What On Earth is Discipleship?

Jesus made it plain: make disciples of all nations. Now, much can be said for different programs, methods, strategies, models, books, structures, articles, ministries, non-profits, para-churches, Bible studies, experts, bloggers, consultants, and pastors who have the way to disciple. Like Coach Boone, they proudly say about their strategy, “I run six plays, split veer. It’s like novocaine. Just give it time, always works. See you on the bus.

But discipleship isn’t clean. And, despite one’s best efforts, it doesn’t work every time. Local churches need to intentionally disciple their people, but what on earth does that mean? One of my favorite videos on the subject. . .

This is Discipling from The Foursquare Church on Vimeo.

So how do we define discipleship? And how do we know if it is getting accomplished? When I find out, I’ll let you know. And I ask you to please return the favor. Until then, here’s what I say to pretend like I know.

I have two general statements that I continually come back to on discipleship:

  • Discipleship includes the conversion of the lost and the maturation of the converted.
  • Discipleship is the process of helping people become more like Jesus.

Rocket science, I know. I don’t draw big lines between evangelism and discipleship. I want the whole world to become like Jesus. I want those who don’t know Him to know Him and I want those who do know Him to know Him more. Many parts of my own walk with Jesus need to be better and sharpened by other believers.

Thus, I personally take issue with classes that churn out “disciples,” but I like classes and teach them when I can. I don’t think you graduate from discipleship, though people go to schools of discipleship and I went to seminary. I do not believe that you “have been” discipled, as if the process ends. And I don’t think that any person at my church is “my disciple.” I understand 2 Timothy 2:2, but I don’t think that means that I need to create a hierarchy of leadership that means I only “pastor the pastors.”  (Ironically, I have helped set up a structure at our church that does just that. And I’m very bad at keeping it.)

Here are questions I ask myself (and our ministry models):

  • Who am I helping to grow in the likeness of Jesus? Are there people around me that I interact with regularly to talk about Jesus, worship Jesus, and grow in the likeness of Jesus. It need not be 3, 12, 20, 300, or some other number. But who am I helping?
  • Who is helping me become more like Jesus? At the same time, who challenges and grows me to be more like Jesus?
  • Who am I praying would know Jesus, and what am I doing about it? Just typing that question is convicting. Enough said.
  • How do we at The Chapel help people move along in their maturity in Christ? This is where spiritual maturity comes in. Does our church (or any church) have a clear way in which people can join up at a certain spot, based upon their spiritual maturity? Is there a place for young believers to be founded in their faith? Are there places for maturing believers to learn more of Christ? Do we have enough places to exercise gifts and leadership?

I am not a super pastor. I lack hip strategies to accomplish all of those things, though I try to think about and implement them. I wish I were better at all of these, but I think many pastors feel inadequate. If they tell you otherwise, it’s the hubris talking.

What I do know is this: until all have heard, we keep at it.

I'd love to hear your thoughts . . .