Creating a Culture of Discipleship
Helping One Another Live As Disciples Of Jesus
The Discipleship Process
“Come. Follow me.” Jesus used those three simple words to call Peter, Andrew, James, and John as his disciples. He repeated the same three words to call James and John, and later, Matthew. All left their jobs immediately, leaving their old lives behind. They didn’t pepper Jesus with questions. Without hesitation, they committed to follow their teacher and Messiah and commit to His lifestyle and mission. More than two thousand years ago, the words of Jesus were the beginning of creating a culture of discipleship.
By definition, a disciple is a follower who accepts and assists in spreading another’s doctrines. Christian discipleship is the process by which disciples grow in the Lord Jesus Christ. It requires that we study, pray, and obey the word of God. Being a disciple calls us always to give testimony and to disciple others to walk in His way. (1 Peter 3:15)
Discipleship in Today’s World
Jesus issued a literal command for the original disciples to follow him. They immediately pulled up stakes, left their jobs and families, and followed Him. He’s no longer here in the flesh, with an invitation to join Him on the way to Jerusalem. But, he continues to invite us to become disciples.
Research conducted in 2015 examined perceptions about discipleship among parishioners and church leaders. It revealed a discrepancy regarding the effectiveness of discipleship.
- Two-thirds of Christians who attended church in the six months before the survey who consider spiritual growth essential said their church places “a lot” of emphasis on spiritual growth (67 percent); another 27 percent say their church gives “some” emphasis.
- Fifty-two percent said their church “definitely does a good job helping people grow spiritually,” and another 40 percent said it “probably” does so.
- Only one percent of church leaders surveyed said, “today’s churches are doing very well at disciplining new and young believers.”
- A sizable majority—six in 10—felt that churches are not doing well in discipleship (60 percent).
- Only eight percent said they are doing “very well” and 56 percent “somewhat well” regarding discipleship for new and young believers regarding their church.
- Pastors gave their church higher marks than churches overall, but few believe churches—theirs, or in general—are excelling in discipleship.
Discipleship is a Hallmark of Christian Maturity
Discipleship is a process, a journey that exposes people to the love of God and community, to great teaching, authentic relationships, and solid accountability. It’s a commitment to become a life-long learner of Christ. Maturity doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time, lessons, and failures—often the best learning tool.
Just as Jesus taught his followers to be disciples, guiding the discipleship journey can be the catalyst for training disciple-making leaders. The Relational Discipleship Network believes it all begins by following Jesus’ method and model. What started in 2007 as an opportunity for Real Life Ministries to share the method used by Jesus, has blossomed into a network of ministry leaders who provide events, training, and coaching to help other leaders to do the same.
While our training and coaching build confident, disciple-making leaders, that’s not to say that we view discipleship solely through the lens of a curriculum or someone who has completed the program. We understand discipleship in the broader sense of helping one another live out our Christian lives, not merely a transfer of knowledge from teacher to student.
Applying the “Great Commission”
After His resurrection and before ascending back into Heaven, Jesus spoke to his disciples. In the passage, Matthew 28:18-20, sometimes known as the “Great Commission,” He gave them their marching orders, and they are still marching orders for Christians today. It’s filled with action verbs: Go. Make. Baptize. Teach.
What does this action plan mean? What, exactly, are we being called on to do? There isn’t a one-size-fits-all checklist because God created us as unique individuals and placed us in the exact place He wants us to grow our faith and make disciples. Making disciples can look different for each of us, but discipleship includes one common factor: relationships. You can’t disciple someone unless you have a relationship with them.
As Christians engaging in discipleship, this means we humbly teach, strengthen, and encourage one another to know and follow Jesus more closely. It means we bravely pursue relationships centered on authenticity, intimacy, commitment, vulnerability, and prayer, all the while relying on the power of the Spirit and the Word of God to mature and mold us.