What is Discipleship and what does it look like?

As I go about daily life and talk to people, sometimes they ask me what ministry do you help out with or head up at your church and I say—“Discipleship.”  A lot of people look at me and say ”That’s great!” or “Cool…how’s is that going?” But I never get a lot of questions pertaining to discipleship or rarely do people ever say that they are also discipling with someone or making disciples.  It leads me to believe that most people don’t know what a disciple really is or know what it looks like to disciple someone.  So let’s look at this head on…..What is Discipleship and what does it look like?  Here is Webster’s Dictionary versus what I’ve seen and lived. Webster’s Dictionary says:  “A personal follower of Jesus during His life, especially one of the 12 disciples.”  It also says “a follower or student of a teacher, leader or philosopher.”  Not bad for our practical purpose here today in this discussion, but if we look further in John 15:5-8 it sheds some light on this too when it says:   “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.”

I like this definition of a disciple:  “A disciple is a diligent, disciplined learner, one that is intentionally positioning themselves in relationship with a teacher, and they are receiving from the heart and the instruction of that teacher.”   The disciple is allowing their teacher to impart to them truth that shapes and transforms their life.  Jesus said that you will know that you’re my disciples when you are beginning to produce fruit in your life.  There is a multiplying principle that begins to occur in you as truth transforms you.  It’s when you come to the point where it’s not enough that just you yourself are saved.  Something is missing.  You’re growing and becoming spiritually mature through the discipleship of a teacher, personal prayer and your own bible study. You strongly desire others to be saved and you ache at the thought of the lost living a life without God and an eternity in hell.  I put it this way:  “Your internal transformation becomes and external reformation affecting not only yourself, but others around you in a Godly, positive way.”  I found this very helpful to those with questions on Discipleship:  “Disciple making is not about a program or an event, but about a relationship—that is key—a “relationship.”  As you share the gospel, you impart life, and this is the essence of making disciples.  Sharing the life of Christ.  Disciple making involves inviting people into the larger community of faith where they will see the life of Christ in action and experience the love of Christ in person.  I am indebted to many men who have discipled me and are discipling me like Eric Haler, Lynn Furrow, Tom Preble, Jeff Julian, and Alger Julson.  These men share their lives with me in the same way Jesus did with His disciples.  I gain much from the wisdom all of them impart into me, but even greater is time spent with them, going places..whether sitting in an office, restaurant or in my house talking about life and ministry.  They are gracious enough to share their lives with me and in the process, show me what it means to follow Christ by their example.  That is what discipleship is and what it looks like in my life.  It’s a relationship with a teacher learning about Christ – studying, discussing, asking questions, but also sharing life, going places with that teacher, seeing how they interact with people and really seeing in their lives what it looks like to follow Christ.  Then, in the same fashion, sharing what has been poured into me by pouring into others and equipping them to make disciples themselves.  When I disciple the men I meet with we study the word of God, pray, listen to podcasts, do series teachings from Pastors like David Platt, Francis Chan, David Jeremiah, and we also share life together.  We got out to eat, workout at the gym, go to the movies and concerts, and many other things that build relationships more than just a teacher-student, but we truly become brothers and I become a mentor to them in their walk with Christ.  In the same way others are mentoring me by equipping me for ministry and sharing life in the same way Jesus did with His disciples.

I encourage everyone to be discipled.  First, because it is a command from Jesus in Matthew 28:18-20 as a part of the “Great Commission”, but also to build rock solid relationships with other people in the body of Christ.   Discipleship cements the body together in a fashion that makes it real and authentic. It truly shows the world what it means to be part of a community of believers who lean on each other as family knit together by the unity of a common salvation and blessed by God in doing so.  The unsaved see an authenticity in the body of Christ they cannot find in the world because it’s being lived out in the hearts of God’s people as they share life, grow, thrive and live out God’s will growing the kingdom by bearing fruit in making disciples.  Discipleship is, has and will always be one of the key foundational disciplines in my life that solidifies a successful walk with Christ.  It has revolutionized the way I study God’s Word, pray, worship, commune with the body of Christ and most importantly my intimacy with God.  Everyone needs a mentor in their life for the things they want to excel in.  The most important thing in our lives is our relationship with Christ and we all need a “Spiritual Dad/Mom”, or “Big-Brother/Big-Sister” to help us.  Get connected and become a disciple who later makes disciples!

Alex Fulton
Discipleship Ministry Leader

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