CHRIST SET THE EXAMPLE
Jesus did not give His disciples a step-by-step plan for discipleship. He left no divine blueprint or detailed formula. He did not want discipleship to become a sterile church program, but rather the church’s obedience out of love for Him and a desire to follow His example. When we truly abide in Him, our hearts and minds will become united with Him to do His will. Disciple-making will flow from the church that is surrendered and submitted to Christ and seeking to do His will rather than depending upon church tradition and programs.
“And with many such parables He spoke the word to them as they were able to hear it. But without a parable He did not speak to them. And when they were alone, He explained all things to His disciples.”
Jesus modeled discipleship with His own disciples. He preached to the masses using parables, but He took time privately to explain everything to His disciples. In John 15:1-10 Jesus candidly told His disciples that His Words must abide in them, that they must abide in Him, and that without Him they could do nothing Most Christians, through ignorance or unwillingness, settle for far less than God’s desire for a relationship with them.
Discipleship is not merely an exchange of Bible knowledge between two Christians, but a mature believer bringing a less mature believer alongside and helping them walk with Christ. Jesus rebuked the Pharisees for pursuing intellectual knowledge through the Scriptures, but not seeking an intimate relationship with Him.
“You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life.” -John 5:39-40
Christ extends two great calls to man. First, to follow Him, which means to walk with Him in an abiding, intimate relationship, and then to serve Him by making disciples. The order is essential. We cannot serve Him unless we are first abiding in Him. We cannot make disciples unless we are disciples.
“And He said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.”
Jesus told the disciples that all who believed in Him would, on a larger scale, do the same works He had done. Obviously Jesus was not implying that all disciples would walk on water, cast out demons, heal the sick or perform miracles! However, all disciples are given the Great Commission to go out and disciple others.
“Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father.”
The apostle Paul wrote the Pastoral Epistles (I Timothy, II Timothy and Titus) to encourage believers, instruct church leaders, and establish church order. Paul’s words were not his own opinions, but were divinely inspired, and were not optional suggestions, but commands to be followed and obeyed.
“…I write so that you may know how you ought to conduct yourself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.”
-1 Timothy 3:14-15
“…set in order the things that are lacking…”
“These things speak and exhort and reprove with all authority. Let no one disregard you.”
-Titus 2:15 (NAU)
“But as for you, speak the things which are proper for sound doctrine: that the older men be sober, reverent, temperate, sound in faith, in love, in patience; the older women likewise, that they be reverent in behavior, not slanderers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things—that they admonish the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, homemakers, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be blasphemed. Likewise exhort the young men to be sober-minded, in all things showing yourself to be a pattern of good works; in doctrine showing integrity, reverence, incorruptibility, sound speech that cannot be condemned, that one who is an opponent may be ashamed, having nothing evil to say of you.”
Discipleship is a very important component of church order. Titus 2:1-8 stresses the urgency for spiritual discipleship, as well as mentoring in the areas of marriage and family. Discipleship bridges the generation gap in the church. It provides opportunities for the older believers to contribute and use their life experiences, wisdom and maturity to encourage the younger; who need their example, counsel and guidance. If the church neglects the principle of discipleship the older Christians become inactive and the younger Christians lose the guidance that they need in order to mature. When the church is filled with immature Christians, whose behavior and lifestyle mirrors the world, the Word of God is blasphemed or dishonored.
When God invited Noah to take part in the redemption of his family, He gave him precise directions for the construction of the ark (Genesis 6:14-15). Likewise, in the wilderness, the children of Israel were given detailed instructions for the building of the tabernacle, and all aspects of worship and were commanded to follow them carefully (Exodus 25:40). Neither Noah nor the Israelites were left to their own understanding. We serve a God of order, who calls us to walk with Him in fellowship and obedience. As leaders we are privileged to participate with Christ in building His church (Ephesians 2:21,22). We must be careful to follow the pattern provided in Scripture. God does not make it up as He goes along and neither should we! Whatever else our churches do or do not do, we should be practicing disciple-making.