My questions about discipleship

For some years I have pondered the question of
discipleship.  I have to confess, discipling others has been something of a mystery to me.  I know the theory, but have always
had questions about it. 

Discipling someone is usually portrayed as helping a baby in
Christ towards maturity.  Maybe my questions are because I became
a Christian on my own at age 11 from reading a book and didn’t really know any
other Christians for many years. 
Yet the Holy Spirit kept me. 
Would I have benefited from some further instruction?  Undoubtedly!  But during those years on my own, I grew in Christ, having only
the Bible and the Holy Spirit to help me mature.  (I’m not even sure where I gathered the idea that the Bible
was important—the Holy Spirit maybe?)

So my question is this?  Is the process of "making disciples" literally introducing someone to a life of following Jesus (hearing and obeying him), and sharing life will help them to grow, or is "making a disciple" a much longer process that only ends when a person is mature.  I'd be interested to know what you think.

11 thoughts on “My questions about discipleship”

  1. discipleship as i understand it from scripture is becoming an apprentice to Jesus, learning to do the things he did, so we can be transformed into his image, or in other words take on His character. This way we can then live our lives as He would live them if He were us. Be covered in His dust, having an intimate on going relationship with Him. Dallas Willard has a wealth of information on this subject.

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  2. I did work out a process so that I would have something to teach to others – from becoming a Christian through discipleship to what we do as disciple makers. And it’s good to have a map for any journey.
    But given the Lord’s diversity in dealing with each of us, every person’s journey is going to be unique and glorious in between common points. Having a map doesn’t keep us from exploring as we follow.

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  3. Difficult topic to define. I know it is happening when I see it. Here’s one thought that has been percolating for me for some time. True discipleship is evangelistic before it is formative and develops the disciples best when it remains evangelistic.
    There is something powerful that happens when the believer is engaged in the risky venture of proclaiming the gospel. When fear is overcome and rejection is counted as rubish for the sake of knowing Christ and glorifying him in everything we do and say, believers grow.

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  4. I’m not sure the two options you offer in your question are at odds with each other. I think there may be stages of discipleship like childhood, adolescence, and adulthood.
    A child disciple might benefit from a spiritual father/mother/brother/sister giving some very explicit direction on hearing and obeying Christ.
    An adolescent disciple might benefit from a mentor that serves as a sounding board as the disciple tries to discern Jesus’s leading and express Jesus’s heart.
    An adult disciple might benefit from a co-worker who approaches Jesus’s work and leading from a different perspective. The recent conversation between Neil Cole and Frank Viola comes to mind.
    At each stage, the disciple is forming and maturing. I don’t think there’s a point where a disciple receives the stamp of “mature.” Also, at each stage, the disciple is fully equipped to obey Jesus’s commands and follow Jesus’s real-time leading. No pre-obedience training is necessary. At no stage should any mentor presume to take the place of Jesus as Lord in the disciple’s life.

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  5. I think discipleship is a process that will (or at least should) continue forever. Even in heaven, I believe we’ll continue to grow.
    As disciplers – people who make disciples – I think it comes down to equipping one another for the work of the Lord. Jesus offers an excellent example of how to do that… by serving and providing an example for His followers to follow.
    -Marshall Jones Jr.

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  6. My first church experience after salvation was a Christian community based on the Discipleship principle. Initially it was great but unfortunately like every system based on some form of hierarchy it eventually became legalistic.
    Discipling as Jesus demonstrated was sharing life together rather than an apprenticeship thing which sets up power levels. Christ is the one and only Head. in Him all are equal and should learn mutually from each other in humility, but mainly from the Holy Spirit.
    There is a need for all the ministry gifts to be operating in any fellowship but these are not titles or positions of authority, they are job descriptions. Young Christians do benefit from sound teaching but only as long as it is conversational rather than dictatorial (Hebrew education was based on this). The most important things a new Christian can be taught are – Who we are IN CHRIST and how to hear from the Holy Spirit. God will do the rest.

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  7. Your “unease” about discipleship is well founded Felicity. It is very helpful to ask “What is a Disciple and when is one Made?” Another great question is, “Who is the DISCIPLE-R?”
    I believe the following:
    1. One becomes a Disciple when one comes to Christ.
    2. As Disciples, we follow Christ, therefore He is our Disciple-R
    If this is the case, then Disciple-ship (by Humans) becomes and Old Covenant concept, where we still need Humans to move us to God (kings, priests, prophets etc.). The New Covenant is clear… Jesus IS building His Church!
    So where do humans fit in? We provide the community and family, and the encouragement etc… BUT that should not be confused with Disciple-ship, because THAT is God’s responsibility…

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  8. I love that you raise questions about discipleship rather than andwers. The discipleship I endured was driven by programme and you were mature by submitting to whatever church programme was on offer.
    recently i have been engaging with the thought that discipleship occurs through the christlike relationships we move in. in our faith community we are looking at the idea that we all disciple each other. we all have stuff to teach oneanother. we are early on in this and i still have many questions but i’m excited that many are raising questions about how we make disciples. however we do it we need to stick to the plumblines of word and spirit (as your personal testimony illustrates nicely.

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  9. Dare I say we “introduce” others to Christ (evangelism as was mentioned) who is the One who disciples us by His Holy Spirit.
    I agree that it is God who keeps us, regardless of where we are when we come to Him or what happens from that point on. Other disciples become the living examples…right or wrong…of what it means to be or not to be a disciple of Christ.
    Our brothers and sisters, as well as the unbelievers we encounter on a daily basis, give us the opportunity for practical, hands-on, rubber-meets-the-road living out the everyday life of a true disciple of Jesus Christ.
    As others have mentioned, “we” don’t “make” disciples any more than we “save” people, but as in many other areas God grants us the privilege of taking part in the discipleship process by which HE is discipling His followers.
    All of our experience once we have been born again is used by God to conform us to the image of His Son (Ro. 8:28) which, is, after all, the ultimate result of the discipling process, even if we don’t recognize it as such at the time.

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  10. I heard once something than rang true.” Discipling is doing Gods will/work and letting others watch.” When you ponder that it grows on you. The “letting” part gets deeper if you go there.

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