Discipleship Triangles for Yeshu Bhaktas

Recently, I've been working on adapting the diagram that I showed you last week for use in thinking through discipleship issues, spiritual disciplines, and the like -- especially with regards to South Asian Christ-followers.  Here is what I've come up with.  Would welcome your feedback:

Instructions for teaching about the Discipleship Diagram:
This diagram is intended to help us teach several things:

1.      It provides us with a list of key spiritual disciplines and arranges the disciplines into three categories.  This isn't meant to be a comprehensive list of disciplines, but does cover the basic ones that I teach.
2.      It provides English and Nepali (Sanskrit) terms for many concepts that are very important for teaching about discipleship.
3.      It helps us to get some idea of how the spiritual disciplines are related to other vital areas of our spiritual life. And, importantly, depicts discipleship in a non-linear way rather than a typical, Western step-by-step manner.

Part A: Truth is the Core
Truth is at the center of our diagram because it is at the center of all things.  The difference between a Christ-follower and everyone else begins with their relationship to Truth.  Christ-followers are those who have heard, believe, and obey Truth (Rom. 2:8, Eph. 1:13, 1Pt. 1:22).  Others are ignorant of the truth, reject it, and even oppose and suppress it (Rom. 1:18, Eph. 4:18, 2 Tim. 3:8).  But the Bible says that freedom (Jn. 8:32), sanctification (Jn. 17:17), renewal (Rom. 12:2), and salvation (1 Tim. 2:4) all come from Truth.  Thus, Truth should be a central concern for the Christ-follower and the one who is trying to disciple others.  Also, since the Bible is God’s revelation of Truth, it must play a central role in all discipleship (2 Tim. 2:15). Disciple-makers must understand their task as essentially about the impartation of truth to others.

Part B: TriEak Parmeshwar
The Bible reveals that Truth is not a WHAT but a WHO. God is truth and all truth flows from Him.  He is the God of Truth (Isa. 65:16) who cannot lie (Heb. 6:18).  His Son, Jesus, said, “I am the Truth (Jn. 14:6).  The Holy Spirit is called the “Spirit of Truth” who will guide us into “all truth” (Jn. 16:13).  Clearly, our relationship to Truth is the same thing as our relationship to God.  In fact the most foundational Truth is that God exists eternally as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  He is TriEak Parmeshwar, the 3-in-1 God.  God is Truth and thus God is at the center of our discipleship. Thus, we may say that the disciple-maker's efforts to impart truth and her efforts to introduce someone to God are one and the same.

Part C: Regeneration
The beginning of our relationship with God is called regeneration.  This is what Jesus was talking about when he said that we must be “born again” (Jn. 3)  When this happens, our old, sinful, darkened, and shameful life passes away.  Everything becomes new in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17).  Our sin and shame is taken away.  Satan and all evil spirits are rendered powerless against us. The Holy Spirit comes to live inside us. New spiritual and eternal life begins.

Key elements of regeneration from discipleship perspective include experience, sacrifice, and surrender.  Experience (anubhav) refers to a person encountering God as living and real.  Prayers are answered, God’s power is displayed through signs and wonders, God communicates through dreams and visions, the love of God is manifest in Christ-followers who serve and bless others. This also refers to the experience of regeneration – the result of the Holy Spirit indwelling a person.  Sacrifice (balidan) refers especially to the story of Jesus’ birth, life, death, resurrection, and ascension.  A person experiencing God as living and real must be presented with the message of who Jesus is and what He has accomplished and promised.  Surrender (sharaana) is something of a culminating piece of regeneration.  The person God is regenerating will finally give their lives to Him in faith.  The Nepal/Sanskrit word we are using her is “sharaana” which literally means to “take shelter in”.  Surrendering to God through Christ means that a person runs into the shelter of Jesus’.  The disciple-maker must carefully consider the one(s) she is discipling. Are experiencing God as living and real? (not the same as believing God exists -- one can be a theist and ignore God, but cannot both experience and ignore God).  Are they being told the story of Christ?  Are they being meaningfully called to enter the shelter of Jesus?

Parts D & E: Discipleship Roots and Spiritual Disciplines
The regenerate person begins to experience transformation into Christ-likeness.  There is a sense in which this can be automatic.  Often the experience of regeneration will overflow in a zealous pursuit of God through worship, prayer, or other disciplines.  However, over the long-run of a Christ-follower’s life, this transformation process must be intentionally nurtured.  This may be called discipleship because it refers to the process of following Jesus as a teacher we desire to imitate (Luke 6:40). 

There are three roots for the discipleship of Christ-followers.  The first root, devotion (bhakti), is rooted in the soil of an individual’s personal relationship with God.  Growing from this root are Prayer (prarthana), Bible Reading / Study (shastra), Worship (puja), Meditation (dhyana), Fasting / Penance (uposhya), Confession (swikar), and Joy (anandena).  The second root of discipleship is spiritual fellowship (satsang).  The soil for this root is the relationship Christ-followers share together before God.  Springing forth from this are fellowship (sangati), corporate worship (upasana), the teaching ministry (shiksha), sacramental life (samskara), Body-connections (sharir-sambandha), accountability (sahadharma), giving (daana), and joy (anandena).  The final root is service (seva) which grows from the soil of Christ-followers who are engaged together with a world that needs the Truth.  From this root grows disciplines of service (seva), giving (daan), proclaiming the message of Christ (prachar), missions (prerit), intercession (antar-binti), and joy (aanandena).

That's it. Again, would love your feedback and suggestions.  This is in the initial stages now and I'm sure will undergo many revisions.


  1. You have done a good work in framing discipleship triangles. It will be of great help in understand and presenting the gospel. Some suggestion if you think they are OK

     If “truth” is the center of triangle then “freedom” is to be included somewhere.
     “Faith” in Jesus Christ is more appropriate than “sacrifice” or “balidan”. Sacrifice is kind of onetime event and Jesus life, death, resurrection does not convey the meaning in the word sacrifice. Also in triangles if God is to surrender, Holy Spirit is to Experience than Son is to Faith
     Body connection – ( sharir samband in Hindi ) It is usually seen in terms of physical relations. Some other word to replace it.
     “Love” is missing somewhere. It can come along with service, fellowship, devotion.

  2. Thanks so much, Amit. I appreciate your suggestions.

    I think Freedom (Mukti) is the result of surrender and ongoing discipleship. Since the purpose of the diagram is to assist disciple-makers, I’m not sure where to put something like Freedom. Freedom is not something I can practically doing anything with as a disciple-maker. I can call them to surrender and tell them of the freedom that will come, but this is to be implied by the other triangles.

    Faith (viswas) I think is not a good substitute for balidan. The essence of that triangle is really the story of Christ. Disciple-maker must continue to present/tell/share the story of Jesus with Hindus. Yes, they must respond with faith, but the diagram is intended to remind the disciple-maker of what they should do. So, I use the work “balidan” as a key word that marks the Christ-event in whole. The cross of Christ is really the central part of his work. Without is, the incarnation, life, resurrection, and ascension lose their meaning.

    Thanks for the help on sharir-sambanda. I’m working in a Nepali context and it doesn’t have the same connotation. I need a term to describe the importance of connecting with various parts of the Body of Christ. Can you suggest some alternative ideas – the terms need to come from Sanskrit so that they retain their pan-Hindu usefulness.

    Yes, love is found in various places. Bhakti is a kind of love as is seva. Love is also inherent in the terms sangati and Balidan.

    Thanks so much for your feedback.

  3. Anonymous2:09 PM


    I stumbled upon your site through a series of links and found this diagram interesting. If I understand correctly, this is to be a tool for disciple-makers among Hindus to use to guide them in the process (or is it also to be given to those whom they are teaching?), and that the focus is to be upon specifically action-oriented elements associated with discipleship (“disciplines”).

    Admittedly, I am approaching this from a strictly English-speaking perspective – though one keenly interested in effective evangelism/discipleship approaches.

    My initial take is that I like the orientation toward a “holistic” approach rather than a somewhat “artificial feeling” Western, linear approach. That, and the central Reality being Truth in Trinitarian Relation, strike me as strong and vital features.

    Where my confusion and critique come in is in Part C: Regeneration. Perhaps my confusion is due to your use of the term. With your first paragraph describing regeneration I would have no essential disagreement – though some elements are more particularly matters of justification. It is what follows that leaves me perplexed. You speak of 3 “key elements of regeneration” – experience, sacrifice and surrender. You refer to “Surrender” as “something of a culmination piece of regeneration.” Is this a culmination chronologically? Certainly, the “story of Jesus’ birth, life, death, resurrection, and ascension” (the Gospel) – what you refer to as “Sacrifice” – must chronologically precede “Surrender” – or a faith response to the Gospel. But, if “Sacrifice” must precede “Surrender,” how then do these relate (chronologically?) to the first element you list – “Experience”?

    Are these experiences understood as preceding “Sacrifice” and/or “Surrender”? If so, do they do so necessarily? And are these aspects of “Experience” (answered prayers, signs and wonders, dreams and visions, et al) things that the person being discipled merely “witnesses” or are they, properly speaking, things that they “experience” personally (their prayers, their visions, etc.) If they are things they only witness taking place in and through others’ lives, is this element you call “Experience” just another way of referring to the experience of being among a loving community of faithful Christians? And, if that, then are signs/wonders, and dreams/visions essential (i.e. necessary) elements of such? More to the point are they essential “elements of regeneration.”

    Adding to my questions is the manner in which you conclude this description of “Experience.” You say, “This [experience?] also refers to the experience of regeneration – the result of the Holy Spirit indwelling a person.” Is this, then, being identified (i.e. equated) with regeneration (only the regenerate can be indwelt by the Holy Spirit)? If so, what then of Sacrifice and Surrender? And if “Surrender” is the “culminating piece of regeneration” when a person “will finally give their lives to Him in faith” then how would the items associated with “Experience” refer to “the experience of regeneration - the result of the Holy Spirit indwelling a person”?

  4. Anonymous2:14 PM

    Just one more point on this section - which may shed light on the rest. Under “Surrender” you have this sentence, “The person God is regenerating will finally give their lives to Him in faith.” Not wanting to assume too much, this leaves me asking how you understand the term regeneration, as you seem to be using it two different ways. Do you understand “Regeneration” to refer to a process spanning an extended period of time sufficient to include the experiencing of answered prayers, signs/wonders, dreams/visions, loving Christian community (“Experience”), as well as clear articulation and explanation of the Gospel of the Person and Work of Jesus Christ (“Sacrifice”)?

    Or, do you understand “Regeneration” to be the event at the culmination of all or some of the above (though never excluding the last) when the old has become new, spiritual and eternal life begins, and a person is brought into faith union with Christ by His life-giving Spirit - or, as you put it, the actual “beginning of our relationship with God”?

    If the former, I would ask what you see as a biblical basis for this definition/use of the term/concept. If the latter, then I think to categorize all 3 under the heading “Regeneration” is confusing – even misleading. If “Experience” (loving Christian community) is the (normal – with caveats) context of Regeneration, and “Sacrifice” (the Gospel) is the (necessary) means of Regeneration, and “Surrender” (faith response) is the (necessary) effect of Regeneration, this is not the same as saying that they are “elements of regeneration” or aspects of Regeneration.

    If Regeneration is what God does by His Spirit (John 3:1-8, 6:63) through the Gospel (Rom. 1: 16-17; 1 Cor. 1:18, 2 Cor. 4:4-6) we should not confuse either means or responses with that definitive act of God upon the human soul.

    If what is intended is something like what I’ve just outlined, which I think makes more clear sense biblically, then an appropriate heading would take this into account and the descriptions would need to be revised to untangle the confusion.

  5. Anonymous2:18 PM

    Additionally, I don’t know how well the Sanskrit terms employed communicate these ideas (pure ignorance here), but in seeking to ground people in the Truth of Scripture revealing Triune God of Scripture and His work on our behalf, it seems a risky thing, when outlining an approach to discipleship, to leave out such foundational and essential words/concepts as Gospel (for “Sacrifice”), and Faith (for “Surrender”), and I confess I’m still confused by your “Experience” category - the only element of which I see as normative is “the love of God manifest in Christ-followers who serve and bless others” – which I shorten to “loving, faithful, Christian community.” Normative, I say, in a healthy context, but not an element of, nor one necessary for, regeneration.

    But these terms, Gospel and Faith, are part of the vocabulary (language) of the people of God – always have been (hardly anything is more prominent in Scripture) – and ought not be set aside in an effort to provide a paradigm for teaching which seems to more readily fit a particular cultural context.

    The Christian (biblical, Spirit-created) culture is distinct in whatever ethnic/linguistic context it is found. That distinctness goes as deep as our deepest commitments, is as fundamental as our most basic presuppositions, extends into the farthest realms of our experience, affects our understanding of every area of knowledge and endeavor, and involves, in a fundamental way, our use of language – which ought always to be deeply rooted in God’s verbal communication with us.

    We are a separate, distinct, unique people in this fallen, idolatrous, world. In this present evil age we are the people of the Spirit – we belong to the age to come. In the sin inflicted darkness – morally and intellectually – we are children of the light. We are a new humanity – made alive in Christ, participants in the New Creation (2 Cor. 5:17). We have had committed to us, and in us, the message of love, of light, and of life – in words given by the Spirit (I Cor. 2:6-16; 2 Cor. 4:4-6; John 6:63). This Christian language is an essential part who we are as God’s redeemed people who have heard, have been regenerated by, and are being instructed, sanctified, and transformed by that living and eternal Word.

    Again, admitting my ignorance regarding Sanskrit, given your definition of sharaana, my response is both positive and negative. While I fine the idea of “taking shelter in” Christ to be very helpful in one respect pertaining to the response of faith to the Gospel – there is a clear biblical correspondence – yet this does not fully capture what biblical faith is. And the response the Bible calls for is Faith. Rather than replacing Faith with something that can be said to be an aspect of biblical faith, and risk skewing the biblical response to one side, a more closely associated word to faith (as pistis would be translated in Sanskrit Scripture) should be used and the various aspects thereof unfolded in instruction. The use of sharaana seems particularly problematic when I haven’t seen anything about sin and wrath – what cause, then, is there to take refuge in Christ?

    With Sin, Gospel, and Faith left out of (or inadequately represented in) the paradigm – it seems it could be less helpful than it may appear. The Gospel has to define the structure, not the receiving language and culture. I would think that the adjustments should not be too difficult to make.

  6. Anonymous2:20 PM

    In the following section, my first question is based mostly on linguistic ignorance. I would specifically ask if dhyana and uposhya are easily adaptable to a Christian context or if they are culturally-encrusted with anti-Christian concepts? Just asking. And I like that joy is found in all 3 areas, but is joy properly called a discipline? If not, and yet is to be included, could we throw some love in there somewhere too? It seems to be a fairly important part of the Big Picture. It makes both of the 2 greatest commandments; perhaps it should not be relegated to implications in certain aspects of Christian discipleship. After all, God IS Love; in our increasing conformity to His image, that which sums up all of Christian discipleship – the very mark of His disciples (John 13) ought to be explicitly spelled out, I would think. It is said that faith working through love is the only thing that counts (Gal. 5:6).

    Okay, so this is much more than I had initially intended, but it took me a while to untangle my thoughts. Now, what can you teach me that I may have missed?



  7. Let me try to respond to Rick in one shot. I very much appreciate your careful look at the article and feedback. My hope is just to get the ball rolling really. I’m sure that there are many ways that what I’ve presented could be adapted and adjusted. The conversation is good.
    Yes, I think you understand the purpose correctly. It is essentially an aid for disciple-makers among Hindus. That being said, no attempt to explain the context of the gospel or Biblical theology is being made in this diagram. I do that elsewhere. This is merely a guide for discipling that assumes prior commitments to Biblical truth. Can’t do everything in every post.
    Re: “Regeneration” you have to remember your own appreciation for the triangles as a non-linear approach. Your questions about chronology assume a linear approach to disciple-making. The diagram is to help disciple-makers to simultaneously consider all three areas. Actually, I think that several of the questions that you ask arise out of the linear assumptions that you haven’t fully shaken. Which is understandable. Don’t let the neat design fool you, all of it bleeds into all of it. This is a guide not a machine.
    Also on regeneration, properly, no I don’t see this happening over an extended period of time. I’m not sure that “time” is really the right category even. But, I am reformed theologically, so I do see regeneration as preceding faith. Having said that, for the purposes of the discipleship tool presented, I am using “regeneration” as an umbrella term to classify a particular area of disciple-making that focuses on bringing people who don’t know Christ into saving relationship with him. Keep in mind that the purpose of the tool here is not to say something about soteriology. Rather, I’m trying to sort out the kinds of things we should bear in mind when making disciples.
    Re: “Experience” the focus is on the disciple experiencing Christ as living, as one who cannot be ignored because he is active here and now. Remember that this is a tool for the disciple-maker. So, a disciple-maker looking at this asks, “Is this person that I am sharing Jesus with experiencing Christ as alive and active? If not, why not and what is my role in bringing the living Christ to bear in their life?”
    RE: Terms used – In my opinion, the Sanskrit terms for “Faith” (viswas) and “Gospel” (susamachar) don’t communicate as well as the ones I’ve chosen. Of course, the terms are necessarily used in conversation, bible study, teaching, etc. However, I’ve thus far found that for the purposes of this tool, the terms used are more effective at delivering the intended concept. Without knowing the language and context, however, it would be difficult to convince you of this.
    The notion that there is a Christian culture is patently false. To claim this one must either misunderstand the concept of culture or rather what Scripture teaches. I cover this issue in many other places, so will refrain for now to do so again here. There is also no such thing as a “Christian language”.
    Dhyana and Uposhya are terms easily used to express Christian concepts.
    Yes, I believe that joy can be considered as a discipline since we are commanded to rejoice in the Lord always (Phil. 4:4). Love could, of course be thrown in at many places as could many other things. I’m not trying to be exhaustive. Also, see my response to a previous commenter re: Love.