I hear a lot about discipleship, comments like these are my disciples, he/she is my disciple. Then after talking a bit you find out that they call them a disciple because they are in your class, or you take them out for lunch once a month and coach them. My friends this is not discipleship, yes you may be a coaching or mentoring someone and this is great but this does not make them your disciples. Let us not take away from those who are really doing discipleship, let's take a look.
Root word of Disciple:
The root comes from a Latin word noun 'discipulus' which means 'to learn.'
Disciple: "One who embraces and assists in spreading the teachings of another."
"This is not just believing in what someone else is saying but to also then teach others what you believe in. Duplicating what you learn, see, do, experience, reflecting the image of."
Every disciple is a Christian but not every Christian is a disciple. In fact, most Christians are not disciples.
Luke 14:26-27 "If anyone comes to me and loves his father and mother, his wife and his children, his brother and sisters – and yes even his one life he cannot be my disciple. Anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple."
Vs. 33 "In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple."
Matt. 16:24 "If anyone would come after me, he must first deny himself and take up his cross and follow me."
This is what qualifies you to be a disciple, now when you really look at your own life do you qualify. Most of us will fall short.
Looking across the church most of us still have one leg in the world, maybe not the evil of the world but just the things of the world.
Oswald Sanders: "Jesus did not call people to follow him by promising the benefits and blessings. Instead he spoke of difficulties and danger. Jesus did not try to get followers by tempting them with advantages and adventures. Instead he made it clear that following him meant sacrifice and suffering."
How much of the church is preaching about offering blessings and prosperity? If your church is preaching this you are not preaching a discipleship message.
Winston Churchill said, "All I offer you is blood, sweat and tears."
Going to a school of ministry or going to a bible school does not make one a disciple, a true disciple carries the message, delivers the message, lives the message and even suffers for the message if need be.
The word disciple is mentioned 269 times in the New Testament.
Why then is it that when we look at the church and there are many who do not look like disciples?
- Perhaps they were never taught what is a true disciple
- They themselves are not obedient to the teaching
- Maybe they are not fully surrendered to the Lordship
- Maybe they think that going to church is enough
- No one to show them the way, to coach them
Oswald Sander says: "Present-day preaching finds little place for repentance, yet without repentance there can be no regeneration. Many have been encouraged to believe that 'just' because they have come forward in an appeal or signed a decision care or prayed to receive Christ, they are saved – whether or not there is any subsequent change in their lives."
"Salvation is more than just an understanding; it is inseparable from repentance, submission and a supernatural eagerness to obey."
Looking at the church today there are many in the church, their lifestyle is no different than those of the world.
Picking up the cross and following Christ with their whole heart, soul, and strength is far from many Christians today.
We value ourselves more than Christ. It cost nothing to be saved for it is a free gift but it cost us everything to follow him.
We cannot only choose the part that we like and throw out the rest because it does not suit us.
The biblical Christianity or disciple means complete submission to Christ, this is why the world does not respect the church because of all the compromise in the church.
John 8:31 "If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples."
John 6:66 "many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him."
It is not always easy to be a disciple,
Jesus is hard to understand at times:
- The way to life is to die!
- The way to receive is to give!
- The way to be lifted up is to humble yourself!
- The way to become great is to be a servant!
- The way to be first is to be last!
This is completely opposite of what the world tells us and what we tell ourselves.
To be a disciple is to be like Christ
11Cor. 3:18 ...We are to be transformed into his likeness." To be like Christ.
Rom 8:29 We are predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his son.
To do this we need to have the power of the Holy Spirit in us to give us the grace and strength, the desire to be like Christ.
We need to inhabit Christ not just imitate Christ, imitate is law but inhabit allows you to imitate out of a heart of desire and love.
A true disciple is more than just a learner but becomes like his/her teacher, recreating disciples just like yourself, Bing fruit-full.
Matt 28:19 "Go and make disciples of all nations."
John 15:8 "This is to my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciple."
Question: Do you bear fruit???
It is a call to
- To Jesus - Come to follow Jesus, not a church or a person Matt 4:19, 1Cor 11:1, 4:15-16
- To a spiritual family - Jesus called his disciples in a family. Matt 12:47-50, Jn. 19:26-27
- To become fishers of men – Jesus expects all that follow him to become fishers of men. Mark 1:17, Matt. 9:9-13
In summary, the call to discipleship is a call to build relationship with God, God's people and lost people.
Discipleship is all about relationships, cry, laugh, encourage, live life, grow with those relationships.
It is possible to give your knowledge to others but this does not mean this is relationship.
For relationships to last you need four things:
- Must be built or founded in love – not because of what you do just because of who you are. 1Cor.13:1-8
- Forgiveness - Matt. 6:12 - This must be a part of all real relationships, it is hard, it hurts, but it is a weapon when used in the right way.
- Trust – Reliability, Loyalty. One must trust himself first before you can really trust others
- Communication – Don't assume, communicate. When you fail to communicate it creates a gap and so often the relationship will fall in that gap.
Some Discipleship Principles
- Power of personal example, you cannot discipline others if you are not disciplined yourself Phill. 4:9
- Power of association – The more they associate with you the more they will learn and become like you and value the things you value. Mk. 3:14
- Power of Delegation – Learn to let go and let them take ownership Mark 3:14 It is ok to fail just learn to fail forward.
- Power of instruction – Important to give instruction not just leave them, they need to be guided. Matt. 5:1-2
- Power of application – Make things practical, don't just teach but give projects, give them books to read, self-discovery. 1Thess. 4:1
- Power of Prayer – this is my relationship with the Lord, his heart. Luke 11:1
- Power of Accountability – Mark 6:30 If you as a person it is hard for you to be accountable then it will be hard for you do be a disciple yourself.
What works against discipleship?
- Not taught or no teaching
- Wrong theology
- Relationship vs spirituality
- Business vs effectiveness – Many churches are run like a business, professional but have little influence on society.
So you want to disciple others
Some characteristics of a discipler you must be:
- Must be intentional, be responsible about it, must be a value
- Must be measurable –can you look back and see followers, see results
- Must be an example
- Must be simple/practical that works for the person
- Must be transferable, make is it easy to transferable and not so deep
- Clearly communicated,
- Obedient to the Lord
- To bring glory to God
- A good listener
- One that challenge
- Knows how to lead people to the cross
- See potential
Discipleship starts with a person who is saved, then comes deliverance, of the bondages, habits, strongholds, emotional healing. This must take place before discipleship. Without these, breakthrough in the person's spiritual life is not true discipleship.
Salvation + Deliverance = Discipleship
But we can disciple someone to Christ....
So often we are such in a hurry to start discipling our new convert when there is no deliverance, and all this discipleship is now being filtered through all their emotional bondages, habits, unforgiveness, strongholds, miss-understanding, culture, traditions, unrenewed minds, still connected to the worldly pleasures.
Rom 12:2 Transformation comes from a renewed mind.
So many of us are still stuck on the past, we need to deal with these issues, true discipleship will cause you to confront self to the core. The real question is 'are you willing to take it to that level?' Or do you just want to hopefully find freedom through church, good messages, counseling. Sorry but true freedom will only come through the cross and the cross is all about death before it is all about resurrection.
- Cross before the crown,
- Cross before life, "Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and die it will never produce fruit."
- Cross before resurrection
- Cross before forgiveness
- Cross before anointing
- Cross before Godly identity
- Cross before spiritual authority
- Cross before eternal life with the Lord
The cost of discipling others:
God created the body, the soul and the spirit and all of these areas need to be discipled. So often we have this idea that just the spirit needs to be discipled. Jesus bible school was on the highway of life. He did teach in the synagogue yes but Jesus taught his disciples all about life not in the classroom. They traveled together, ministered, eat, slept, laughed, all of these things were done together for three years.
Often there are young people that want to come and be disciple by my wife and I. This is a big responsibility on my part as well as the one being discipled.
It often takes me months to select a 'disciple'. They have to fill out an application and show me some dedication, because it takes time, effort, emotions, responsibility on both sides.
These will often live in my house for up to 6 months and some up to a year. They will eat with my family, they see how I treat my wife and kids, how I discipline my kids, they will hear how my wife and I discuss issues and make plans, problem solve.
They see how I discipline myself. They see my good days and bad days. They sit in my prayer room when I pray and minister with me when I minister.
They are required to do physical exercise to get their body in shape, they have certain books and spiritual exercises they do, we work on any emotional baggage, they learn how to teach, write sermons, set up bank accounts if they need, get passports, they learn culture and social responsibilities. They learn how to pray and also how to clean the house, some of them I have taught them to drive, swim, cook, at the same time how to intercede for nations, even clean fish. All these are mixed together because this is real life, it is not all classroom. I am interested in the whole person not just the spiritual side of a person. Jesus lived his life with the 12.
I can say that I have 30 plus individuals from all over the world that I have built into their lives in this way, many of them still contact me today asking for advice in life issues, marriage issues, for counsel in spiritual things. Many of these call me their father.
Yes, this takes time, and takes a toll on the family, the kids are effected by all of this but in the end, most relationships are strong and Jette and I have many sons and daughters. Not all stick with the program and some I send home but most of them are very much a part of our lives even today.
To me this is discipleship, I am afraid we just kind of throw that word disciple around and it loses its power and authority. Discipleship is picking up the cross of the teacher and following him, not so easy to do.
There was one African man who was with me for several years and many people called him 'Little Simba' because he prayed, preached, did, go, said things just like me. He was truly my disciple. Now he is on his own and is now discipling others. This is how it should be.
This is true discipleship. So next time you want to disciple someone, or call someone your disciple, take a deeper look at just what is a disciple and a discipler.
It takes lots of different type of dedication to be a discipler and not everyone can do this, if you are mentoring or coaching others this is so great and continue to do so. At the same time honor those who really do disciple others. It is not just a side ministry it is life for us.