But What Exactly Is Discipleship?

By: Jenny Stricklin
“Go make disciples,” Jesus said. But, um… What exactly does that mean?
Fair question. Discipleship can feel ambiguous and intimidating. And we’ve heard the word so many times that we feel kinda funny asking what it means now.

But did you know the word discipleship isn’t used in the Bible? It’s true. And the word disciple isn’t mentioned again after the Gospels and Acts. I think sometimes we get lost in the lingo when what really matters is what’s lived out.

When Jesus referred to disciples in the Gospels, His original audience would have known that He was talking about His true followers, those who were seeking to learn and imitate His ways. So, when we set out to make disciples today, we are simply helping people truly know and follow Jesus.

Thankfully, making disciples isn’t reserved for professionals. In fact, the way of Jesus had to be reproducible for all people in every nationality, across every age group, over a whole spectrum of skills and abilities, for all of time. It couldn’t require certain credentials or education or resources or status. It had to be able to move forward by way of regular people depositing what they’d learned and experienced into regular people over the course of thousands of years.

Believe it or not, it worked. And it still works today.

Think back on your own journey of discipleship, chances are you’ve been discipled in a myriad of ways by all kinds of people over different seasons in your life.

Maybe it looked like one-on-one meet ups with a mentor who loved you well and taught you about Jesus. Or maybe it looked like a circle of friends committed to study and submit to the Word together. Maybe you can identify a few people that have lived life alongside you in such a way that helped you know and follow Jesus better. And of course, the Sunday gathering, Bible study classes, community groups, and serving all play a vital role in our discipleship journey too. All of these help us think and act and feel and live more like Jesus did.

Though every journey looks different, there have likely been a few consistent values in each expression of discipleship. As you consider depositing into others what’s been deposited into you, here are five guiding principles:

  • CARE – They need you to show them regularly that you genuinely see and love and value them.

  • ACCOUNTABILITY – They need you to look into their lives and courageously ask the tough questions because we are at war and faith is a fight.

  • VISION CASTING – They need your help envisioning what it would look like to obey God, and they need your encouragement to take steps of faith.

  • TRUTH – They need consistent intake of the Word to shape their beliefs and to provide direction for life; and they need your help to develop and prioritize this habit.

  • PRAYER – They need constant communion with God, and they need to see how you rely on prayer in your own life.

See? Nothing super fancy or complex. But by the Spirit, undeniably significant. One life reproduced into another, and then another and another.

Is there someone in your life that you could walk these things out with? A neighbor? Your son or daughter? A group of friends or coworkers? Just like Jesus and Peter and Priscilla and Aquila and Paul and Timothy and so many others did all throughout the New Testament, let’s go.

Let’s go make disciples.
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