What is Discipleship?

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Monday, July 21, 2014 0 comments

by Katie Erickson
If you’ve been around the church for any length of time, you’ve probably heard the Bible passage known as the Great Commission, in Matthew 28:18-20: “Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.’” This verse commands us as followers of Christ to make disciples - but what is a disciple?

As I wrote here, a disciple is from the Greek word “mathete” which most simply means a learner. It is a person who follows their teacher and desires to be exactly like him or her. If we follow Christ, we should desire to be His disciple - wanting to be exactly like Jesus.

In Biblical times, the word disciple was used in connection to the teachers of the day, rabbis. If you were a young man intelligent enough to continue on in your schooling past the age of 13, rather than beginning work in your family’s trade, you would search for a rabbi to follow. When you found one, you would ask for his permission, and once approved you would begin to follow your rabbi everywhere. This literally means following him around everywhere, and doing everything exactly like he does - from daily habits of waking up and going to sleep, to how he eats his meals, to how he spends his time in studies and other activities. The disciple would literally follow the rabbi wherever he went, and try to imitate his rabbi’s lifestyle as much as he could. This is exactly the relationship that Jesus wants us to have with Him - that strong desire to imitate exactly what He did when He was on earth.

But why is discipleship important? As I started this post with, it is a command by God to make disciples. But before I can make disciples, I have to be a disciple myself. The main goal for me to be a disciple is to follow in steps of Jesus. 1 Peter 2:21 says, “To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.” But since Jesus isn’t literally walking on earth in human form today, I can’t exactly walk around with Him all day. Instead, I can imitate others who are disciples and examples of Christ themselves. 1 Corinthians 4:16-17 says, “Therefore I urge you to imitate me [Paul]. For this reason I have sent to you Timothy, my son whom I love, who is faithful in the Lord. He will remind you of my way of life in Christ Jesus, which agrees with what I teach everywhere in every church.” This is what we need to do as well - find someone who is a disciple and imitate them, although we must realize that they too are human and will likely mess up.

So how do we do this discipleship thing? There is no cut-and-dried answer, but it all boils down to being in relationship with Jesus, and with others who are also in relationship with Jesus, and being willing to learn and be molded into the image of Christ. Some characteristics that a disciple should have are as follows:

1. Intimacy with Christ
2. Faithfulness in the spiritual disciplines
3. A Biblical perspective on the circumstances of life
4. A teachable, responsive, humble, and obedient spirit
5. A clear sense of personal purpose and calling
6. Healthy relationships with Godly people
7. Ongoing ministry investment in the lives of others

We definitely can’t become perfect disciples overnight; it is a process that takes an entire lifetime. The congregation I currently attend (The Catalyst Church in Findlay, Ohio) is currently going through year long discipleship training process that I’m a part of. But we know that even after this year of training, we’ll only just be getting started. Being a disciple of Jesus Christ is a lifelong goal, and I know I will always be working to be a better disciple of Jesus so I can help others be His disciples as well.