“Faith, Hope, Love” is the outline of our discipleship process. We implemented “Faith, Hope, Love” when we were using the practical three-thirds plan of T4T (“Training for Trainers”) by Ying Kai and Steve Smith. Although “Faith, Hope, Love” looks like T4T, we wanted our training to align more closely with Scripture. We were also informed by The Universal Disciple Pattern by Thom Wolf, who introduced us to the idea that faith, hope and love can be a part of a framework for discipleship. You could say that we mashed-up one “fruitful” and one “faithful” idea.
Faith, Hope, Love is based on a pattern the apostles used (see Rom. 5:1–5; 1 Cor. 13:13; 1 Thess. 1:3, 5:8; Col. 1:3–6; Heb. 10:19–24). It’s a summary of Christian health, a paradigm that helps us to evaluate and encourage the growth of the gospel. Faith, hope, and love are the biblical measures of missions.
This process reminds us to build up each other in these three major areas. We spend a third of each discipleship meeting focused on love for God and one another; a third on faith in learning God’s Word; and a third on hope in preparing to obey. This pattern can be followed in thirty minutes or three hours, in a one-on-one setting or large church gathering.
Faith, Hope, Love activities. These three outline Christian growth in general and so guide our discipleship meetings in particular. Here are activities we have used to build up faith, hope and love.
- Worshiping God
- Thanking God
- Listening to one another
- Caring for one another’s needs
- Reporting and being accountable
- Inviting and welcoming others
- Preaching and hearing God’s Word
- Reviewing and retelling God’s Word
- Studying God’s Word
- Believing God’s Word
- Singing God’s Word
- Sharing God’s Word
- Casting vision
- Blessing and warning
- Applying God’s Word and planning obedience
- Equipping and practicing to disciple others
- Committing and commissioning
The order of activities may not matter and they can weave together (as seen in the overlap of faith, hope and love in some epistles). Various people can facilitate activities and discover or apply their spiritual gifts. When we meet, we put Love first because it’s the greatest (1 Cor. 13:13) and it builds on the Faith and Hope of the previous meeting in terms of review, accountability and care (see figure below). It happens that much of what we do first, in Love, looks back and last, in Hope, looks ahead.
Faith, Hope, Love movement. The discipleship process links together meetings and supports obedience. We meet to hear the Word (Faith), prepare to obey (Hope), and check in (Love) when we meet again.
Besides encouraging spiritual growth, Faith, Hope, Love is also a diagnostic tool to evaluate it (as seen especially in 1 and 2 Thess.). This is another good reason we put Love first. We listen to others in love and discern which Scripture we need to teach or re-teach in Faith. As an example, if we listen and learn that believers are not sharing the gospel, we know to teach Scripture that builds faith, before commanding obedience; if they are not serving their families, we know to build love; if they are intimidated by persecution or temptation, we know to build hope. We know this because of how the apostles address problems in the New Testament. You can know a tree by its fruit; you can grow a tree by its root.
We aim to build faith, hope and Love with God’s Word in cooperation with his Spirit. The Faith, Hope, Love process does not replace good teaching and Bible study. We use the process early on with a set of Bible stories or lessons about the gospel and God’s kingdom. Then we continue with it as we study Mark, Acts, Ephesians and beyond. It makes obedience-based discipleship more healthy by strengthening the roots of obedience, and Bible studies and story sets more healthy by putting the products to work and cultivating the fruits of obedience.
The Faith, Hope, Love discipleship process is a simple (not easy) plan to equip believers for ministry. It works when we plan on God’s Spirit to work according to his Word. We have seen disciples grow and multiply, across languages and cultures. Notably, the disciples are themselves changed and have caused others to take notice. Personally, it’s helped my own growth in Christ and in ministry to others in many discipleship contexts: in Bible studies and Sunday school classes, as an outline for prayer and songs for worship, in conversations and letter writing, and in personal and family devotions.
In short, we meet regularly and be accountable to each other for what God taught us in his Word. We look for obedience that is grounded in faith, filled with love and inspired by hope. We celebrate when this happens and patiently warn, encourage and help each other when it doesn’t (1 Thess. 5:12). We model this process to equip others to make disciples. We aim to fulfill Jesus’ command together to, “Go… make disciples of all nations… teaching them to obey all that I commanded you” (Matt. 28:20).