Discipleship is a common term in churches today, but how well are we developing Christ-like people?
Greg Herrick writes, “For our purposes, then, a “disciple of Christ” is someone who has been called first to know Christ, then to follow him, and then to make disciples of all nations. That is, in our knowing Christ we are becoming like him—thinking, feeling, and living as he commands. In this spiritual ambience of personal relationship with him, that is, in light of our experience of the kingdom, he summons us to be his disciples. We are to follow him, through thick and through thin, knowing that he is there and that he will reward us in his time; after all, he is the Master. But discipleship not only involves being with him, being like him, and following him, it also means that we make it our goal to disciple others—indeed, every nation under the sun. The Great Commission is not just another good idea—though it is that—it is the church’s marching order. As far as I know, he never communicated another plan.” 1
Noted theologian John Wesley shared a passion for discipleship. Founded on Jesus’ blueprint for discipleship, Wesley developed a simple plan for maturing and equipping the saints. Wesley said, “The Church changes the world not by making converts but by making disciples.” 2 Jesus commanded us to: “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 28:19,20).
How Jesus Taught
The New Testament refers to Jesus’ ministry to the multitudes at least 17 times. However, there are approximately 46 occasions in the Bible where He invested time privately with His disciples. In those small group settings He trained His committed followers for their own ministries. He ministered one-on-one, one-on-two, one-on-three, and at other times one-on-twelve. He also provided on-the-job training with the 70; spent apprenticeship time with the 120; and gave instruction to the 500 in Galilee.
The most effective way to train people for any skill is by modeling and then providing opportunities to practice the skill itself. Jesus used a show–tell–release–supervise model of training. After calling the disciples, He took them along with Him, teaching and healing the sick as He went. Then, after He thought the disciples had seen and learned enough, He commissioned, empowered, instructed, and sent them out to do the same things. This training model still works—and should our main method today when we seek to bring others into a complete understanding and walk in Christ-likeness. 3
6 Key Takeaways
Bob Deffinbaugh provides the following observations:
- Discipleship is not for the elite in Christianity, but for all Christians.
- Salvation is the first step, commencing a life of discipleship. Salvation should not be seen apart from discipleship.
- Some have neglected discipleship in evangelism, tending toward an easy believism. They seem to be inviting men and women to have a kind of spiritual ‘affair’ with our Lord. They do not stress that the relationship is one of eternal commitment and far-reaching consequences. Others have over-stressed or over-programmed it, failing to realize that it is ultimately the work of God and a life-long process.
- We have erroneously applied our Lord’s relationship with the twelve and Paul’s relationship with Timothy to discipleship. We have confused discipleship with apostleship. We have overlooked the matter of gift and calling. We have confused spirituality with certain kinds of service.
- We have made the matter of discipleship primarily an individual enterprise rather than a collective command to the corporate church.
- We have placed the emphasis upon finding a person to be our leader and guide, rather than developing a dependence on Christ Himself. 4
Discipling Your Children
DiscipleLand’s family of resources forms a comprehensive Children’s Discipleship System™ – an intentional, relational, and transformational discipleship process. Your children can achieve balanced growth in Bible knowledge, Christ-like character, and faithful conduct.
•Nursery curriculum (birth–age 3) includes everything your volunteers need to provide spiritual nourishment for your little lambs.
•Preschool children (ages 3–5) progress through Old and New Testament stories to discover God’s greatness and plan.
•Kindergarten kids (ages 5–6) overview the entire Bible and meet 48 different Bible personalities along the way.
•For the Elementary years (grades 1–6), choose from these options:
—Core Bible challenges children to become victorious disciples via 6 years of sequential Bible curriculum
—Adventure motivates kids to pursue their discipleship journey via essential Bible topics
—DiscipleTown equips kids with vital discipleship skills.
1: Greg Herrick, Understanding the Meaning of the Term Disciple. Web. 2012.
2: North Georgia Conference: Discipleship: Dedicated Followers of Jesus Christ. Web. 2008.
3: Core Discipleship. Web. 2012.
4: Bob Deffinbaugh. What Happened to Discipleship in the Epistles? Web. 2012.