Disciples and Discipleship
February 11, 2021 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments
Posted in: Pastoral Encouragement
When I was in the eighth grade, my youth pastor assigned me to my first discipleship group. Along with two other middle school boys, we met with a young man from our church who volunteered time with the youth ministry. We worked our way through the Navigator study, Growing in Christ. Our leader gave us notebooks to write down prayer requests and track our Bible reading. For the first time of my life, I began to develop a daily habit of Bible reading and prayer.
Whenever I think of discipleship, I think of that group experience. Someone more mature in their walk with Christ helped me grow in my understanding and enjoyment of what God has done for me through Jesus. He encouraged my habits in spiritual disciplines. He prayed for me. He answered questions as they came up. And we made some fun memories together.
Discipleship within the context of the church is when we help one another grow as disciples of Jesus Christ.
Jesus says in John 8:31, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples.” Disciples of Jesus abide in his word. We talked about what this means on Sunday: to mentally and affectionally engage with God’s word, which centers on Jesus, so that we obey and persevere in his word. Perhaps more simply, to abide in his word is to grow in our understanding and enjoyment of all that God has done for us through Jesus. This is what true disciples of Jesus do.
The word “discipleship” never appears in Scripture. But we see the concept affirmed in Scripture. Paul exhorts Timothy, “what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also” (2 Tim. 2:2). To “entrust” a body of knowledge (i.e. “what you have heard”) involves both the head and heart. There must be an esteem for the truth as valuable and precious. To entrust the gospel to others simply is helping them grow in their understanding and enjoyment of what God has done for them through Jesus.
What does discipleship look like in the church? Too often we get stuck with the idea that discipleship happens only in a “discipleship group” like the one I enjoyed in eighth grade. Discipleship occurs on Sunday mornings during our worship service as prayer is modeled, the Word expounded and applied, our hearts are led to adore God, and the sacrament deepens our fellowship with our Savior. Discipleship occurs in Life Groups as prayers are offered for one another, life’s struggles are shared, and God’s Word is studied. Discipleship occurs in Bible studies as we sharpen one another’s understanding of God’s truth. Discipleship occurs in one-on-one relationships when we seek to help each other “walk in a manner worthy of our calling” in whatever circumstance we find ourselves. Discipleship occurs while serving together as we encourage one another to follow the example of Christ. Discipleship occurs in all sorts of avenues in the church.
Jesus defines what a disciple is in John 8:31. Are you a disciple? Are you actively engaged in the process of growing as a disciple, i.e. are you engaged in discipleship? Are you helping others grow as disciples of Jesus?