What is Discipleship and Why is it Important?
What exactly is discipleship? Is it important? If so, why and should your church have a discipleship program for helping new converts grow in their faith?
What is a Disciple?
When Jesus commanded the disciples to go into all the world to make disciples of all nations and to teach them the things that He had taught them, this was an imperative command. A command that is non-negotiable like repent and believe but what does this word disciple mean? What does it mean to make disciples? The Greek word for disciple is math?teu? which in the verb form means to be a disciple of one, to follow instructions or to instruct, to teach so a disciple is a student who is learning one or more disciplines. This comes from the Greek root of the word math?t?s meaning a learner or a pupil so Jesus is telling His disciples to go and make disciples of others and this should have a self-replicating effect like ripples in the pond that go forever outward. We are all commanded to make disciples but how do we make disciples? Is it simply preaching to the lost about the gospel of Jesus Christ? No, it is much more than that.
Every Timothy Needs a Paul
We have a mentoring program in our church where older, more experienced Christians are mentoring the younger ones but every one of us needs a mentor just as every one of us needs to be mentoring a younger or newer Christian, regardless of their age. Mentoring, simply stated is just another word for discipling. I am 60+ but I too have the need for a mentor and I have one. The church where I now pastor at had a pastor who used to be here but he moved and now fills the pulpit at another church when needed. This man is discipling or mentoring me because I will never reach a point in my life where I don t need the input, the correction, and the experience of another man. Women have this same opportunity of course.
Read what Paul wrote about the older women in Titus 2:3-4 Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children. Even Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness (Titus 2:2) and should urge the younger men to be self-controlled. Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us (Titus 2:6-8). Every mentor must Declare these things; exhort and rebuke with all authority. Let no one disregard you (Titus 2:15) so a mentor sometimes has to exhort their mentee and to rebuke them when necessary.
Discipling is being a godly example, being a godly model for someone to follow after as Paul wrote Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ (1 Cor 11:1) and Join together in following my example, brothers and sisters, and just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do (Phil 3:17). Paul narrows the focus down to this: You became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you welcomed the message in the midst of severe suffering with the joy given by the Holy Spirit (1 Thess 1:6). If someone you know is a biblical model of a godly woman or man of Christ, then imitate them but only if they are imitating Christ and do as Paul says, keep your eyes on those who live as we do. Paul told the Corinthians to Be imitators of [him.just as he is] of Christ.
Ultimately, the Holy Spirit is the one who directs us to be more Christ-like but outwardly, mentors can show them what that looks like in the skin in our everyday life. Right now I have a young man going out with me in evangelizing the community where our church is located. He can see by my (hopefully) godly example how a person is called to do this it is part of the imperative command given by Christ in what is called the Great Commission but for many churches this has been the great omission. Yes, we are to reach out to the lost but a major part of that commission is to make disciples of all nations (Matt 28:18) and to be teaching them to observe all that [Christ has] commanded us (Matt 28:20) so discipling someone includes going out into all the world and making disciples but it must include teaching them to observe all that Jesus taught the disciples and commanded them to do.
As we have read it is all Christian s responsibility to go and share the gospel and to teach them to observe what Christ has commanded us to do but it is not our responsibility to save them that is the work of the Holy Spirit. He convicts the sinners. He points them to Christ. He makes them see their need for repentance and faith in Christ. It is not our responsibility to save anyone but it is our responsibility to tell others about the Savior. It is their response to His ability so that they might be saved. Some key passages in discipling include Romans 12 and I Corinthians 13.
Mentoring or discipling begins with developing and establishing a relationship with someone and being transparent about strengths, weaknesses, vulnerabilities, and confessing faults for both the mentor and the mentee for both the disciple and the one being discipled. A good part of this includes teaching, serving, praying for one another, and humbly accepting rebuke or correction when needed. The Word of God is like a sharp two-edged sword that is alive; it has two edges on it so it cuts both ways, both to the one giving it and to the one on the receiving end (Heb 4:12). Sometimes it must cut in order to heal. The proverb (27:6) is true; Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy and Whoever rebukes a person will in the end gain favor rather than one who has a flattering tongue (Prov 28:23) and putting it bluntly, Blows and wounds scrub away evil, and beatings purge the inmost being (Prov 20:30).
Does your church have a discipleship program? Are people in your church being discipled right now? If not, they are losing out on a precious resource for growing in the grace and knowledge of God. We should be taping the experiences of the mentor s wisdom and failures, to help shape the future leaders of the church. Every Paul needs to be mentoring a young Timothy just as every Timothy needs a Paul to have as a mentor but only as long as that mentor is imitating Christ. We are commanded to make disciples and to teach them the things that Christ commands. If we are not doing this, then the only commission we are fulfilling is the great omission and not the Great Commission.
The above article, What is Discipleship and Why is it Important was written by Jack Wellman. The article was excerpted from www.christianmediamagazine.com.
The material is copyrighted and should not be reprinted under any other name or author. However, this material may be freely used for personal study or research purposes.
This article may not be written by an Apostolic author, but it contains many excellent principles and concepts that can be adapted to most churches. As the old saying goes, Eat the meat. Throw away the bones.