What are some key words about New Testament discipleship? Consider these:
- EVERYONE… Discipleship is a process that involves all Christians. We mistakenly think it is just for super Christians or those in ministry, but it is for all who follow Christ. We are all disciples who are at different stages of spiritual growth. As a matter of fact, you cannot follow Christ without being involved in discipleship. It is the essence, the heart of the faith walk.
- LIFESTYLE…Discipleship is all about our total lifestyle. It is 24/7. It is not being one thing on Sunday and then leaving our faith at the door when we exit church. You are as much a disciple at work, on the ball field, at a Baptist business meeting (oh my!), or on a date as you are during Sunday morning worship. We are salt and light for Jesus wherever we are during the course of our regular day. “True discipleship is about a lifestyle, not simply about stored up Bible knowledge….Discipleship is about being and reproducing zealots for Christ. Discipleship, in other words, is about passionately pursuinr g the pursuing the lifestyle and mission of Jesus Christ.” (George Barna)
- RELATIONSHIPS…Discipleship is fundamentally based on accountable, loving relationships. It is not achieved in a vacuum. God designed us for fellowship and intends for us to journey through life together. The best discipleship ministry is centered on relationships, not curriculum or just a cerebral experience. It is “life on life.”
- PROCESS…Discipleship occurs over time. It is a process and is not instant. We never stop growing in our faith as followers of Jesus. Even the apostle Paul said he had not arrived yet. Churches should never give up or get discouraged over lack of spiritual growth among members, but instead should ramp up discipleship and continue to provide a process, a path of spiritual growth for all members.
- INTENTIONAL…If we think it will just happen by chance, we are mistaken. Discipleship is not accidental but intentional. This is why church leaders must pray and seek the Lord’s plan for their discipleship process and then “just do it.” It needs to be simple but challenging.
- CHRIST-LIKE…The bottom line is that discipleship helps people become more like Jesus. We should reflect Jesus in our words, actions, thoughts, and responses. We should not react to people but respond in Christ like love. “A disciple of Christ is an individual who exhibits an increasing Christ-likeness exemplified by an undeniable love for God and others, a vibrant prayer life, a love of Scripture, an obedient lifestyle of personal evangelism, employment of talents and personal resources, spiritual gifts and service used for the benefit of the Kingdom, consistent manifestation of the fruit of the Spirit, and extravagant worship that treasures Christ.”
- MULTIPLICATION…Discipleship always results in effective ministry and multiplication. New Testament discipleship is explosive. “So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith.” Acts 6:7 We need to think and plan our discipleship strategy in terms of multiplication, not addition! This happens when the leader takes someone through a discipleship process/study/experience and then that person takes someone (life on life) through the same study and the process is repeated. This has great potential and is often overlooked in our discipleship strategies.
- EVANGELISM…Sometimes we argue about what is more important evangelism or discipleship. I believe that a disciple is an evangelist and an evangelist is a disciple. A disciple who does not intentionally share his or her faith is not a true disciple. After a person is won to Christ then the discipleship process begins with the goal of that new Christian eventually leading someone to Christ.
If churches are going to reverse the downward trend evident in all our statistics, it will only happen with a resurgence of New Testament discipleship.