The online Wikipedia encyclopedia says, “A disciple is a dedicated follower of Jesus. A disciple is a follower of a teacher. It is not the same as being a student in the modern sense. A disciple in the ancient biblical world actively imitated both the life and teaching of the master. It was a deliberate apprenticeship which made the fully formed disciple a living copy of the master.” We all know that the Great Commission tells us to make disciples of Jesus Christ. It is the task of every Christians to be influencing others to move closer to Jesus, so they in turn, can help others move closer to Jesus.
For some, it is children or grandchildren who are being discipled day by day. Others lead a Sunday School class or small group to become devoted followers of Christ. Others use a one-on-one mentoring approach to disciple a friend. No matter how you teach or who it is you are discipling, there are three big things to keep in mind.
First, we need to think of discipleship as a direction we are leading others to follow. Discipleship is not the study of material, but the pursuit of a Person. Discipleship is not a leap in maturity, but a series of small steps in the right direction. Discipleship is not about a destination, but the direction in which a person is going. Second Corinthians 3:18 reminds us that we as Christians are “being transformed into the same image from glory to glory…” It is a step by step process of moving toward Christlikeness.
We often think of discipleship in terms of book studies or courses we have completed. Certainly, materials can be useful, but a person may do several studies and still not be a follower of Jesus. If you are simply moving a person closer to Christ, you are a successful discipler!
Second, think of discipleship as an intentional friendship that takes you on a mission-focused journey. Discipleship happens in the context of building a relationship with other persons and then helping them become devoted followers of Jesus through your example as well as your instruction. Jesus discipled in the context of relationships. He went out to be on mission with His disciples. We see that the apostles followed the same kind of pattern. The “one anothers” of the New Testament require that we have a relationship with fellow disciples. Relationships require deliberate investment of time and effort. We never disciple accidentally.
Third, think of discipleship as a course of action that is different for each person. Any parent knows that the way you train one child, may be completely different with another child. The same is true in the way we disciple others. People learn in different ways—some by seeing, others by hearing. Some learn best by reading or writing, others by doing. People respond to teaching that touches them in a personal way. To guide another person on the discipleship journey, we must understand the person’s hurts and felt needs. To make a disciple, the mentor must first study and understand the mentee. A discipler isn’t required to become an expert on discipling, but to have success, he needs to become an expert on the one being discipled.
As the world grows colder and harsher toward Christians, the need for enlisting and equipping disciples is more and more evident. Who in your closest circle of influence needs a mentor like you? Can you begin testing the waters for a new discipling relationship? Who can become your apprentice as you partner together for the kingdom? The church needs teachers, but even more, the church needs disciplers who are making disciples who are “living copies of the Master.”