Join Jim Putman on the disciple’s journey to help you develop and live out a biblical worldview in every sphere of life.
My journey in discipleship started years ago with parents who love the Lord, but my parents didn’t just check a box saying, “Okay, now my son has prayed the prayer and been baptized.” They took me on a journey of discipleship, of helping me understand what life was truly about.
Together, we’re going to shoot for that same destination that Jesus called us to. We’re going to go through this map together so that you understand that map, you understand the vehicle, and you are going to teach people to ride with you and eventually drive their own cars to the same destination where we end up together.”
— JIM PUTMAN
NOTE: Sessions will be released weekly into December 2023.
This course walking through the five spheres of discipleship using the metaphor of a road trip. The following resources follow the same outline
This course is free and instantly available right here. Just follow along and walk through the journey with your group!
Jim Putman introduces his video course, “The Disciple’s Journey,” walking through the five spheres of discipleship using the metaphor of a road trip.
My journey in discipleship started years ago with a set of parents who loved the Lord but didn’t know really what it looked like to be the spiritual disciple makers that were required in a family. They were both first generation Christians who hadn’t really been discipled by their families.
So I was raised in a home where my parents were committed, but didn’t really know what they were doing. They were trying their best, but always learning.
Things happened in our home as a result of my parents needing to work. They were busy all the time. Things got into our family that made us a mess and made a mess in my life. It started when I was young, and it led to my realizing my brokenness — addiction, shame, and guilt — and it didn’t matter what I did, nothing satisfied me.
Eventually it led to questions like, “Is there a God at all?”
The good thing about my parents was that they were very committed to the Lord, and they had grown. Though I had walked away from them and hurt them in so many ways, they never quit pursuing me. They never quit, no matter what I did to burn down the bridge of relationship between us. They just kept rebuilding it. They had boundaries. They weren’t going to let me do whatever I wanted.
And I gave them plenty of reasons not to forgive.
Yet there was something about them that made them so different than all the rest of the people that I interacted with. I had rejected my parents because I thought my friends in the world were better. When all that left me empty, my parents were still waiting for me and still loving me, even pursuing me when I finally was willing to listen because of the relationships they built with me, no matter what I had done.
I came to a place where I was willing to listen to what they had to say about their faith and about Jesus. When I finally came to the conclusion, “Okay, there is a God, and it is the Christian God. Oh no, it’s true. I’m going to hell,” my parents came with the gospel that said “No, Jesus forgives. The reason we’re able to forgive is because Jesus forgave us. And that same God who forgave us flows through us, through the Holy Spirit, and he helps us forgive you.”
I felt that tangible forgiveness. I’d seen the strength of their life. Even though I had tried everything I could to destroy them, they couldn’t be destroyed. And that opened the door to the gospel.
My parents didn’t just check a box saying, “Okay, now my son has prayed the prayer and been baptized.” They discipled me; they took me on a journey of discipleship. They took me on a journey of helping me understand what life was about.
The analogy we’re going to use in this series is that of a journey. When I think of a journey, I think about several things.
First, if you’re going to go on a journey, you think about a destination. What is the destination? In Christianity, we’ve been called by Jesus. We’ve been pursued by Jesus, and we answered the call. In a sense when we receive Jesus, we start the disciple’s journey with him toward spiritual maturity.
If I’m going on a trip to Seattle, I think about the destination, and I think about a map. I’ve got to have the right road. In the old days we used paper maps, but what we do now is we look it up. You put the destination into your phone, and you get the directions.
For us as Christians, the Bible is our map that explains our destination, and this gives us life, this gives us direction. It’s a light into our path.
So you’ve got the destination that’s described here, and you’ve got the map, but you have to have a vehicle, right? If I were to go to Seattle, I have to have a vehicle to get there.
The vehicle as Scripture defines it is a relationship with Jesus Christ and a relationship with other believers. So the relational vehicle we go in is with Jesus as our Lord and Savior.
But somebody needs to teach us how to be in this relational vehicle by which we start to understand the map. There are so many things in Scripture that are here, but I need somebody to teach me what it’s all about.
My father said, “Here’s the destination, eternal life, and here’s what it looks like to be mature and to experience the best life you can on planet earth. It’s here on the map.” But again, he didn’t just hand me the Bible and say, “Go figure it out on your own.” He said, “Let’s do this together.”
Ultimately, Jesus is the one driving, right? But my father kind of got in the front seat in between the Lord and the scriptures, and he invited me into a passenger seat and said, “Let’s do this journey together.”
My father invited me many times to go on a journey with him, and I just wouldn’t get in the vehicle. But, as my life fell apart, he pulled up in his Jesus car, so to speak, and said, “Hey, are you ready to get in the vehicle?”
The disciple’s journey was a journey toward the destination in that vehicle.
In the vehicle was also my mother. And there were other believers who played a huge part in this journey toward spiritual maturity. The scriptures describe what that relational vehicle is supposed to look like. And part of the maturity that you grow in is to understand, “How do I ride in this vehicle with Jesus and with others?”
I was watching my father do a couple of different things. First, working with the Lord to drive the car toward the destination. And as I was watching him, I watched him learn how to trust the vehicle, to run the vehicle that would have been designed for him.
And as I was watching, my father always made it very clear that eventually, I was going to be over in this seat, helping somebody else learn to drive.
You invite them into a relationship with you, and you learn some things.
One of the things that we do here at Real Life is we define what a disciple of Jesus is. Jesus was the first one to drive the car. He invited 12 disciples with him into the vehicle. And in that vehicle, he was going to do three things.
The definition of a disciple is shown in how Jesus said, “Come and follow me and I will make you fishers of men” (Matt. 4:19). He said, in a sense, “Get in the vehicle and let me drive. Come and follow me. I’m going to take you to the destination that I’ve chosen.”
Because in that sense, he is God, and he knows the destination. He said, Come and follow me. While we’re in this relationship, I’m going to take you as you are. I’m going to have you get in the car as you are. But as we spend time in this car together, you’re going to change. You’re going to start to understand that we’re not just in a vehicle, going to a destination, but we’re building relationship.
Every command, every direction he’s ever given is to promote relationship with God and relationship with one another as we move towards that destination. So come and follow me, and I will change you (which is the second thing) into fishers of men. There’s that third part: fishers of men. As you’re watching me and I’m discipling you, Jesus is saying that you’re going to then start to invite people into the vehicle with you as well.
That takes you and them into this relational environment with a destination in mind. You’re going to be a fisher of men. You’re going to drive a vehicle that you invite people into, and then you’re going to raise them up, moving them from this seat to this seat so that they can then invite their family and the people that they work with into this relationship and into the disciple’s journey.
We’re starting in one car, but it’s going to end up being a caravan — a convoy, so to speak — of people in relationship, going to the same destination.
When you first become a believer, no matter how old you are, you become like an infant, a child. You’re born again, and you’re invited to have spiritual parenting in a relational environment for the purpose of getting to that destination, spiritual maturity on earth and then eventually eternal life. That’s the end goal for everybody.
But the destination is becoming more and more like Christ — one who knows God, one who loves like God, one who cares about what God cares about, one who’s on the mission of God like Jesus was — to reach, and to save, and to go out into the world and pick people up wherever they’re at and take them on this disciple’s journey to this destination.
You’re going to start out as an infant. But as time goes by every person is supposed to be on this journey of maturity in Christ, starting as an infant, growing as a child, eventually moving over into this seat where people now invite others to go on this journey with them.
What we talk about as the destination is maturity in the five spheres, which I explore in depth in my book, The Revolutionary Disciple.
What are the five spheres? Well, the book of Ephesians talks about this abiding relationship with Jesus. That’s where our power comes from, where our energy comes from, and where our direction comes from. That’s the first sphere.
Then Ephesians moves on to the church sphere. That’s the relational environment that we’re in with a bunch of believers as we move forward.
Now we go, “Okay, what does the home life look like?” What does it look like to be mature in the home life? The home sphere is the third sphere.
Then in Ephesians, it goes, “What does it look like to be mature in your work life, in your world sphere?” This is the fourth sphere.
And then finally, the fifth sphere: “What does it look like to be in relationship with God and others mature in Christ as we battle against the spiritual enemy in the spiritual realm sphere?”
Maturity in Christ is learned as we’re on this journey together in a relational environment so that every part of our life is remade and transformed in Christ.
Your life used to be modeled by different maps and different compass, and you were shooting for different destinations.
We’re going to go through this map together so that you understand that map, so that you understand the vehicle, and so that you will teach people to ride with you and eventually drive their own cars to the same destination where we end up together.
Read Jim Putman’s book with Chad Harrington, The Revolutionary Disciple, about how to walk with humility in the five spheres of discipleship.
In this post, Jim Putman explores what abiding in Christ means for disciples of Jesus by looking at three of his friend’s lives.
Paul talks about abiding first, and Jesus says that abiding is essential. I see abiding as the spiritual gas for the vehicle, the direction all of the Holy Spirit’s work as we abide with him.
When I was thinking about abiding as we prepared for this segment, three names came up: my friend Sam, my mom, and my friend Santha. I want to share the unique ways each of them are abiding in Christ in their journey as a disciple.
Sam: He’s the vine, and we’re the branches (John 15:5). The fruit in our life — spiritual fruit, the fruit that lasts — only comes through that abiding, that remaining in relationship with him. Our life can be spent doing so many different things, but none of that will matter in the end. Only the things that come from that abiding relationship will matter, whether it’s in the home sphere, the church sphere, or the work I do in the world. None of that will matter if I’m not connected to the vine.
So for me, this relationship with Christ is key to my entire life and how I live. When I read John 15:4, which says, “Remain in me, as I also remain in you,” I’m always like, “Okay, well, what do you mean by remain? How do I do that?” And Jesus says in that passage that it’s through obedience, it’s through obeying what he has said in his Word. That brings about that abiding — that constant remaining in him.
His commands and all those things are really just about learning to love him, learning to love others, and learning to love myself in light of who I am in him.
That obedience sometimes means walking away from things that I used to do and cutting things away. He talks about pruning and how some things are ending and going away, and some of those things are even good things to prune.
To me that abiding relationship is what sets up our entire life. How do I walk this out? How do I do this? How do I keep doing it since I do it imperfectly?
When I feel like giving up or I feel like I failed, I need to be reminded that this is who I am in Christ, reminded of who he is, reminded of his heart for me.
What are the things he is asking of me? Time in his Word and time in prayer are absolutely necessary, talking to him and asking, “Hey, what do you mean by this?” and processing that.
I journal and do different things to try to get that clarity in my own mind. But also I think of how much abiding goes into the other spheres of our life. I think about all the things I’ve learned about God from my wife and her relationship and her abiding. I learn things, and I process with her.
I have guys in my men’s group whom I share with and mentors who challenge me, who help bring that clarity of what abiding looks like. These people encourage me when the Lord is pruning and taking things away to not give up, to remember that he’s so, so worth it.
I think about in that passage where Jesus not only says that he is going to prune and take away, but he also says, to paraphrase, “I’m sharing all this with you, and I want you to walk in this path so that your joy may be complete” (John 15:11). He’s talking about a satisfaction in the fruit of who he is.
Sometimes I think obedience is, “I have to do this,” or, “I can’t do that.” It can seem like rules or checking boxes, but that’s missing the heart, which is what Jesus is saying. It’s a satisfying relationship. It’s a full joy, which is what I think all of our souls long for.
Bobbi Putman (Jim’s mom): I knew that I needed to pray. I knew I needed to read the Bible. I knew that I needed that relationship with God, but I was having trouble with it.
I was with one of my friends who was a preacher’s wife in California. It came up to do a women’s day. Going to the airport, I said, “Pat, how did you learn to pray? Because I’m having trouble. I can’t keep focused. I’ve got so many things going on.” Five kids and a job will do that.
Pat said, “I started just writing letters to God every morning, and that allowed me to focus.” I thought, Well, I can do that. So I went and got a little journal and sat down in the early morning, and I just started writing to God my thoughts, my concerns, my prayers.
That developed. I grew over time. I started reading a chapter of the Bible every day. I would go through and mark up one Bible, put it aside, and grab another Bible and start all over. Now, I have boxes of Bibles that I can’t seem to throw away. To this day I still do that.
It started out as 15 minutes, now it’s an hour, sometimes an hour and a half because I’ve got a lot to say to God and a lot of questions for God. So that’s kind of what I do.
I’m growing in the Lord every day; it doesn’t stop.
Santha: God reveals who he is, and he wants to know who I am. So whatever story I’m telling myself, that’s what I live out of.
When I came to know Jesus, I became a new creation, and God has a new identity and a new person that he wants me to be, that he’s called me to be. It’s not based off of who I think I am, but it’s based off of who he created me to be.
When I change my identity, it changes how I see the entire world. I see the problems in the world and the solutions to the world differently based off of who God is and who he says that I am. I even see all the people around me differently.
Now, I have a different purpose. I have a different reason for getting up in the morning. He’s given me gifts, abilities, and responsibilities to represent his kingdom. So when I live out of that story, life is so very different than when I just lived out of the old story that I’d been told.
Abiding isn’t just that time that I spend alone with God.
All day long, I come back to the Lord: Who are you? What are you doing in this situation? Who am I because of you, and who are they? How do I respond to that? How am I letting your life flow through me into this situation to produce the kind of fruit that you produce? How might I be blocking that?
I’m choosing to let my own self flow through, and that produces a different kind of fruit. So abiding is not just something that I do once in the morning, but it’s something that I work on all day long.
It’s a conversation between the Lord and me. It’s talking about the Lord with other people. It’s letting them call me up to who I am, and it’s letting me call them up to who they are.
For a deeper study on abiding in Christ, read Jim Putman’s book with Chad Harrington, The Revolutionary Disciple, about how to walk with humility in the five spheres of discipleship.
In this post, Jim Putman interviews Taylor and Jenna Fore about their experience with discipleship in the church as an encouragement for your journey.
I don’t want anyone to think that a church is just the building. It doesn’t all happen in the building itself. A lot of it happens in homes, in coffee shops — outside of the church’s physical location. It happens as people do life together.
In this post, I’ll share the story of Taylor and Jenna Fore and how the church sphere helped them in their journey as disciples.
Taylor Fore: We jumped in with both feet, and we attended young adults. We got to know some of the staff and then got immediately into a home group. That got us connected and involved. Then we actually ended up getting baptized together at Real Life.
Jim Putman: So you start your relationship with the Lord. You’re already connected. College ministry puts you right into a small group. You’re led to understand the Lord through the relationships in the small group. You start to build Christian friends, and you receive Christ. You got married, then moved out of your parents’ house.
When you were in that small group, what did that look like? Was it just attending the small group, or were there more to the relationships in that group than just going to a place on a given night?
Jenna Fore: Being from this area, I had friends from high school, and I was pretty well-connected and plugged in just from being here and growing up here. So getting connected in a different way to people who are like-minded, who want to do the same type of extracurricular activities, who are at least are at a similar place in their journey with the Lord, and who want the best for you — it was a big change, to have people that I could call and spill my dirty laundry to and know that they would be there for me.
It wasn’t just that we’d show up once a week to this home group and that was it.
TF: The Bible tells us that it’s my job to lead us in our marriage. So what does that look like? The home group was a great chance to be with other men who could understand what my role is and how that role plays out.
It was nice knowing that I’m not the only man that struggles with that. Fortunately, in my group, a lot of the guys were brought to the church by their wives. When that happens, we end up with this huge new responsibility: We have to lead our family now.
From the small group, we formed men’s groups, and we did all kinds of things. We could just hang out and figure out how we take the responsibility that we have and lead our families the right way.
JP: What are the most important things? How does the Word of God and abiding in Christ impact the church? How does it impact the home? The church sphere helps us answer these questions.
Before your disciple’s journey begins, you didn’t know what a spiritual parent was like. How do you learn what a spiritual parent or a wife or husband is like?
You look at the men around you when the church is interacting together, and you’re thinking, That’s love. That’s not what I thought it was.
Or, That’s what a parent looks like. That’s what they care about when the goal is raising children in the Lord.
Or, That’s what a marriage ought to look like. That’s how they spend their time.
It’s also a place where people care about you, and there’s give and take. There are seasons where we limp in here, and people have to hold us up; we fall down, and they have to come and get us.
Then there’s times when we’re watching for the other person in the church sphere to help them when they fall.
Yes, church is the weekend services, but it’s also life group, and it’s serving. What does it look like to be the body of believers — not just go to church, but to be a part of the family of God.
Taylor and Jenna are pictures of that, and I love celebrating that.
JF: One of the things we’ve always loved about Real Life is we feel like you are very real about both the benefits and the challenges of a church this size.
Immediately when we started attending, we heard from the pulpit over and over, “Coming on Sundays is great. But I won’t notice if you’re not here for three weeks. I don’t know what’s going on at home for you. Please, plug in, get into a small group.”
We saw that emphasis on relationships, and we’ve benefited from building those relationships, having people pour into us and then being able to pour into others.
Right off the bat, I thought, Man, they really get it, because the size is great, and we can meet an incredible need in this community. But you can also get lost in it.
It’s good to be real about dealing with that head on. Let’s get plugged in, serve somewhere, or join a small group. There are plenty of places, and that’s where we create that smaller community and the accountability. We loved that right from the start.
JP: You guys got involved in a small group and started to build relationships with people. Obviously, not everybody is called to lead a group, but everybody is called to serve. It doesn’t take long around either one of you to know you’re good at doing relationships with people, but you also have leadership skill sets.
Pretty quickly, they were saying to you, “Hey, we’d like you to lead a group.” So they made sure you were online. You went through the one-on-one membership class to learn what this church is about. You learned the doctrine. Then they said, “We’d love you to get into a group,” and you guys agreed to do all that, and now they’re starting a new group with you as leaders.
When the church sphere functions as it should, we get to know each other. We’re carrying each other’s burdens. There’s honesty and transparency in the church. In what way do you think that it impacts mental health?
TF: The whole idea of relationship, that’s what a lot of people are missing. It’s important to try to help them understand what a healthy relationship actually looks like because there are a lot of people who are striving to find it in very unhealthy ways.
JP: That’s the important thing about the church. I think that’s why Paul, when he starts talking about abiding in Christ, he then talks about the church, then the home, then the world, then the spiritual realm. People always ask me, when they read about this in my book, The Revolutionary Disciple, “Why the church before the home?”
Paul writes Ephesians to Greeks and Romans. The only kind of home they knew was the home they had been handed. So the church shows them, Oh, this is what a marriage is supposed to like. Not that version you were handed.
Yes, we come to church, and we hear the sermon. But getting to know each other, modeling for one another honesty and transparency — that’s the church sphere.
In that context, that’s when people go, “Oh, that’s what love looks like.” So now I know what to change about my life that impacts my home.
“That’s what leadership looks like at the church. It’s not self-serving or a privilege. It’s a responsibility to lay down my life for another.” So now when I take leadership back home, I’m not saying, “I’m the leader. I’m the boss. Do what I say.” That comes from the world. Instead, I’m saying, “I lay down my life for you. I serve you.”
So as you see the church sphere builds relationships in the church that now can impact the home.
If the church was to live this out, the impact to the home and to every other part is so huge.
I’m watching your kids, Taylor and Jenna, the way they serve, the way they love, the way they connect. And that’s why I’m so glad you guys are home group leaders because you’ve done that. Now, you can actually show them that, but you do it in such a humble way.
How did you get your kids to want to be here, to build these kind of relationships? Is there a trick to that for families?
TF: Well, we would drag them basically everywhere we would go a lot of the time. I think part of that is that mindset of leading by example in inviting them in, not saying, “Oh, they’re just a kid.
JP: What’s one thing you would say to people who go to church but are not in a relational environment? What’s one thing that would be a reason for them to move into that relational version of the church.
JF: I would challenge them that they are starving themselves. They can’t eat one meal a week and live on that. Not only do we need to have daily time in the Word, but we need to be part of a group that is doing life with us.
When things are great, you celebrate together, and when things are down, you push through that together. Sundays are great, but it’s just not enough to get you through the other six days.
That’s why we need to dive into discipleship in the church sphere headfirst.
Read Jim Putman’s book with Chad Harrington, The Revolutionary Disciple, about how to walk with humility in the church.