It’s the core of our ministry here at The Discipleship Center. It’s been a buzzword for more than 15 years now, but sadly it hasn’t become much clearer over the years. Within Christian circles, everyone wants to be a disciple of Christ, or be discipled, but no one seems to know what that really means, how does it happen, what is it, how long does it take, ect.
What It Is
By Definition the Greek word matheˉteˉs: refers generally to any “student,” “pupil,” “apprentice,” or “adherent,” as opposed to a “teacher.” In the ancient world, however, it is most often associated, with people who were devoted followers of a great religious leader or teacher of philosophy. The closest idea we have in the modern world is the apprentice or on the job training. The observing, and trying to emulate the example given. The building skill and knowledge based on previous successes.
Who Is and Who Isn’t a disciple
In found in John chapter 6:22-71 Jesus tells the crowd, the day after he feeds the 5000 (men were counted but when you include women and children it could have been as great as 25 to 30 thousand), He tells them that He alone is the bread of life. The people wanted to continue to receive blessings from Jesus, but without accepting Him as their true Salvation, their Lord, their Judge, and their God. It says that the things Jesus said were “hard” and “who can listen to it”, and the bible says that many of his disciples turned back and would no longer walk with Him. However, when Jesus asks the 12 if they also wanted to go away, Peter affirms “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God” This is one of the reasons I love Peter and why I believe God chose Peter to be one of the 12, because Peter was always ready to open his mouth and say what all the disciples were thinking.
Within the religion of Christ, there will be many different types of people ranging from the uncommitted, the half committed and the fully committed.
The uncommitted will show up occasionally, especially on special events, pot-lucks, picnics, movie night, ect. but they cannot bring themselves to die to themselves and follow Christ, so they always stay at a distance. Their agenda is more important than Jesus’ agenda.
The half committed will follow for a ways, but they will eventually be offended by the gospel when it finally touches their lives. Repentance of sin sounds good until it’s their own sin. These half committed will continue to try to work and do good things apart from the gospel.
The fully committed however will persevere in following Christ. They are consistently willing to die to themselves, even if not perfectly every time, they know that God’s word is the words of eternal life even when not always pleasant at the time, they fully anticipate and accept the rebukes of the Lord and of other Godly people in their life.
Disciples Are The Runners
In 1st Corinthians 9:24-27 we see a picture of runners all running a race as if to receive a prize, and living their lives in a self-controlled manner. You can not be a follower of Jesus Christ and continue in an undisciplined life. You can not be a follower of Jesus Christ and sit in the stadium watching others run. Only those running on the track are the followers of Christ.
Free Men Abide In The Word
John 8:31-38 Shows that those who have spiritual freedom abide in the word (Jesus words, and the Bible are synonymous). Not abiding in the word shows that you are still a slave to sin. The natural man believes that he his free because he is not burdened with the words of the Bible and doesn’t realize his spiritual condition. That natural man doesn’t realize that he is a slave to sin alone, that his only choice is to sin, even the “good” things he does is to please himself or build himself up, and that the wages for this continual sin is an eternity in Hell.
Transforming the Intangibles to Something Tangible
How Can I Be A Follower Of Christ?
So you want to be a follower of Christ? You want to walk with Jesus. That sounds so nice and pastoral.
pas·to·ral adjective \ˈpas-t(ə-)rəl\ : of or relating to the countryside or to the lives of people who live in the country
Here are some things you’ll have to be willing to face to be a follower of Christ.
Repent of your sin
Repenting of your sin is the acting on the faith that is given to us by God for salvation.(Ephesians 2:8-10) Repentance is more than saying you’re sorry, it’s more than a confession of sin, it’s the acknowledgement of the life of sin that I’m enslaved to and turning to Jesus to follow Him instead.
Publicly associate with Christ
Being a follower of Christ is not a private matter. We did not become Christians to practice in secret, or to hide the truth of the gospel of Jesus from those around us.
Take up your cross and die daily
Are you willing to put aside the sin that you once enjoyed to follow Christ within the mantle of righteousness that He placed over you?
Forsake all others for Christ
Following Christ is not a popularity contest. In fact you’ll notice more people falling away from where you’re going and it may even be lonely at times. Is the relationship you have with Jesus worth more than all other relationships?
Become missional minded
We are a royal priesthood of believers and ambassadors for Jesus Christ. Our primary focus is to make disciples here on earth. This encompasses evangelism, calling to repentance, training of basic doctrine and equipping these new disciples to go out an make disciples.
Be associated with a local church
Discipleship cannot be done by one person alone. While I can help disciple another believer, I am not in the business of making disciples of myself, but rather within the framework of the local church a disciple can find their place and function in the body of the church.
Be a student of God’s word
In order to follow Jesus, or emulate Jesus we would have to listen to him. Without Jesus physically here to speak to us, we are given exactly what the God the father and Jesus Christ would want us to have within the Bible. We refer to this as God’s word not as some cliché but because it’s God’s inspired words to us written in a language we could understand.
It is good to have a mentor and a teacher who can help you with the Bible, but nothing can replace the time you spend studying the word. This is your chance to listen to God directly through what you read.
Reading may not be your strong suit, but it’s like anything else, the more you do the better you are. Remember also that we have the Holy Spirit inside of us and He helps us understand and apply the Bible.
How Exactly Do I Disciple?
This is the fundamentals of Discipleship right here. I’ve got concepts down, I know what it is to be a disciple, but what exactly do I do at 6:00pm on Monday night?
Make Sure Your Disciple Is On The Right Path.
Plainly speaking, is your “disciple” saved? Have they repented of their sins and turned to follow Jesus? If there is a doubt, I would cover salvation again. Not sure how to share the gospel in a Biblical manner? I would visit livingwaters.com and watch some of their videos, or better yet, I would advised picking up the book “The School of Biblical Evangelism: 101 lessons” by Kirk Cameron and Ray Comfort. This book goes over how to craft the gospel message using the law and questions that many people will ask.
Get To Know Your Disciple.
Unless you’ve been close friends for a long time, you are practically inviting a stranger to walk with you. Sometimes a brief questioner asking the disciple to rank their view on specific points in their life could bring out potential areas that need to be strengthened.
How Satisfied Are You In Your Spiritual Walk?
How Often Do You Feel Like Reading The Bible?
How Often Do You Actually Read The Bible?
How Satisfied Are You With Your Church?
How Well Do You Know Your Spiritual Gifts?
How Well Do You Know Your Spouse?
How Satisfied Are You With Your Relationship?
How Do You Think Your Spouse Views Your Relationship?
How Satisfied Are You With Your Finances?
How Satisfied Are You With The Amount Of Friends You Have?
How Satisfied Are You With The Type Of Friends You Have?
How Satisfied Are You With Your Relationship With Your Friends?
These can be rated from 1 to 10, but more than that, they are jumping off points for discussion that can reveal much more about a person.
Fellowship With Your Disciple.
This may be a great opportunity to invite them over for dinner, game night, or a movie. Many times a conversation may spring up during a “normal” fun night. I would suggest a board or card game that can allow for ongoing conversation while still being playable.
Attend Church Together
As I’ve already mentioned, no single flawed Christian can completely disciple another believer by themselves. At best you can only make them a disciple of you instead of a true follower of Christ. We are designed to live within the framework of the local Church. We worship God together with the local Church, we serve God and others through the local Church, and we fellowship with other believers through the local Church.
Study God’s Word Together
While discipleship is not only a Bible study, there are key things that should be the bedrock of every mature Christian and they are found in the Bible. The Bible is God’s words to us, His words of love and instruction. Our words are of limited importance, but God’s words are the words of life.
Part of maturing as a Christian is using your spiritual gift(s) in the Church. Help your disciple become active in the church.
There is nothing that strengthens the faith of a growing believer more than the power of prayer. Keep a prayer journal and watch how God answers prayer and shapes your life over time.
One step in discipleship is teaching the Gospel of Jesus to others. Whether this is in street evangelism, handing out tracts, door knocking, helping in a kids ministry where opportunities to share the gospel arise, or whatever you can think of to get the gospel out.
Prepare Them To Move On
There will come a time when you feel that you’ve poured all you have into your disciple and either they’ve gotten it and are ready to disciple someone else or they haven’t gotten it and may need to be discipled by someone different.
Keep Your Old Disciple In Your Network
The friendship you’ve made with your disciple is not over just because the season of walking together in same intentional way has come to an end. Continue to pray for your disciple as they start their new journey with their disciple and have them pray for you and your new disciple as well.
Remember that the point of discipleship is to encourage the people being discipled to be more like Christ in following him. This isn’t about you being a great teacher, role model, mentor, theologian, counselor or whatever. Your part is to obey Jesus’ last command to us to go and make disciples. Don’t worry, the challenges and blessings you get along the way will be wonderful, but obeying Christ is our highest goal.