Tag Archives: Discipleship

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?

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?