D I S C I P L E S H I P:
It’s a word we throw around in the church a lot and it’s a word that is actually not explicitly written in the Bible.
We do find in Scripture the word DISCIPLE – a noun that means learner, pupil, or follower. Jesus uses this word to describe his followers – those who learned from Him, walked closely with Him, and obeyed His teachings.
We also find the phrase MAKE DISCIPLES – a verb phrase that is found in the Great Commission where Christ’s disciples (and all His followers from that moment on) were told to preach the gospel, baptize new believers, and teach them to observe the commands of God.
So what is DISCIPLESHIP?
In the Great Commission (Matthew 28:16-20), when Christ says “teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you,” I do think this “teaching” includes the sharing of nuggets of wisdom with a believer that you may only encounter once. But I also think this command is an invitation to a lifelong process of teaching.
Discipleship, as we define it today, can look many different ways, but it must include this aspect of teaching one another to observe the commands of the Lord. This doesn’t have to happen in a coffee shop and it doesn’t have to involve super deep curriculum and it doesn’t have to come from an old married pastor’s wife. We teach and disciple one another by inviting one another into our lives, sharing what we know to be true about the Lord, and encouraging one another to walk in obedience to His commands.
Hebrews does an excellent job of summing up discipleship:
“Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But EXHORT one another every day, as long at is is called today, that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” Hebrews 3:12-13
This word exhort literally means to call to one’s side, to comfort, to instruct, to encourage, to request help, to strengthen.
This is what we are called to as believers, as disciples, as “Christians engaging in discipleship.” We are called to know one another in a way that we are able to instruct and strengthen one another.
Inherent in this instructing and teaching is a level of vulnerability and humility that is key to discipleship. In order to be encouraged and admonished you must be known by someone at a level that allows them to call out your sin and challenge you to deeper obedience.
No Christian is exempt from this and no Christian is unequipped for this.
The life of a believer is a life of community with the church. And if you have been redeemed by the Lord, if you have been brought from death to life, if you have any knowledge of the Lord, then you have a story that can encourage, exhort, and strengthen a fellow believer or nonbeliever. Every Christian is capable of this and called to this.
T H E C H A L L E N G E:
If you are a young woman who is seeking this type of relationship, I encourage you to ask an older woman to begin meeting with you. I guarantee you she will be honored and excited about the opportunity to pour into your life.
If you are an older woman who has wisdom and a life of experience walking with God, I encourage you to find a younger woman to meet with. I guarantee you she will be thankful for the opportunity to learn from you.
T H E S T R U C T U R E:
To be honest, I don’t think there needs to be a strict, heavy-duty, intense structure to how we do discipleship.
But I do think there are a few vital factors to discipleship:
I think discipleship is most effective with a small group (2-4 is ideal) of same-sex believers, who are committed to meeting regularly (at least twice a month) and who desire to humbly be vulnerable with the difficult and ugly parts of their lives. These groups must be bathed with prayer and members must be committed to relying on the Word of God, not their opinions or desires, to guide and direct them.
T H E C A V E A T:
While there are incredible men and women in the church who can disciple you, be careful to never let that come before the Holy Spirit’s role of discipleship in your life.
It is the Spirit that gives life and indwells every believer. It is He who applies Christ’s benefits to us and it is by his power and instruction that we grow in our faith.
There will be a time where you are awake at 2am in a crisis of faith or a time of deep confusion (I know because I’ve been there. If it hasn’t happened to you yet, just wait, it will), and before you reach for your phone to call that awesome mentor in your life for advice, I pray that you first reach for your Bible and dig deeply into the Word for the truth that is there. I pray that you spend time in prayer and that you always seek guidance and comfort first from the Lord.
If you don’t have someone in your life right now who can pour wisdom into you, press into the truth that is found in the Bible and be encouraged by the living word of God.
It is crucial that we all learn how to feed ourselves from the Word and to go first to the Lord for wisdom and guidance and comfort. And then we can bravely seek exhortation and wisdom from the trustworthy disciples in our lives.
R E S O U R C E S:
One of my favorite writers just released a simple discipleship curriculum. Her goal is to simplify a process that can often seem intimidating. I encourage you to check it out!