What Is The Biblical Framework For Discipleship?

The Biblical framework for discipleship starts with the foundation of understanding that God wants the world evangelized and disciples made from every nation. This responsibility was given to the local church whose main task is to make disciples of all nations, who in turn, will make disciples—until the end of the age. Jesus modeled the framework of what discipleship looks like and how we are to invest our lives into training other disciples.

The Foundation Of Discipleship Is World Evangelism

  • World evangelism is the bedrock of discipleship. From the beginning, God promised to save “whosoever will” through sending Jesus as the Saviour of the World and in the end He will accomplish His mission by saving people from every kindred, tongue, people and nation. Thus, this is the single pulse of world evangelism: to actively pursue the lost world so that they are brought into a reconciled relationship with their Creator; and hereafter live to mature “in Christ” so that they can glorify God and enjoy Him forever through the gospel of Jesus. This has two main focuses:
    2 Corinthians 5:11-21; Psalm 16:11; 145:1-3; Acts 2:28
    • Reaching unbelievers with the message of Jesus—reaching is the idea of holding out, establishing communication and successfully influencing unbelievers with the gospel message of Jesus; it is the idea of stretching past boundaries and going forth with the gospel message of Jesus; it is the idea of successfully contextualizing and convincing (through the work of the Holy Spirit) unbelievers with message of Jesus (a person hears the gospel and believes).
      Matthew 28:19
    • Teaching believers with the word of God—teaching is the idea of instructing new believers in the Word of God so that they will obtain the necessary knowledge and skills to be a faithful disciple of Jesus; it is the idea of educating and training disciples for the ministry so that they fulfill the biblical requirements and are proficient to carry out their own ministerial roles; it is the idea of church planting; it is the idea of continual instruction.
      Matthew 28:20
  • The responsibility of “world evangelism” (and thus discipleship) has effectively and solely been inherited by the local church. Thus, the core purpose or focus of each local church is to evangelize the world. Members of each local church should collectively be using their time, talents and treasures to accomplish this task.
    Mark 16:15-20; Luke 24:45-53

Jesus Modeled The Framework Of What He Commanded Us To Do

  • Discipleship: From the beginning of Jesus’ ministry we see Him training disciples and at the end of His ministry He commands His disciples to “teach all nations,” which literally means to “make disciples of all nations.” Basically, He was looking at them and telling them to do the same thing that He had just done with them. This was to be a repeated process—meaning disciples train other disciples who train other disciples and so on. Thus, this is the single plan of world evangelism: to train up maturing disciples of Jesus who train up other maturing disciples of Jesus.
    Matthew 4:19; 28:16-20
  • Jesus modeled exactly how this was to work within the local church because the local church started with Jesus and His disciples (and it was established when they received and were filled by the Holy Spirit). Jesus’ relationship with His disciples becomes the pattern for ministry and the plan for fulfilling the great commission.
    John 20:20-23; Ephesians 2:19-22; Acts 1:8; 2:4, 42-47

Key Components Of The Discipleship Framework

  • Discipleship is training. Disciples are people who willingly take on the roles of “students, trainees, or followers” so that they can believe and follow the teachings of their “teacher, trainer, or leader”. Discipleship is investing your life into other disciples. The Bible is the tool we use to disciple because it is truth that is profitable for teaching doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for training or instruction in righteousness, so that all God’s people may be perfect or complete, throughly furnished or equipped for every good work. Example: Jesus was the trainer and the twelve men were the trainees and He faithfully committed to them the Words of the Father.
    2 Timothy 3:16-17; John 7:16; 8:31-32; 12:49-50; 15:3; 17:17-19
  • Discipleship is relational. It is a training, instructional and teaching relationship, but it is also an intimate relationship—like that of close friends but with the purpose of helping others become more like Jesus. Thus, this training includes learning from spending time with the trainer and learning directly from their lives. This is called life-on-life training. The trainer and the trainee live life together and use every opportunity as a training moment. Example: Jesus called the disciples to “be with Him” and He called them “friends” and not “servants or slaves”—showing the closeness of such a relationship.
    Mark 3:13-15; John 15:15; (It is a “way of life”—similar to the responsibilities of parents in Deuteronomy 6:5-9.)
  • Discipleship is multiplication. After Jesus trained His disciples, they received the Holy Spirit, they started working out the great commission, and the church experienced explosive growth. What were they doing? They were doing what they were trained to do: training disciples through reaching unbelievers with the message of Jesus and teaching believers with the word of God. These “new disciples” would reach and teach others and the number of disciples multiplied. This was accomplish by training disciples who trained other disciples and so on—through the power of the Holy Spirit. Example: Jesus investing His life into His disciples had much greater results than if He would have only witnessed to one person every day for the three years of His ministry. Here is an example scenario to help us understand how this works: If there was a new convert everyday for 12 years there would be 4,380 total converts. But if Jesus’ eleven disciples each trained eleven disciples every three years and then their disciples each trained eleven disciples every three years, etc, in a period of 12 years there would be 161,051 disciples.
    Acts 2:41, 47; 4:4; 5:14; 6:7; 9:31; 12:24; 13:49; 16:5; 19:20
  • Discipleship is reproduction. The secret of discipleship is the “spiritual continuum factor”—meaning that each disciple is to always reach and teach others who in return will be able to reach and teach others also. Thus, we are to train our disciples, but there is a time that we are to release them to go out and reproduce themselves—like a child who eventually becomes a parent, a training disciple becomes a trainer of disciples. Example: Timothy was to take what he learned from Paul and commit it to faithful men, who would be able to teach others also.
    2 Timothy 2:2

Review Questions

  • What is the foundation of discipleship?
  • Who has the responsibility of world evangelism?
  • What is the single plan of world evangelism?
  • How did Jesus model the framework of discipleship?
  • What are some components of discipleship?

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