Discipleship


Louis Roth Sep 11·6 min read




I have heard the term “discipleship” at churches and never personally experienced any discipling. I saw people identified as future leaders that received extra attention, but I was never one of those selections. I can to show that the idea that discipling should occur is not even a question. This article is about figuring out discipleship should do.

What’s going on in churches today? David Platt says this about buying solutions and forgetting God is involved: “…I’m convinced we’ve created a whole host of means, methods, and strategies for doing ministry today that need little if any help at all from the Holy Spirit of God. We don’t have to pray to grow a church; we have social media for that. We hardly ever fast, but we spend hours whiteboarding our plans. We’re fooling ourselves, thinking that we can do supernatural work through our natural means. We’ve lost sight of the fact that we could do more eternally valuable work in one week in God’s power than we could in 100 years in our power.” [1]

I agree with Putman that the lack of discipleship forces churches to look elsewhere to fill positions rather than search within the congregation: “So why don’t most American churches tap into the hidden talent buried on their benches? I believe it is because they do not focus on making and training disciples. They spend so much time putting on a show that they do not have the time to know or invest in their people. Perhaps they might think they are making disciples because their show (large group events, weekend services) are outstanding. Still, discipleship is so much more than gathering a crowd and wowing them with amazing videos or good music or even good preaching. I am not against a good worship service; it plays a part in the process, but by itself, it does not make disciples. … ”. [2]

I am promoting a view of discipling that four core elements, then convert your church culture into one that always makes disciples, and, in turn, creates disciple-makers. What does disciple mean? A disciple is a learner. The learner takes instruction from a “master” or “teacher.” Also, the learner accepts the views and an adherent of the master’s views. For example, the Disciples took instruction from Christ and believed what Jesus was teaching. The book of Acts describes the actions of the Disciples showing they were indeed all-in that Jesus Christ is the Messiah. Note how Saul became Paul responsible for raising disciples who could lead churches themselves (Titus and Timothy). The term applies to followers of Jesus Christ — but, the word for learner and teacher were common in 1st century Greek.[3] The usage is found in the New Testament 261 times — mostly in the Gospels and book of Acts.[4] How is Discipleship accomplished now? I know pastors who feel that people progress fast enough with Sunday sermons. Pastors may “dig deep” into Scripture and teach Biblical truth. The question is still, “Is this Discipleship?” Based on the quote above by Putman, the answer is no. I know pastors that scoff at discipleship because that is one more thing to deal with, and they already have busy lives. Discipling takes effort and should never be done entirely by the pastor or staff. The obvious problem is that discipleship is not happening in churches on a scale that impresses anybody. The book “Move” is about how Willow Creek Church in Chicago. The writers could not understand the results of their surveys despite all the programs at the church. “For example, even though most (almost 80 percent) strongly agree that they “love God more than anything,” one-third do not serve the church, and 50 percent do not serve the underresourced every month. In the past year, 60 percent had fewer than six spiritual conversations with nonbelievers, and 80 percent invited fewer than six people to church. Forty percent do not tithe.”[5] Also, thirteen percent of congregants experience no spiritual growth; eighteen to fifty percent are dissatisfied with spiritual growth.[6]

Spiritual growth, or discipleship, is not adequate, in general, at churches. The results from the “Move” study tell me things are not working in churches. The culture in churches is not what is required to disciple believers so that they plant churches, share the Gospel, and become disciple-makers themselves. Individuals must take the initiative to grow with Christ. The church cannot make us gather together with other believers, develop intimacy with Christ, and spend time in the Bible. These pillars are essential to growth. When individuals are in tune with the Lord, then the congregation is also in tune. For example, church planting will fail; attendance numbers fall when the core activities are done sporadically. How else can believers survive the intense spiritual warfare before the return of Christ? Pressure comes in many forms (see 1 Peter passage above). The current age is evil, and consequently, very challenging to those that choose to follow Christ rather than the World.

So what does it look like to follow Jesus? Mt. 8:34–35 tells us that following Jesus means denying the things we once held dear. The cost may include death. 1 Pet. 4:1–6 describes this as: “unrestrained behavior, evil desires, drunkenness, orgies, carousing, and lawless idolatry.” As disciples, “the one who suffers in the flesh is finished with sin — to live the remaining time in the flesh no longer for human desires.” People will notice the change attempt to draw us back to our former way of life. The point is the account one gives to the Lord is more important. I never told what was involved in following Christ. The items I list below are essential to growing in Christ. Attending church on Sundays does not get a person to where they need to be.

The Great Commission must become central to our thinking. Our task on Earth is to make disciples of the nations (Matt. 28:16–20). Most of the people around our homes and office don’t know Jesus. The harvest is always plentiful, but the workers few. “…. As believers and as a church, we recognize His leadership. He is in charge; we are His followers. As Christians, we exist for His glory and for His purposes. In this passage, He has given us a sacred mission: to go and make disciples. Two things come to mind when I think of this command. First, many pastors and Bible college professors have propagated the idea that this mission is given to only those trained in a seminary or Bible college. However, according to this command, it is the job of every believer to make disciples. The church is supposed to equip its people (every person) to be an army released on its community. Second, this command calls us to make disciples and not converts, and there is a big difference (more on this later).”

A disciple develops a prayer life for himself and others. Prayer gives us access to the Lord. 1 Cor. 2 talks about gaining spiritual wisdom: prayer. A knowledge that is not human but of the Spirit. The Holy Spirit teaches believers how to evaluate what happens to and around us from God’s perspective. The chapter ends, stating that we can have the mind of Christ. Assemble with other believers Often couples seem to disappear from the church after the kids are out of the house. Being ignored, older folks complain, is another reason folks stop attending church. They have much to offer, but young adults want to experience life without heeding warnings. I understand all that. None the less, Hebrews 10:25 tells us to gather together. Matt. 18:20 also explains that when we gather in Christ’s name, He is with us in that assembly.

Disciples are in the Bible regularly! God’s Word, in tandem with prayer life, teaches the wisdom and plan of God. Paul writes Timothy encouraging him to continue to endure falling back on the things he learned since infancy — Scripture (2 Tim. 3:10–16).

Disciples need a coach. I don’t have specific Scripture here, only to note that Titus and Timothy had an excellent coach in the Apostle Paul. Who better than someone who knows us intimately can guide us from deliberate sin (Heb. 10:36). A coach can also show the young believer through the pain of testing. [1] Paul J. Pastor. (n.d.). David Platt: Reproducing Church, Transcendent Community. David Platt: Reproducing Church, Transcendent Community …. https://outreachmagazine.com/interviews/59251-david-platt-reproducing-church-transcendant-community-part-1.html [2] Putman, J. (2010). Real-Life Discipleship: Building Churches that Make Disciples (p. 19). Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress. [3] Trever, G. H. (1915). Disciple. In J. Orr, J. L. Nuelsen, E. Y. Mullins, & M. O. Evans (Eds.), The International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia (Vol. 1–5, p. 851). Chicago: The Howard-Severance Company. [4] Weder, H. (1992). Disciple, Discipleship. In D. N. Freedman (Ed.), D. Martin (Trans.), The Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary (Vol. 2, p. 207). New York: Doubleday. [5] Hawkins, Greg L.. Move: What 1,000 Churches Reveal about Spiritual Growth (p. 19). Zondervan. Kindle Edition. [6] Hawkins, Greg L.. Move: What 1,000 Churches Reveal about Spiritual Growth (pp. 19–20). Zondervan. Kindle Edition. [7] Christian Standard Bible. (2020). (1 Pe 4:3). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers. [8] Putman, J. (2010). Real-Life Discipleship: Building Churches that Make Disciples (p. 20). Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress.


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