One of my greatest passions in life is discipleship. This may be a “well duh” moment as I am a pastor, but before I recognized God’s call in my life to ministry, I wanted to be a basketball coach where I could apply many of the principles of discipleship to young athletes. There are a few foundational principles I would like to point out about discipleship.
Principle #1: Christians are commanded to make disciples. We find this principle in Matthew 28:19 “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” This, of course, is the Great Commission, we must not forget that we have been commanded to make disciples. There are many good works, ministries, and Christian businesses we can get distracted by, but we must make sure we have a priority on discipleship. The first step of discipleship is evangelism. Many Christians like to separate these two but I find that they are connected. How can one be a disciple of Christ if they do not know Christ? They can’t. How can one be a disciple of Christ if they are not following Christ? They can’t. We must not slack in either aspect while fulfilling the Great Commission. We must lead people to Christ and teach people the way of Christ. This is the command that we make disciples of Christ!
Principle #2: We must personally make disciples. 2 Timothy 2:1-2 “You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (emphasis mine). This may seem like an obvious principle, but it is met with the harshest of opposition in the hearts and minds of the church in America today. When it comes to the idea of discipleship we have a great desire for it to happen; we just hope someone else will do it. No one argues that discipleship is unbiblical or wrong, so why is discipleship lacking today? It is because we read the command to go make disciples as a command for someone else to do. The vast majority of church members believe that discipleship is the pastor’s job. Discipleship is not the pastor’s job. This may sound kind of strange, but bear with me. Discipleship is the Christian’s job, and hopefully your pastor is a Christian; therefore, it is his job but not because he is a pastor. If we are going to fulfill the Great Commission and obey the command to make disciples, we must do it! Personally, you must do it. How are you active in discipleship?
Principle #3: Teach others what you have learned. 2 Timothy 2:2 “And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” Paul didn’t tell Timothy to teach faithful men what he didn’t know. Simply the command to Timothy was to teach what he had heard. One of the greatest reasons why people don’t participate in discipleship is that they believe they need to know everything. This simply isn’t the case. God wants us to make disciples no matter how much we know as Christians. If you only know the gospel, that Christ died for our sins, that He was buried, and that He rose again on the third day to make a way of salvation for us, then tell others this. God doesn’t ask us to teach others things we don’t know, rather He tells us to teach them what we know. Naturally, this will lead us to learn more as the people we disciple ask questions we will need to find answers to help them grow closer to Christ.
Principle #4: Let others see how you live. 2 Timothy 3:10-11 “But you have carefully followed my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, love, perseverance, persecutions, afflictions, which happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra–what persecutions I endured. And out of them all the Lord delivered me.” Discipleship is not just the passing of information, it is also giving someone a front seat to see how you live out that information. As with most things, there are two sides to this ditch, many people believe that you don’t need to teach to disciple, rather they say, “just live in such a way people see Christ.” We know that in order to believe people must hear the word of God, but they must also see how we live it! Timothy didn’t just teach what Paul had taught him, he also followed his manner of life and purpose. Who do we let close enough to us to be able to see how we live our life and what our purpose is? This is a scary task as it lets people close enough to our life to possibly see our failures and our downfalls. I truly believe that Timothy had a front row seat to Paul’s failures and successes. The exciting thing about people seeing the failures and sin in our life is that they should also be close enough to us to hear the confession and see the repentance. To properly make disciples we must let people into our lives so they can see how we live the word of God that we are teaching them!
Principle #5: Multiplication is the goal, tell others to make disciples. 2 Timothy 2:2 “And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” At some point we evidently forgot this principle. If we are to make biblical disciples we must teach them to make disciples also. Not only is this a much faster way to grow, it is what God intended for discipleship. We must make it a point to tell those we disciple to disciple others. Paul told Timothy, and Timothy was to do the same with who he taught. For some reason we often think that it will just naturally happen, but the biblical principle is that we must be intentional. Make time to tell those you disciple the importance of them making disciples.
I hope these principles can be of use to you in your Christian life. I also hope they will help motivate you to make disciples, after all, if you don’t make disciples of Christ then who will?