The Journey What is Discipleship?

Biblical Discipleship

We are all a product of influence. There are so many people living close to all of us who are thirsty for something to satisfy the longing of their soul.

Steve's Story: I was one of those people. I was someone dying on the inside and looking every direction for something or someone to bring an answer to my dilemma. Could I find a way out? That answer came by way of a group of students who believed deeply and passionately in Jesus and engaged me in life in order to influence the way I thought about Jesus. They believed that when Jesus said, “Go and make disciples” that meant in the world where they lived - their home, their workplace, their school, their shopping centre, their sphere of influence. They invested in my life whether I wanted it or not and my life was changed for ever.

Discipleship is not a 5 step program or attendance at a church but rather an intentional embracing of Jesus and His mission. A disciple is someone who:

FOLLOWS JESUS

When we encounter Jesus, we meet a man who calls us to come and die (Mark 8:34-35). And He calls us to follow Him and learn from Him (Matthew 4:19, 11:29). It doesn’t matter whether we’re smart or stupid, rich or poor, young or old, Asian, African, or American. The only requirement is that we repent of rebelling against our Creator and cling to Him through faith (Mark 1:15; 1 Thessalonians 1:9). If we do this, we’re promised forgiveness of our sins and reconciliation to God (Colossians 1:13-14; 2 Corinthians 5:17-21). Jesus calls us to come and die so that we might live.

Those who follow Jesus by faith are known as His disciples. Some suggest that disciples are the “super Christians” who are gettin’ it done for Jesus, while Christians are just “normal believers.” Scripture, however, offers no support for this distinction. (See, for example, Matthew 10:38, 16:24-28; Mark 8:34; Luke 9:23, 57-62; John 10:27, 12:25-26). We are either following Jesus or we aren’t; there is no middle ground (Matthew 12:30).

IMITATES AND REPLICATES JESUS

At the heart of following Jesus is Jesus’ call to imitate Him and replicate Him. As disciples, we are called to imitate Jesus’ love (John 13:34), His mission (Matthew 4:19), His humility (Philippians 2:5), His service (John 13:14), His suffering (1 Peter 2:21) and His obedience to the Father (1 John 2:3-6). Since He is our teacher, we are to learn from Him and strive in the power of the Holy Spirit to become like Him (Luke 6:40). This growth in Christ-likeness is a lifelong endeavor that is fueled by the hopeful expectation that one day we will see Him face to face (1 John 3:2-3).

HELPS OTHERS FOLLOW JESUS

As we follow our Lord, we quickly learn that part of imitation is replication. Having a personal relationship with Jesus is magnificent, but it is incomplete if it ends with us. Part of being His follower is to intentionally help others learn from Him and become more like Him. Someone has said “If you aren’t helping other people follow Jesus, I don’t know what you mean when you say you’re following Jesus.” To be His follower is to help others follow Him.

Being a disciple that makes disciples happens in two particular ways. First, we’re called to evangelize. Evangelism is telling people who don’t follow Jesus what it means to follow Him. We do this by proclaiming and portraying the gospel in our neighborhood and among the nations (Matthew 28:19-20). We must never forget that God has placed us in the families, workplaces, and circles of friends that we are in so that we can proclaim the gospel of grace to those who are destined to hell apart from Christ. We must help people learn how to begin to follow Jesus.

The second aspect of making disciples is helping other believers grow in Christ-likeness. Jesus has designed his church to be a body (1 Corinthians 12), a kingdom of citizens and a family who actively build each other up into the fullness of Christ (Ephesians 2:19; 4:13, 29). We are called to instruct each other about Christ (Romans 15:14) and to imitate others who are following Christ (1 Corinthians 4:16, 11:1; 2 Thessalonians 3:7, 9). As disciples, we are to intentionally pour into other disciples so they can pour into still others (2 Timothy 2:1-2).

INTENTIONALLY BUILDS RELATIONSHIPS

Discipleship does not just happen. We need to be intentional about cultivating deep, honest relationships in which we do spiritual good to other Christians. While we can have discipleship relationships anywhere, the most natural place for them to develop is in the community of the local church. In the church Christians are commanded to meet together regularly, spur each other on in Christ-likeness, and protect each other against sin (Hebrews 3:12-13; 10:24-25).

The discipleship relationships that spring out of this type of committed community should be both structured and spontaneous. When we study the life of Jesus, we see that He formally taught His disciples (Matthew 5-7; Mark 10:1) while also allowing them to observe His obedience to God as they lived life together (John 4:27; Luke 22:39-56).

In the same way, some of our discipleship relationships should be structured. Maybe two friends decide to read a chapter from the Gospel of John and then discuss it over coffee or a workout at the gym. Maybe two businessmen read a chapter each week from a Christian book and then talk about it on a Saturday walk through the neighborhood with their kids. Maybe two couples do a date night together once a month and talk about what the Bible says about marriage. Maybe a godly older lady has a younger single woman over to her home on Tuesday afternoon to pray and study a Christian biography. Maybe a mom spends time at the park with other moms each week. Regardless of the format, some of our discipleship should involve scheduled times of reading, praying, confessing, encouraging, and challenging each other to become more like Christ.

Discipleship can also be spontaneous. Maybe friends go to a movie together and then grab ice cream afterwards to compare the movie’s message to what the Bible says. Maybe a father and a son sit on the porch and reflect on God’s glory being displayed in a sunset. Maybe you invite visitors from church over for lunch and ask everyone how they came to know Jesus.

We always need to be intentional, but we don’t always need to be structured. In fact, Deuteronomy 6 shows us that discipleship happens “when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise” (verse 7). Every moment presents an opportunity to discuss who God is and what He’s doing. Since we are always following Jesus, we always have the opportunity to help others follow Him as well.

DEPENDS UPON GRACE

While it is true that a disciple of Jesus ought to help others follow Jesus, we must always remember that apart from the sustaining and empowering grace of God we can do nothing (John 15:5). Whether you’re a pastor, a plumber, a policeman, or a stay at home parent, you never graduate from your need for God’s grace.

As we follow Christ and help others follow him, we’re constantly made aware that we need grace. We fail. We sin. We struggle. But thankfully, God’s grace abounds to his children. This is good news as we seek to follow Jesus together and daily be transformed into His glorious image (2 Corinthians 3:18). May we faithfully follow Christ and help others to do the same until we see his face.

We want to be the type of church that invests in building disciples. As a starting point we have identified the following 5 steps to help people in their journey. Whether you are someone just searching for an answer to the question; Is there more to life than this? Or you have been a Christ follower for years, these 5 steps can help you in your journey.