What is Discipleship?
All of us have heard the Last Commission from Jesus in Matthew.
“Go, therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to follow all that I commanded you; and behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” - Matthew 28:19
What does that mean? How do we do that?
When you look at the New Testament, Paul gives us a shining example of discipleship. Paul had a spiritual son, Timothy, and a friend who encouraged him, Barnabas.
Following this example, I believe that everyone needs a Paul pouring into them, a Barnabas that you are running with, and a Timothy that you are pouring into.
“What is needed within discipleship?”
I have been discipling young men and women for over 20 years, and what I learned from the Word and from these years of experience is that there are two major keys to discipleship: Consistent selfless love
and firm discipline.
“What does love look like?”
The Word of God is all about His love. 1 John 4 says that God is love. That means everything He says or does is from love. Knowing this, you need to know what love consists of, because it consists of much more than the definitions we’ve grown accustomed to. We might say, “I love my dog” or “I love pizza”, but what does it actually mean?
1 Corinthians 13:4-7 says, “Love is patient, love is kind, it is not jealous; love does not brag, it is not arrogant. It does not act disgracefully, it does not seek its own benefit; it is not provoked, does not keep an account of a wrong suffered, it does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; it keeps every confidence, it believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”
So what is love? Love is the power to transform. Without love, discipleship is reduced to a dead religion. To love people is to believe in them. To believe in them is to empower them. To empower them is to watch
“What does discipline look like?”
Proverbs 22:6 says, "Train up a child in the way he should go,
And when he is old he will not depart from it."
Throughout many years of discipleship, I have noticed that a massive piece of transformation comes through confrontations. What do I mean by confrontation? I mean to speak the truth in love for the betterment of an individual!
To the child about to touch the stove or the person wandering down the path of sin, your confrontation might come across as sudden or intense, but your goal is to save them from the hurt and pain of where their actions will lead. This is the heart of discipline and confrontation. We choose to discipline, correct, and confront because we love.
"For whom the Lord loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives.” If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons."
- Hebrews 12:6-8.
“What is the difference between a coach/counselor/mentor compared to a spiritual father/mother?”
One word: commitment. Many counselors or coaches meet with you for a strict 30-minute or 1-hour time slot in their schedule and are there to talk about specific topics or goals. They are comparable to a teacher. Is there anything wrong with a teacher, counselor, coach, or mentor? No! Many of them have a huge passion and heart to help people, but after the session or class is over, so is the interaction and availability with their students or learners.
A spiritual father or mother is someone who is committed to the relationship. Could you see Jesus telling His disciples, “Hey guys, every day after 5 PM, I will not be available. Also, I won’t be around on the weekend because my office is closed and I need a little ‘me-time’.” No!
You might be saying, “What about all the times that Jesus went off by Himself?” Of course! Jesus was withdrawing to spend time connecting with the Father. You should be prioritizing your time and relationship with the Lord as well!
However, if you are in the place of blocking off areas of your life in regard to discipleship, then you might not be seeing it for what it was meant to be.
If one of your children or future children were going through a hard time, would you tell them, “I am sorry, can we handle this in the morning? It’s past my office hours.”
The goal of discipleship is to be a mother or father to this generation to build them up into the image and likeness of Christ Himself.
Does Discipleship leave room for me to express myself, or am I just a clone?
Of course! You are not made to be a copy! You are an original!
As I say time and time again in The Lost Art of Discipleship, the end goal is not to make replicas. The world is already chock-full of people fighting to mimic their idols. Christianity is not “copy and paste.” It’s infinitely vast and far more fulfilling.
Authentic discipleship is about each of us having our own unique relationship with God. A relationship that matures, transforms, and empowers us to walk in His own image and likeness.
Let’s be real, the patterns of this world will only keep creating more and more wickedness and compromise! We need men and women who are willing to intervene; who will disciple the lost and the saved alike. We need to take our eyes off ourselves and behold God’s greater plan for humanity. Discipleship is all about seeing the knowledge of God’s glory (His character and His power) fill the earth, one transformed heart at a time!
As I say in my book, The Lost Art of Discipleship, our goal isn’t to adjust people’s external reality—it’s to see their internal reality awakened with God’s truth. Discipleship exists so that men and women can understand God’s grace, love His Word, and have intimate daily communion with Him. Without all of this, it’s pointless!