What Should Define Discipleship?

Discipleship is defined as a life-on-life process where disciples of Jesus spread the gospel to unbelievers who, Lord willing, put their faith in and start following Jesus, thus become disciples themselves. Next they help those new believers to mature as disciples—meaning to help them grow in their identity, behavior and ministry. Subsequently, they start training other disciples with the goal to be consistently producing maturing disciples of Jesus in all nations, at all times, all for the glory of God.

Defining What A Genuine Disciple Is Like

  • What is a disciple? A genuine disciple is a person who responds to Jesus’ call to believe in and follow Him as Lord and Saviour. Jesus makes those who follow Him into fishers of men—meaning people that make disciples of all nations.
    Matthew 4:19-22; (28:18-20); Mark 1:14-20; Romans 1:16
    • First, you need to become a disciple—to call upon the name of the Lord to be saved. This means that you know who Jesus is, you believe what He did for you (death and resurrection) and you are willing to trust and follow Him.
      Romans 10:9-10, 13
    • Second, you need to grow as a disciple—continual growth in your life as you become ambassadors for Christ and are being conformed to His image. This means you will start living for Jesus and having certain characteristics, such as: loving one another; walking in obedience; knowing truth; bringing forth fruit; and discipling others.
      John 15:12-17; (Fruits: Romans 1:13-15; Galatians 5:22-23; Philippians 1:11; Hebrews 13:15;)
  • Are you a Christian spectator or a disciple? What is the difference? Disciples consider and choose to follow Jesus; they discover and believe Jesus is the greatest treasure; they renounce their lives and submit to Jesus as Lord; they realize that even though salvation is completely free, living the Christian life may cost them everything.
    Luke 14:28-33; Matthew 10:34-37; 13:44-46; 16:24-26

Defining The Growth Stages Of Discipleship

  • Discipleship Development: After salvation, a disciple should start to mature in Christ and live out that maturity. The following is a process or method that identifies four specific stages that guide believers as they desire to follow Jesus, obey His Word and submit to His will.
    • Stage 1: Identity—who I am—(Focus: Position in Jesus; Action: Believing). “Identity” is referring to your position in Jesus. Through believing the preaching of the cross you have been gloriously placed in Christ. Thus, this level starts at salvation, but its continued growth is accomplished through learning, understanding and believing the Biblical and positional truths about who you are “in Christ” and firmly standing by faith on those truths and on the promises of God.
      John 1:12; 10:28-29; 1 Corinthians 1:18; Ephesians 1:13-14; 2:4-7; Colossians 3:1-4; 1 Peter 2:1-10; 2 Peter 1:1-4
    • Stage 2: Behavior—what I do—(Focus: Personal Growth; Action: Obeying). “Behavior” is referring to personal growth in your attitudes and actions. Through salvation you have been given a new opportunity to live a transformed life for Jesus that is pleasing to Him. Growth in this level is accomplished through obedience to God’s Word that produces inward changes (the way we think and feel) and leads to outward changes (the way we act and behave), with the goal to completely change our character—our mental and moral qualities—to become like Jesus.
      Psalm 15:1-5; Romans 12:1-2; 1 Thessalonians 2:10-12; Titus 2:7-8; 2 Peter 1:5-11; 1 John 3:18
    • Stage 3: Ministry—how I serve—(Focus: Practical Service; Action: Serving). “Ministry” is referring to your practical service within the local church and your good works to your “neighbors”. Through salvation God has ordained that you should walk in good works and He has given you spiritual gifts by the Holy Spirit to edify the church. Growth in this level is accomplished by being full of good works towards others, actively edifying your local church by using your spiritual gifts and getting involved in serving.
      Mark 10:43-45; Romans 12:9-13; Ephesians 2:8-10; 4:16; 1 Corinthians 10:24; 12:7-27; Galatians 5:13; 2 Peter 1:12-15
    • Stage 4: Training—who I train—(Focus: Producing Disciples; Action: Mentoring). “Training” is referring to producing more disciples thus multiplying God’s kingdom. Through salvation you have been commissioned to make Jesus’ name to be remembered in all generations and so that the generations to come might know Jesus and make Him known. Growth in this level is accomplished by constantly being with and actively investing your life in other disciples’ lives so that they can grow in their identity, behavior, ministry and be able to teach others also.
      Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 14:21-23; 2 Timothy 2:2; Ephesians 4:11-12; Titus 1:5-6; (Psalm 45:17; 78:1-8)
  • Important Note: Each stage in the discipleship development process should be seen as individual stages but also as complimentary of each other. This means that a disciple’s growth isn’t a list of boxes to be checked off, stages to be completed or lessons to be studied, but it is more of a gradient of color where each stage fades into one another and builds upon one another. For example, the “identity” stage is foundational to all the other stages, but it is a stage that must remain strong and have continual growth to effect healthy growth in the other stages. Each stage does go in consecutive order, but you never complete a stage, you just continue to growth more in each stage. If there is a problem in one stage, then you need to go back to each previous stage to see where there is a lack of growth.
  • Measuring Growth: Growth is measured by the effectiveness of the last stage “training” because it is the healthy reproduction of “disciples who are producing disciples”. This can be seen in the illustration of human development: newborn to child to adult to parent. Spiritually, when people are new believers, they are “spiritual newborns” who don’t know much but start to grow with the help of their “spiritual parents”—those who disciple them. Then they start to understand, grow in the Word and live out their faith. Next, they became mature and independent in their faith and are serving God to the best of their ability. Finally, they start discipling others or become spiritual parents of others. Thus, spiritual parenthood, not spiritual adulthood, is the goal. Growth question: How many disciples are training or producing other disciples? Who are your spiritual children?
    Examples of this terminology: 1 Corinthians 3:1-3; 4:14-17; 13:11; Philippians 2:22; 1 Thessalonians 2:11-12; 1 John 2:12-14

Defining The Purpose Of Discipleship

  • Therefore, the purpose of the discipleship process is to be consistently producing maturing and sanctifying disciples of Jesus in all nations, at all times, all for the glory of God. This is an ongoing process that doesn’t stop until the return of Jesus.
    Ephesians 4:13-16; Colossians 1:28-29; Matthew 28:20

Review Questions

  • What is a genuine disciple like?
  • What are the four stages of discipleship growth?
  • What is the important note we need to remember?
  • How do we measure growth?
  • What is the purpose of discipleship?

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