WHAT IS DISCIPLING, or DISCIPLESHIP?
To “make a disciple” is to help another become an imitator of Christ. When obeying Christ’s command to do this, discipling, or discipleship, is the process that we follow. Even though these specific words are not used in the Bible, the concept is clearly communicated by the way Jesus taught His followers, His command in Matthew 28:19-20, and also in verses throughout the New Testament. Further study will show a connection between the definitions we just learned and the process of discipling, especially as it relates to those within your sphere of influence. This definition of discipling, from Greg Ogden, also describes the biblical concepts we should be using as Church leaders and believers.
Discipling/Discipleship– “Discipling is an intentional relationship in which we walk alongside other disciples in order to encourage, equip and challenge one another in love to grow toward maturity in Christ. This includes equipping the disciple to teach others as well.”6
Although this definition relates to all discipleship, I would like to particularly relate it to leaders in the Church and their relationship with the congregation. This picture of discipleship describes what a Church should be doing as well as defining what Christ did with His disciples.
Truly discipling believers in the Church means having intentional relationships with them. This is our responsibility. Jesus called His disciples to follow Him, or walk alongside Him, but He was intentional by taking the first step. We must realize that intentional relationships do NOT happen by accident; there needs to be a predetermined plan that is maintained, or consistent. That is what this booklet is about—giving you a plan that will help you get started on the discipleship process.
The Plan and Process
It should be noted that a person can be a disciple only after they have first given their life over to Christ; therefore, Matthew 28:19-20 is placing emphasis on equipping the saints. Within these verses, Jesus is revealing the main purpose of the Church; our priority is “The Great Commission.” In light of this truth, an important question must be considered. If making disciples is supposed to be the Church’s main purpose and priority, why are so many of today’s believers ignorant of what a disciple/discipleship means, and have not answered the call to be one?
Our Lord’s obedience was to the complete will of His Father. Today’s version of Jesus’ Great Commission seems to be, “We must get to work! The heathen is dying without Christ, we must go and tell them about Him.” This is absolutely true, but what about the rest of verses 19 and 20— what about the “teaching”? We must work with God in obedience to His complete will for us as believers and followers of Christ; becoming students of His Word, daily increasing in faith, examining ourselves to see if God’s “priorities” are being worked out within us personally and in our relationship to Him. Once we are trusting God to meet our needs, and have our priorities lining up with His will, He will open the way for us to disciple others. This is the meaning at the heart of Christ’s Great Commission.