Discipleship 101: Relationships Essential for Discipleship

March 16, 2017 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments

Posted in: Pastoral Encouragement

This is part four of a multi-part series exploring discipleship in the local church. Jesus declares in his final, “great” commission that his followers are to “go therefore and make disciples of all nations” (Matt. 28:19). The mission of the church is to make disciples. As followers of Christ, we are to be disciples and to be making disciples. What is involved in discipleship? What does discipleship look like in our individual lives and for our church?

Last week I wrote a bit about what success looks like in discipleship. In our results-oriented, bigger-is-better, consumer culture, it is easy to become discouraged with our “growth in discipleship.” Scripture paints a picture of success that focuses more on inner qualities as opposed to outward, measurable quantities. So success looks like contrition over sin and delight in Christ and all he does for us.

This week I want to direct our attention to how Scripture speaks about relationships in discipleship. When we consider the extent and nature of the “one another” commands in the New Testament, we will see that discipleship is never a lone endeavor. God has designed discipleship, the process of having Christ formed in us, to be a community project.

1. Relationships start with Strangers. The church is commanded to show hospitality in Romans 12:13 and Hebrews 13:2. Paul even makes hospitality a requirement for elders, the spiritual shepherds of the church (1 Tim. 3:2 & Titus 1:8). Why is hospitality so important? Our English translations help us by adding the words “to strangers” in Hebrews 13:2. The Greek word for hospitality is philoxenia. Perhaps you are familiar with what may be considered its opposite: xenophobia, the fear of strangers or the dislike of foreign people. The prefix “philo” speaks about affectionate love (i.e. Philadelphia: the city of brotherly love). Hospitality, then, is active love for the stranger.

Biblical hospitality is not merely opening your home and serving tea and cakes. It is showing kindness to all sorts of people, even those not like us or outside of the church. In her hospitality the church becomes a living reflection of what God has done for us in Christ (Rom. 5:6-8). Hospitality then becomes the foundation or framework for discipleship to initiate and grow.

2. Relationships are Necessary for Growing in Hardships. Whether it is temptation and sin or some sort of emotional struggle or financial difficulty or physical ailment, we tend to be “private” about our hardships. The exhortations in the New Testament related to our hardships are just the opposite: we need the community to grow. Sin is deceitful, so we need the community to help us from be hardened (Heb. 3:13). We need the community in order to be restored from sin (Gal. 6:1). We need the community for prayer in sickness (James 5:14). We need the community to help in financial hardships (Acts 4:34-35). We need the community to come alongside of us during emotional upheavals (Rom. 12:15). We need the community to be comforted in our afflictions (2 Cor. 1:6). We need the community to be built up and grow (Eph. 4:16).

Hardships/trials are a threat to our discipleship success. They can lead us into hardness over sin. They tempt us to delight in and desire things other than Christ. God has designed the relationships formed in his body, the church, to be the safeguard from allowing hardships to shipwreck our discipleship.

What relationships do you have that safeguard your discipleship?

More next week.


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