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What is Discipleship?

Updated on January 30, 2017

Jesus Wants us to make Disciples

It was an emotional time for the followers of Jesus. First they had lost him to the Cross. Then Jesus had risen and walked among them again. But now it was time for him to say goodbye and go back into heaven. He called the 12 men closest to him to join him in Galilee to hear the last words that he would speak to them as a man on this earth. This is what he said:

"All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." Matthew 28: 18 - 20

This is what we call the Great Commission. Jesus is the answer to living the life we were meant to live here on earth. It is his sacrifice that makes it possible to have a personal relationship with the God who created us. It is through him that we have eternal life in heaven. This good news is salvation to anyone who accepts it and it is our job to share it, to pass it on, to make disciples and show the people in our lives how to follow Jesus.

What is a disciple?

A Disciple is a follower or student of a teacher, leader, or philosopher.

In Christianity it is someone who follows Jesus.

As a verb it means To teach; to train, or bring up. Also to convert to doctrines or principles.

What does discipleship cost?

Discipleship is also costly. So far sharing Christ won’t land us in prison or get us a death sentence. But it still has a price. Most of the cost will come in the form of time and vulnerability. It takes time and energy to invest our lives in someone and it comes with the risk of rejection, embarrassment, and feeling inadequate. How do you think we can prepare for and combat these risks?

What is a Discipleship?

While there is no formula in the Bible for making disciples, we do see followers of Jesus form relationships that help them grow closer to God and each other.

In his book, My Deeper Walk, a Firm Foundation, Pastor Mark Yule defines discipleship as intentionally multiplying Christ-like life changers.

If we take this apart and look at each piece individually, we get a better picture of what this means.

First, Intentionally. This is not an easy task. It takes courage, vulnerability, effort and obedience. It can only be done through relationships and it is a direct command from Jesus before he ascended into heaven. (Matthew 28:19a)

Multiplying – We are to live our lives in a way that attracts others to Christ and helps strengthen the growth of other Christians.

Christ-like - The point of being a disciple is to become more like the person we follow. In this case, Christ.

life changers – People are looking for their lives to change. The growing Christian has a desire to become more and more like Christ. Not only does this change their own lives, but it also changes the lives of those around them. Those without a personal relationship with Christ live in darkness. I think we would be surprised at how many of them sense that there is something more and long for it. They are looking for someone to show them the light.

How do we make a disciple?

While knowledge and wisdom are important to a point, it is not the main priority in discipleship. Relationship is the focus, love is the driving force. (1 Timothy 1:5)

It is through our relationships that people can see God in our lives. Our relationships with the world, with each other and with God are what will draw the world to Christ and help us grow in Him.

So many people are lonely and hurting inside. They feel unloved and cold. Making an emotional connection with them and making them feel loved, encouraged and cared for is the key to making and growing a disciple.

Discipleship doesn't need to be done alone

Discipleship is not something we should do alone. God designed us to work together within the church. We need each other. When introducing new disciples, we need a place where they can learn and grow along with us. We need the support and encouragement of others in our own walk. We need the wisdom and examples of those who have already been where we are, and we need to guide and encourage those who are where we have already been. Discipleship is a group project.

Working together towards discipleship also offers us protection from the enemy. It is the antelope separated from the group that gets eaten by the lion. Satan is a lion prowling among us looking for easy targets. He wants to discourage, accuse, destroy and do whatever it takes to keep us from following Gods purpose for our lives. And to keep us from multiplying disciples and helping the church grow.

The Christian Reputation in the World is damaging

Recently on a trip home, one of the Pastors at my church told his class that Harvard had just put out a statement saying that they won the war for homosexuality, abortion and transgender rights and now it was time to treat Christians like the Nazi’s they are. This is a disturbing picture of how the world views us. But what was even more disturbing to me, was that Harvard never put out such a statement. A Conservative writer on a conservative news site twisted the words a Harvard professor wrote on his personal blog about dealing with a liberal Supreme Court. And other Christian and conservative bloggers and authors picked it up. Such an outrageous statement served them well to drive traffic to their sites and sales to their books, but did little to make Christ appealing to the unsaved world.

The professor does say that the Culture Wars are over and they (the liberals) won, then goes on to point out that even the term Culture Wars was coined by conservatives. Again, how can the world feel God’s love from us when we define our interactions with them as war?

And we are no better with each other. Even within the church we hold hatred for those who disagree with us or who have offended us. This is especially true online. It’s not hard to find a comment thread on just about any religious topic that doesn’t have Christians speaking to each other with so much hatred and venom that it’s tangible and heartbreaking. It’s even worse when a non-Christian dares to write their opinion on a religious topic. They are attacked and destroyed. Is this what God wants? (1 Cor. 6:7, 2 Cor. 2: 5-8, Romans 14, Mt 7: 1 – 6)

We are digging our own graves. If we are persecuted, it probably has more to do with how the unbelievers have been treated by Christians than their reaction to the gospel. It is kindness that leads to repentance, not sternness. (Romans 2:4)

I think that if Christians would stop trying to force the world to change through politics and law, the world would be a better place. We should focus our energy on living our lives in a way that introduces the world to Christ, allowing Him to change the world instead of us. Then people would want to become Disciples of Christ. It would be simple, but very significant.

What is your reputation as a Christian?

Our relationships with people need to be more important than our curriculum or agendas.

This is where I think Christians in general have gone wrong in their interactions with the world. I understand that there are many kind, loving, effective Christians in the world. Especially at your church. There are also a huge number of people who call themselves Christian but aren’t. But from the worlds point of view it seems that they feel like Christians show them judgement instead of love, hatred instead of grace. This is not what God wants us to do!

1 Corinthians 5: 9 – 13 – “I wrote… not to associate with immoral people, not at all meaning the… immoral of this world… for what I have I do to with judging outsiders? …God judges those outside.”

Yet over and over I talk to non-Christians who have felt the sting of judgement and rejection from their Christian neighbors. My own neighbors told me they were so glad the Christian’s (previous owners) were gone when we bought our house. I have another friend who won’t come to church because every church she has gone to has told her who to hate. A Jehovah’s Witness friend of mine could not believe it when she found I was a born again believer. When they go door to door the people who are the rudest, most disrespectful and cruel to them are the ones who identify themselves with being born again. I could go on and on. I know of Christians who drive their kids to school so they don’t have to ride the bus with the ungodly, or who will only put them into Christian schools so that their kids never have to interact with non-Christians. Don’t you think the world feels that judgement? I think they do.

Who will you disciple?

I would like to encourage you to look around at the people in your own life. Pray about who God wants you to invest in. Look at the non-Christians around you. Maybe there is a neighbor, co-worker, relative or friend that you can make a point of loving. Even if they never accept Christ, you can make sure that you give them a good impression and example of what a Christian is. Sometimes the people who bug us the most are the ones that God wants us to make an impression on. Also look for someone who is a “younger” (not age wise) Christian than you who you might be able to mentor or guide, or an “older” Christian who might be able to mentor or guide you. God has a purpose for each one of us. There is probably someone out there that He wants us to influence or learn from in some way.

That is how intentional, Christ-like life changers are made.

© 2017 April Reynolds


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