Defining Discipleship

We talk about making disciples, but do we know how to do it?  In this series of lessons on Personal Discipleship, let’s pray that we start obeying the biblical mandate regarding discipleship.

Before we can make a disciple, we need to figure out what one looks like.

What Is a Disciple?

  • Definition
    • In its simplest form, “disciple” means “learner.”
    • “Disciple” was not a unique spiritual term during Jesus’ day.  It was used to describe whenever one was learning something from another.
    • Working Definition: The intentional investment of biblical teaching and modeling into the life of another for the sake of Christian maturity.
  • Distinctives
    • When we think of a student in our context, we automatically envision a classroom setting.
    • While classroom learning did exist in that time somewhat, most education was done in a modeling, equipping, and practicing type of environment.
    • A disciple became a follower of the mentor and learned by observing his life up close.

The Great Commission

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:18-20).

As you study this familiar passage, there are a few things to highlight in order to understand Jesus’ expectations for discipleship.

  1. Jesus is still the initiator.
  2. Jesus has all authority.
  3. Jesus did not call for the people to come to the Church, but for the Church to go to the people.
  4. Jesus did not ask us to make converts but to make disciples.
  5. Jesus will not return until all nations have responded to the gospel (cf. Matt. 24:14; 2 Pet. 3:9).
  6. The mandate for baptism reveals the external evidence of a life change and commitment to the Church.
  7. Disciples are followers of Jesus who obey biblical instruction.
  8. In the discipleship process, Jesus assures them with the greatest resource imaginable – His presence!

6 Components in the Life of a Disciple

What are the greatest components that made you who you are today?  What is your faith story?  Most likely, your summarized testimony would include many (if not all) of these elements.

  1. Event – Do you have a milestone in your life when the gospel changed you?
  2. Environment – What regular faith gatherings are shaping who you are today?
  3. Example – Who is the mentor you aspire to follow?
  4. Encourager – Who is the friend walking beside you and pushing you towards Christ?
  5. Equipment – What spiritual disciplines are training you to grow in godliness?
  6. Engagement – How are you intentionally investing in another with what you have learned?

Devotion, Doctrine, and Discipline

If you were responsible to mature someone in Christ, where would you begin?  All disciples should be aiming to have similar devotions, doctrinal stances, and spiritual disciplines, but we are not all on the same place in the journey.  Some of us need to focus on certain elements that others don’t have to worry about as much.

So, if you had to come up with a list of what a disciple’s devotion, doctrine, and discipline should look like, what would you include?

  1. What should be a disciple’s devotion?
  2. What is necessary for a disciple’s doctrine?
  3. What should be included in a disciple’s discipline?

5 Great Books on Discipleship

As I teach this course to our church for anyone who wants to come, we have also set it up to where college and seminary students can actually get class credit through our Equip program.

While you may not desire class credit, many of you are looking for additional resources in your discipleship development.

Below are the 5 books we are using this semester for Equip.  

You don’t have to read them to come to the class, but if you want to go deeper, I recommend these volumes to you without reservation!

“For more than forty years this classic study has shown Christians how to minister to the people God brings into their lives. Instead of drawing on the latest popular fad or the newest selling technique, Dr. Robert E. Coleman looks to the Bible to find the answer to the question: What was Christ’s strategy for evangelism? This convenient, portable format has an updated look for a new generation of readers.”

“Drawn from a rich heritage, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life will guide you through a carefully selected array of disciplines. By illustrating why the disciplines are important, showing how each one will help you grow in godliness, and offering practical suggestions for cultivating them, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life will provide you with a refreshing opportunity to become more like Christ and grow in character and maturity. Now updated and revised to equip a new generation of readers, this anniversary edition features in-depth discussions on each of the key disciplines.”

“Before ascending to heaven, Jesus instructed his followers to “make disciples of all nations.” But what does this command actually entail? What does it look like for Christians to care for one another’s spiritual well-being and growth? In this introduction to the basics of discipling, veteran pastor and author Mark Dever uses biblical definitions and practical examples to show how Christians can help one another become more like Christ every day. The eighth volume in the 9Marks: Building Healthy Churches series, this short book explains how discipling should function in the context of the local church, teaching pastors and church leaders how to cultivate a culture of edification and growth in their congregations.”

““The disciple walks in the dust of the master.” This common expression from the first century summarizes the focus of this study. Discipleship is nonnegotiable in Scripture. And the best way to learn how to walk with God is to walk in the dust of a master who himself walks with God. The master must not walk so far ahead and the disciple so far behind that the master’s dust cannot fall on the student. Mentoring takes place as two or more people walk together. Using Jesus and Paul as examples, this study describes the biblical model of mentorship, provides a practical strategy for starting a mentoring relationship and process, addresses common challenges in mentoring, and more.”

““How can I know if my disciple-making efforts are effective? How can I know if people growing spiritually?” Have you ever asked these questions? If so, you are not alone. Many disciple-makers regularly struggle with these issues. While attendance and baptisms are easily counted, measuring the spiritual maturity of our people is not quite so simple. To make matters worse, an unfortunate reality of our day is that pastors are graded on how big their churches are and not how mature their people have become. Sadly, the American church has adopted business metrics to grow churches rather than biblical methods for growing disciples. In MARCS of a Disciple, Pastor Robby Gallaty provides a biblical guide for gauging spiritual growth. Mature disciples are Missional, Accountable, Reproducible, Communal, and Scriptural. Use this book as a measuring stick to determine the health and effectiveness of disciple-making in your church and personal life. Jesus didn’t leave the maturity of his disciples to chance; neither should we.”