What is discipleship? And what does it look like? This is a good question. There are about as many favors of definitions for discipleship as there are suckers at the candy store. To be verbosely pithy my response to what discipleship is NOT is that discipleship is followership. As Paul in his simple yet divinely given wisdom stated, “Follow me as I follow Christ.” [1 Corinthians 11:1]
To illustrate the point that there are many great views of discipleship I have attached an essay that shows the views of volunteer leaders in our student ministry [Discipleship Defined]. Each of them slugged a homerun: discipleship is following Christ and helping others follow Christ too. Those we seek to disciple have different needs, with different situations and different means to become discipled. This causes discipleship to be hard work, but the rewards are literally out of this world. Discipleship is active, alive, and fluid, but supremely rooted in the work of Christ.
10 thoughts on “discipleship defined”
I am impressed! The Holy Spirit has given these disciples a very good understanding. I thank you for making this available to the public. God bless.
I like this much, the explanations offered are sweet! However, I do think that the potential “disconnect” for lots of Christians arise when we we talk about “following” Jesus and “having a relationship” with Him. Both of those are huge, right, biblical, amazing expressions . . . but it sometimes gets fuzzy when in the Gospels “following” Jesus looked like physically hanging around Him (which we can’t do in the same way) and “having a relationship with Him” looked like, well, like any other relationship people had with someone (which we don’t have in an indentical way). So, good rich thoughts . . . worth pressing on and exploring how we “follow” someone who is not physically present (without reducing life to rules) and how we “have relationship” with someone who is invisible (without reducing Jesus to a “good idea”). Just thinking with you . . . about discipleship and Jesus and life with Him!
summathetes, You bring up a good point. Though Jesus is not with us in flesh per-se, He has given His followers the Helper, the Holy Spirit. I am challenged by what Ephesians 4 and 5 says about walking in the Spirit. This is an active, on going, communion with a living God who we connect with each day. He is not some imaginary friend, but the Person of God indwelling me while I live and move on this planet. I appreciate your response. Indeed we will press on and explore this more.
Sweet. I am fully on board with the reality of the Spirit in our lives; Ephesians 4 & 5 about walking in the Spirit is rich and helpful. I’m still exploring, trying to think biblically and honestly about, and to live into what all this means. Clearly Jesus is no imaginary friend and the Holy Spirit is no mystical idea . . . but stepping into the reality of those relationships . . . wow, that’s what I am after. (I, too, have been blogging about discipleship, so we are “on the same page”–although on different blogs!–on these things.)
I too will need to flesh this out some more and hope to in the weeks ahead. Would you be kind enough to pass along your blog? I really appreciate our iron-sharpening!
I thought this quote by Paul Tripp was good as he was talking about following the Wonderful Counselor, ” The problem is not that God is not here or that he is inactive; the problem is that we don’t see him.” [Instruments In the Redeemers Hand, 98]] In other words, I am not following Him because I do not view His glory as something so magnificent and magnetizing. That challenges me. I want to know God in all His glory more than I want a Big Mac for lunch or a date with my wife or to pen a New York Times bestselling book. Well, I want to follow Him more sometimes, if I were honest. Like you, I am after that real relationship too.
Good . . . that’s it! Seeing Him will allow me to follow Him. But in that He is not typically present to my physical eyes (and those are the eyes I am habituated to using to “see” life) than a critical component to following Him now will be to find fresh ways to see Him. FYI, my blog is summathetes.wordpress.com. Summathetes is the Greek word for “fellow disciple,” and captures what I am trying to do on the blog . . . exploring together what it means to enter deeply into a life of “follower-ship!”
I like this definition of discipleship. We often think discipleship is just learning about Jesus. We act like Jesus didn’t mean all the things He told us to do other than beleive. Discipleship certainly involves beleiving the truths Christ teaches but those truth ought to change how we live. Because we beleive he has freely forgiven and saved us and that he is what everything, including our lives are about, our thinking and priorities out to shift so so that we spend our lives following Jesus and teaching others to do the same.
Ted, you are on to something. Thinking and doing are Siamese twins when it comes to discipleship. They go together.
Brian also chisels to the core of discipleship. Discipleship isn’t discipleship until it’s participating—and I would add “reproducing”—the teachings and priorities of One into your own life and others. In other words, as a follower of Christ I am looking like Christ, talking like Christ, acting like Christ, changing priorities to be like Christ’s, and encouraging and equipping others to do the same, if not more like Christ.
I want to be that kind of Christ-follower!
Ted, I would agree that discipleship includes a change in our thinking and our priorities but bringing that into daily life is where the reality of discipleship comes into focus. When Jesus called his first disciples he invited them to be with him so that he could send them out to do the things he did (specifically healing the sick and casting out demons). That is more than merely a change in thinking but a participation in the breaking in of the kingdom of God through their lives . . . paralleling what Jesus was doing. Thus, “following Jesus” (even in our day) might look more like “doing what Jesus did” than simply “thinking like Jesus thought.”