Discipleship is a buzz word in the church these days. Jesus talked about it. The disciples talked about it. Christians throughout the centuries have talked about it. And now there is a resurgence of discipleship in the church.
The question is: what is discipleship?
So, how do we define discipleship? Here’s a few of my favorite author’s thoughts:
“Discipleship is the status or position within which spiritual (trans)formation occurs.” -Dallas Willard“Christianity without discipleship is always Christianity without Christ.” -Dietrich Bonhoeffer“In the spiritual life only one thing produces genuine joy and that is obedience.” -Richard Foster“Discipleship is simply about becoming the kind of a person that can live that life and actually wants God.” -John Ortberg“Discipleship isn’t a program or an event; it’s a way of life. It’s not for a limited time, but for our whole life. Discipleship isn’t for beginners alone; it’s for all believers for every day of their life. Discipleship isn’t just one of the things the church does; it is what the church does.” -Bill Hull
Those are some powerful quotes! So we see that discipleship isn’t something we do to earn God’s favor. Instead, discipleship is about positioning ourselves before God. It’s a way of ordering our lives to find true life in Christ. Discipleship is simply the state of being a disciple and a disciple is one who follows someone, learning from them by devoting themselves to the person. So we can define discipleship, then, as the process of being a disciple.
Discipleship and Disciplines
Discipleship naturally has actions involved. In this lifelong process, the disciplines are actions that lead us to focus on God. Prayer, rest, study, solitude, fasting, submission, worship, reflection, service, etc. are spiritual disciplines used by Christians throughout the centuries. These actions position us in such a way that we begin to trust God more.
The apostle Paul wrote to Timothy, one of his disciples, “Train yourself to be godly” (1 Timothy4:7). Paul wrote this because he knew that people can’t be conformed to the image of Christ without discipline.
The Cost of Discipleship
If discipleship is a lifelong journey then we must count the cost up front. Discipleship costs us everything. For some it means getting up early to devote time to God. For some it means staying up late. For some it means changing lifestyle patterns. For some it means changing professions. For everyone, it means putting God at the center of life and letting Him direct every area of life. God can’t just be a part of life, He must permeate the entire life. And through this cost, we find ourselves gaining something far beyond anything we could ever hope to gain on our own: a relationship with the God of the universe!
The Cost of Non-Discipleship
The cost of non-discipleship is much higher. It means a lost soul. It means never finding true fulfillment in this life. It’s means settling for less than what God has for us. But the Devil makes it look so tempting to rely on ourselves rather than submit to God. The temptation is real and the pleasures of this world easily beckon us away from God. We must realize that to not discipline ourselves to follow Jesus is exactly what the enemy wants us to do.
Go, Be a Disciple
This post is by no means comprehensive. The list of quality discipleship materials is exhaustive and I would encourage you to investigate. Ask your fellow Christians, Pastor, or co-workers. Discipleship is life changing and the experiences of others can help you begin or enhance the process.
- Find a discipleship book and dive into it! Good authors include Bill Hull, John Ortberg, Dallas Willard, Richard Foster, and Dietrich Bonhoeffer.
- Make a list of the disciplines and highlight the ones that don’t come naturally to you. Make a plan on how to integrate these disciplines into your life.
- Never forget that the disciplines are meant to draw you to God. They are not a checklist item or a duty.