on a regular basis. Set a time to meet and be proactive to follow through with your commitment.
As with any relationship, it takes intention, clarity and communication from both individuals to form a strong partnership. Allow the individual you approach to make a decision about the opportunity. There must be commitment to the process from both sides. Chances are, if you drag someone into discipleship, you will be dragging them along the entire time.
2. Discipleship is focused on personal growth.
In the beginning, Elizabeth had a strong desire to use her times with Clara as an opportunity to vent and complain about her frustrations with her husband. Clara had the wisdom to discern that the best strategy for Elizabeth was not to find solutions to fix her husband’s problems, but rather to focus on what Elizabeth could be doing to become a better wife. For example, together, Clara helped Elizabeth develop a list of Scriptures to pray for her husband.
As you disciple others, it will be common for them to complain and point out the people and circumstances that are making their lives miserable. It is easy to fall into counseling every little detail and problem of a person’s life. Instead, look for ways to point the individual back to the truths of Scripture and how those truths can be applied to personal life. Your goal is to direct the person you disciple toward Christ, not just make her life better. Life circumstances change, but a solid foundation of truth will last.
3. Discipleship equips the disciple with practical strategies.
Miss Clara did not just tell Elizabeth that she should “pray more.” Instead, she pointed Elizabeth to practical strategies and tools to establish a prayer life. Clara demonstrated the importance of creating an atmosphere of prayer by clearing distractions in her “war room” and equipping her with Scriptures to pray through as she began.
Most likely, the person you are discipling will already know that the solution to their problems is to “pray during the day,” “read the Bible” or “be more grateful.” They do not need you to tell them the solution. The role of discipleship is to equip the disciple, through accountability and tools, to put important Biblical principles into practice. Rather than telling someone to memorize Scripture, show them the strategies you use to hide God’s word in your heart. Rather than telling someone they need to learn about their identity in Christ, point them to the Scriptures that will speak those truths over their life.
Set goals together based on these solutions. As you meet together, practical action will allow for greater accountability and growth. Then, you will have specific points on which to follow up.
4. Discipleship requires maturity but not perfection.
As we learn toward the end of the film, Miss Clara was far from perfect herself. However, she learned from those past circumstances and difficulties to make effective changes in her life. As a result, she was equipped with the maturity to speak into similar places of brokenness in Elizabeth’s life.
When we seek to disciple others, it is easy to feel the pressure of perfection - the need to have it all together. However, the greatest leverage we have in our discipling can be those past mistakes and a testimony of victory. Discipling others requires a willingness to be vulnerable and open, to share our failures of the past and to give hope of redemption. We know what truths and practical steps to share because we have been there ourselves and know what it takes to overcome certain challenges.
It is important to remember that discipleship requires maturity. If I am struggling with a certain issue, it will not help me to turn to a peer and ask her to help me with an issue she wrestles with herself. The weak cannot strengthen the weak. Instead, the disciple should have someone who can be an example to them, who has walked the path before them and come to a season of freedom in that area of life.
5. Discipleship is duplicatable.
At the end of “War Room,” Clara did not admonish Elizabeth by saying “now that you know my strategy works, next time you meet someone who is struggling, send them my way and I will train them in the same way I have trained you.” Rather, she encouraged Elizabeth to take what she had learned and pass it on to someone else.
This is discipleship: taking what we have learned, teaching and empowering others to share that same truth with those they will disciple. Discipleship is not about self recognition. It is simply living our lives in humility and with a willingness to give our all to see others better know and love Jesus. After all, we are not the ones who hold all the answers; however, we do know the One who does, and He is an expert at discipleship. There are few things more joyful than seeing a person you have discipled achieve victory and then turn to pass that freedom on to someone else.