What Exactly IS Discipleship? And How Does it Work?

As a church, we are are on the record stating that discipleship is a key priority. Our Mission Statement reads...

Proclaiming God's kingdom in our communities by worshiping him and making disciples of Jesus of everyone we meet in everything we do.

The question that constantly comes up is: what exactly does it mean to make disciples and to be in discipleship?

In Matthew 28:19-20a, Jesus says...

Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.

Here, Jesus is sending his disciples out - turning them into apostles - to invite, lead, and help others to follow him. Following Jesus, in short, means to mimic the example that Jesus himself set for us during his earthly ministry. That example is found in the Gospels; read the Gospels, see what Jesus did and what he pushed The Twelve to do, and we have our model, map, and blueprint for our own discipleship.

We are then given a more detailed example of how the disciples - now called apostles - taught the early Church to put all the Jesus stuff into practice. Conceivably, the Apostles had far more information about what it means to follow Jesus than we get from the Gospels alone, hence the value and need for the rest of the New Testament. When Paul, Peter, Jude, James, and others command the churches to do certain things, we can hear these words and take these instructions as things they received directly from Jesus. What the churches are doing, is exactly what the Church today should also be doing in our ongoing discipleship and disciple-making efforts.

So what do we believe this looks like at FCF?

Asking this question led us to adopt four primary Core Values: Biblical & Theological Rootedness, Prayer, Koinonia, and Stewardship. When we looked at what the early church was devoting their time to, these are the things that consistently emerged. We reasoned that if this is what the early church was doing to obey Jesus' command to make disciples, then these are the things that we should be focusing on in our discipleship efforts, as well.

Knowing where you or someone you may be discipling is in the discipleship journey is necessary for continued growth and movement toward Jesus' ultimate desire for his people: Apostleship. To that end, we developed a discipleship "map" - it's something that I personally tend to refer to as a "Maslow's Hierarchy of Spiritual Needs." Just like Maslow's actual "Hierarchy of Needs," the idea is to move from bottom to top, with each new layer building on the one below it. This "map" offers a helpful guide to assess where you are, and what the next step in your journey toward Apostleship might be.

Inside the triangle, you'll see our four Core Values. You can also see a bracket jutting out to the right that moves from Seeker to Apostle.

Discipleship is the process of moving from Seeker to Apostle - from one who is curious and wondering what Christianity, faith, Jesus, or spirituality is all about, to embracing an identity and sense of call as one who is sent by God to make disciples of all nations.

If your wondering where and how mission and evangelism play into this picture, these are the work of apostles. When we look at the Gospels, Jesus didn't send The Twelve out to do evangelism until they were ready and equipped to do so. Mission is not something that everyone and anyone is called or able to do. Without a doubt, it's Jesus' goal to see everyone engaged in mission, but it takes time to get there. Jumping the gun before we're ready is often met with frustration and discouragement.

Biblical & Theological Rootedness is the foundation of mission. It's also typically the first step someone takes when they begin to actively engage in discipleship. This involves getting into the habit of reading the Bible and becoming familiar with its stories and teachings. It also includes developing a basic sense of theology. Theology often gets a bad rap, but it's really nothing more than a set of beliefs about who God is and how he interacts with the world. Something that often gets missed in the theology mix, is that theology always drives and shows itself in action.

Next comes Prayer (and other spiritual disciplines). Prayer is ultimately about intimacy between us and the God revealed in the Bible. The depth and level of intimacy we experience with God is a direct result of what we believe about God (theology). As we learn more about God and see what he has done and come to understand the promises he makes in the Bible, we are drawn to seek greater intimacy with him. A warning: this is often the point that many people will "stall" in their discipleship. There's a temptation to settle for daily devotions and prayer and not go any further. Unfortunately, at this point you're still a long way from what Jesus has called us to be.

From the very beginning, we were created to be in community and relationship with other people. However, connecting with other people and opening ourselves up to others comes with risk, and we all know firsthand the hurt and pain that comes with that risk. A commitment to, and pursuit of, Koinonia is a major discipleship step, that brings both enormous risk and incredible blessings. It's at this point that you recognize God's design for human beings and your need for it. Another shift that takes place here is an acceptance that God has placed you where you are in order to contribute to someone else's koinonia. In many ways, this is where our faith begins to shift from being self-focused to other-focused - an important and necessary shift for fully living into God's call on your life.

And finally, Stewardship is the recognition that everything we have is essentially on loan, entrusted to us by God, to use, invest, and faithfully manage for God's glory and purposes. This is often the hardest discipleship level to grow into because of our innate desire to cling tightly to what we believe is ours. When we hit the point of being able to give everything to God, however and whatever that may mean, we have reach the "peak" in our discipleship and are now fully prepared to give our entire life to him.

We become Apostles when we begin actively seeking, discerning and acting on the ways God has blessed, gifted, and called us to work for his kingdom in mission and gospel proclamation. It's vital that we work our way into each level, in order, or else we run the risk the of falling into legalism and self-reliance; we're in danger of being like the man who built his house upon the sand (Mt 7:24-27). If you find yourself tempted to commit to a life of prayer without spending meaningful time with the Word, you lose sight of which God you're praying to, what he promises to do with your prayers, and the proper way to pray. Engaging in fellowship without the foundation of Biblical Rootedness and Prayer turns small groups and church into little more than a social group. Stewardship without the other three is essentially just a form of legalism - in which you're doing "good things" either because you're trying to earn God's favor or because you feel good doing it.

It's also worth pointing out that no one can make anyone want to be a disciple. Jesus is clear that he invites us to follow him and to be his disciples, also suggesting that faithfully following him is the only way to be saved - not salvation by works but by faith, and then allowing that faith to pour out and show itself through faithfully obedience and submission to the Father's will.

If you are interested in engaging in this discipleship process and growing into your God-given identity and calling, simply reach out to Pastor Jason to schedule a time to sit down and explore what this might look like for you.

21 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All