Bible Study series 2018
Topic: Christian discipleship II
“And Jesus came up and spoke to them saying, ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore, (as you are going) and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.’” Matt 28:18-20; 2 Pt 3:18
The biblical mandate
The words “believer” and “disciple” are not seen as synonymous. Jesus made clear His purpose for us was that of making disciples. A disciple is a teachable, disciplined learner. If there is one attribute that most characterizes a true disciple of Jesus Christ, it is faithfulness, rather than enthusiasm Luke 9:62. There have been many enthusiastic believers who have begun to follow Jesus, only to look back or away. Jesus also said that we were to baptize and teach these new disciples. This involves follow-up. Matt 28:19-20; Jn 15:16. To disciple a believer is to help bring him to a place where you will never have any doubt about his continuing on. You will never fear that a disciple will stumble, fall, and cease to be productive in his life.
What Is Discipleship?
Discipleship is the relationship between a teacher (discipler) and student (disciple). Discipleship is not fulfilled by any of the following items on their own: Fellowship; Accountability; Evangelizing and making converts; Bible study; Training seminars; Listening to sermons; Hanging out with an older believer… Remember, these are elements of discipleship, not equivalents of discipleship. They are good and godly, but they lack the individual attention, growth and accountability that Jesus modeled. By looking at Jesus’ ministry and the early church, we see that to holistic discipleship involves someone training their disciple in word, relationship, and ministry. Spiritual leaders need to be praying that God will give them other younger leaders to develop. We are so poor at discipling because we have lost the idea of helping another person grow into spiritual maturity. We tend to make everything programmatic or dependent upon some rigid organizational chart. It should be that the older men and women are trying to connect their lives of ministry with the lives of those younger than them so that they can show them what Christian maturity and ministry is all about (2 Timothy 2:2, Titus 2:3-4).
Biblical basis for discipleship
“What you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” – 2 Tim. 2:2; Acts 19:9-10; I Thess. 2:7-9; 2 Thess. 2:11; John 15:16; 3 John 4; Prov. 22:17-21. Many Christians and churches will never reproduce themselves. The result is that they take their faith and legacy with them to the grave. Nearly four thousand churches close every year in North America. Ed Stetzer estimates that 70% to 80% of all evangelical churches in the US have either stopped growing or are in decline! We need to become a reproducing disciple making movement once again.
The ultimate goal of discipleship is to reproduce disciples with the gospel through developing disciple making leaders and church planting. Reproduction ensures that a movement will live past its founding stages. Reproducing disciples is the result of selecting, training, and empowering leaders who will in turn reproduce themselves in others. Jesus’ plan of reproducing disciples, “was not with programs to reach the multitudes but with men whom the multitudes would follow…Men were to be His method of winning the world to God. The initial objective of Jesus’ plan was to enlist men who could bear witness to His life and carry on His work after He returned to the Father.” If we are to be like Jesus, we must invest our lives in faithful men and women who will reproduce themselves in others.
Luke 6: Robert Coleman in his book offers the following eightfold way Jesus trained the twelve disciples; selection, association, consecration, impartation, demonstration, delegation, supervision, and reproduction.
It all started when Jesus called a few men to follow him. Jesus did not choose everyone he met to be his disciples. He took very seriously the selection of men he trained. He chose twelve men and a number of women to instruct and train. They would in time reproduce themselves in others. A few good men and women were Jesus’ master plan of reproducing disciples. In a similar way, we must be selective in the people with whom we choose to disciple. We should look for people who are faithful, willing, and able to reproduce their discipleship in others. 2 Tim. 2:2; Luke 6:
Jesus was intimately involved in the lives of his disciples as they followed Him. His training method was spending time with His disciples. Discipleship happens as men and women spend time with their spiritual mentor. We should be in the lives of the people we are seeking to develop. We should schedule time with people who we want to disciple outside of normal church functions. We should schedule times to play, pray, and share a meal together with the people we are discipling. This means that discipleship will require something of us. Discipleship costs us something even for those of us who are called to disciple others. We must sacrifice our time, energy, and emotion in others if we are to fulfill the discipleship task of making disciples. I believe this is one of the number one reasons that churches don’t disciple anymore. It takes “too much” time.
Discipleship is about a total consecration to the Lord. As disciples, we need to submit and obey God’s word and plan for our lives. However, many of us have trouble submitting. We live in an individualistic culture where people do not want anyone else telling us what to do. That is why submission and obedience to God is so hard as well as important.
Jesus gave himself away to His disciples by imparting to them everything that the Father had given Him. He gave Himself freely. He imparted not only Himself, but also spiritual truth about life and ministry. He taught them about the scriptures and the Holy Spirit. Just as Jesus imparted Himself to His disciples, we must seek to give ourselves to the men and women that we are called to serve. There is a transfer of godly wisdom and character when true discipleship takes place. As leaders, it is important for us to grasp that we have a spiritual responsibility to impart ourselves in others if we are going to make disciples.
Jesus demonstrated how the disciples should live the Christ centered life. One reason Jesus had such a lasting impact on His disciples is that He lived the message before them daily. He was the message and the method. By walking with Jesus, they saw how He lived His faith in the real world. He prayed before them. He fed the poor. He had compassion on the multitude. He healed the sick. In other words, He lived the life that He wanted to reproduce in His disciples. After Jesus’ death and resurrection, He expected His disciples to say and do what He said and did. It is important that we practice what we preach, because the people we are training will follow our life and example. It is not enough to preach the gospel, we have to practice it daily. Our personal walk with God is one of the most important factors in developing godly leaders. We will reproduce what we are. The most powerful message is a life lived for God. Make sure that the life you live is worthy for others to follow.
Jesus assigned His disciples work. He developed His disciples by delegating ministry responsibilities to them. He sent His disciples out and gave them real ministry. Hands on experience was a vital part of Jesus’ discipleship curriculum. It’s funny that churches make people do things even Jesus did not do. Some churches make people go through a yearlong process before they can serve in any capacity in the church. Likewise, some people spend years in college and seminary with little if any real ministry involvement. Churches need to rethink delegating spiritual responsibility to people, especially new believers. Is it any wonder our discipleship is often anemic? Sadly, most people think the pastor is supposed to do everything in the church. We must not forget the power of involving people in ministry.
Supervision is important. Jesus supervised His disciples. Whenever they returned from a ministry trip, they would report to Him. This allowed a time for the disciples to reflect, review, and to receive instruction from Jesus. Supervision is an important part of leadership development, especially when dealing with new believers. We want to delegate and empower people to act, but we also need to help supervise them to make sure they stay on track. Many times, people will get into trouble without proper supervision. Supervision is an art. On the one hand, if we are not careful, we can micro-manage people. On the other hand, we can be so loose that we don’t supervise people at all.
Jesus expected His disciples to reproduce His likeness in others. He imparted His message and mission to His disciples so that they would reproduce themselves in others and make disciples of all nations. The Great Commission implies that the followers of Jesus will reproduce themselves and “Make disciples.” Reproduction is how the Christian movement was born.