"Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age. - Matthew 28:19-20
The very first time I heard the word "disciple" was when I was in college. I was involved in a Christian organization on campus with some of my roommates. I had inquired about joining their small group Bible study which they were attending. But they said it wasn't just a Bible study. They said it was a discipleship group. I asked what the difference was and they proceeded to tell me that on top of studying the Word together they also met with their leader one-on-one for accountability and that they too were seeking out other women in their spheres of influence in which they could also start and lead a discipleship group.
I had just broken up with a boyfriend and was in need of a huge change in my life. I needed accountability. I wanted someone walking through life with me and teaching me how to apply the Word to my life. I was up for the challenge of leading a small group myself.
Sign me up!
I started the process of discipleship without truly knowing what it was I was doing. All I knew is that I was learning more and more about Jesus and I was teaching others what I was learning.
That was over 26 years ago! And today I am still discipling women but my understanding and process has evolved over the years.
So what is Discipleship?
Let's look at the word disciple first.
Merriam-Webster defines disciple as one who accepts and assists in spreading the doctrines of another: such as Christianity.
The Greek definition of "disciple" - mathéteuó - to be a disciple, to make a disciple. Helping someone progressively learn the Word
Still others define disciple as a "learner" or "follower." But I truly believe we miss the heart behind the process if we make this our definition.
I like Greg Ogden's definition. Greg has a passion for the discipleship and is part of the Global Discipleship Initiative (GDI). He says a disciple is "one who responds in faith and obedience to the gracious call to follow Jesus Christ. Being a disciple is a lifelong process of dying to self while allowing Jesus Christ to come alive in us."
If we look at the Great Commission closely in Matthew 28:19-20 we see that being a disciple commands discipleship. Discipleship is the process of "making disciples."
We, as believers and followers of Christ, are commanded to "go make disciples"...to reproduce the faith...reproduce the process of Gather, Grow, Go, and Give. It is the process Jesus used in His ministry.
Gather - He gathered a group of 12
Grow - He taught them insight into the Word by walking through life with them and applying Truth. Life on Life.
Go - He sent them out into their areas of influence to gather others.
Give - He asked them to give all their resources (their very lives) to further the Kingdom.
Too many people want to stay in the "growing" and learning phase. Which is great! We are always learning and growing in Christ. It is a lifelong process. But we are not called to just grow in knowledge of Him. We are called to "go."
Robby Gallaty, pastor of Long Hollow Baptist Church and author of "Making Disciples" podcast, said something very profound...
"The gospel came to you because it was heading to someone else."
We must not view Christianity or discipleship as learning and growing in faith. This is the greatest tragedy. The gospel can not advance unless we pass it on, "go."
"If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me."
If we are to be a disciple, we must deny ourselves. This means taking ourselves off of the throne of our lives and putting God back in His rightful place as Lord of all. We must take up our cross by continually dying to our selfish ambitions and our desire to make a name for ourselves. We are to put to death the pleasures of this world and our self-centered ways and follow Him. By following Him we will become like Him and offer up all that we are and have to glorify God and make Him known.
We have work to do. May we be able to say just as Jesus did, "I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work you gave me to do." (John 17:4)
This is how we pass on the gospel, by accomplishing the work. We each have work to do. We were created in Christ Jesus for good works. We have purpose and meaning and work. And each part when working properly, makes the body grow.
Did you hear that? Your work was created in Christ Jesus to help others GROW.
This is discipleship my friends!
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Listen to "What is Discipleship?" on the Gospel-Center Purpose Podcast.