If you have been in church for any length of time or if you are a new believer, you have probably heard the word discipleship. Most likely you have been encouraged to participate in some sort of Discipleship process. That is because discipleship is important. It is what helps us to grow as believers. But do we get discipleship wrong? I believe we often do. I believe this because we limit the scope of what we believe discipleship is.
What might we believe discipleship is, but isn’t?
(1) We might believe discipleship is just gaining religious knowledge.
Because we believe this, discipleship becomes “Read this. Study this. Memorize this.” Don’t get me wrong, we need to read — I am a big advocate of reading. We need to study. We need to memorize Scripture. We need to grow in our knowledge of God’s Word. But discipleship involves more than these things.
Discipleship involves Christ-like transformation. Our goal, as Paul says in Romans 8:29 is:
”to be conformed to the image of His Son,” (Rom. 8:29).
That is not going to happen just by gaining religious knowledge, so we need a process that involves more than just classroom activities. We need something that focuses on our whole life so that our whole man is transformed.
(2) We might believe discipleship is a solitary endeavor.
It is just Jesus and me getting together. While discipleship is all about Jesus, it’s not a solitary endeavor. Discipleship is relational. It requires us spending time with other believers, so we can’t just get alone with Jesus somewhere and expect to become a fully mature disciple.
We need others to help us grow, which is exactly what Paul is getting at in Ephesians 4:11-13 when he tells us that Jesus:
“…gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers,…
And why did he give them?
…to equip the saints for the work of ministry,
So the saints can do what?
…for building up the body of Christ,…
What is the result of this building up?
…[it is the] unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ,” (Eph 4:11–13)
So we need each other to become fully mature disciples of Jesus.
When I was in high school and college, I used to work out all the time. I went to the gym four times a week and I would work out for a couple of hours each time I went. And to help with my workouts, I read books and magazines. I took supplements. I charted my workouts — writing down how much weight I was lifting and how many reps I was able to do.
While all those things helped, I don’t think I would have seen any of the gains I saw had it not been for my workout partners. Had it not been for Mike and Randall, encouraging me to go to the gym and pushing me while I was there, I don’t believe I would have seen any of the gains I realized during that time.
Just like we need workout partners to help us grow physically, we need workout partners in the church to help us grow spiritually.
So if we want to grow as disciples and become mature believers, we have to have a community of believers around us challenging, encouraging, teaching, and building us up. We can’t just get alone with Jesus somewhere, we have to have others in our lives.
Question for Reflection
- What would you add to this list?
Post adapted from the sermon: A Discipleship Process for the Church