What is Discipleship?

Celebrate Salvation is a study series about The Joy of Christian Discipleship which begs an answer to our question. Most people who participate in Christian activities have heard the word “discipleship” at one time or another and some may even have an idea of what it’s about, but what was Jesus talking about in His Great Commission when He sent us out to “make disciples of all nations”?

The privilege of becoming a disciple

“For affliction does not come from the dust, nor does trouble sprout from the ground, but man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upward.”  Job 5:6-7

When we look, both inwardly at ourselves and outwardly at the world around us, we sometimes find ourselves wondering what is our problem? Sure, we all discover that life has lots of problems along the way, big and small, and we each do our best to solve them one by one, either alone or with others. We do get by, often “with a little help from our friends” as the Beatles used to say. But the question we’re pondering now is deeper than problems of this kind – it gets down underneath to the nitty-gritty root by asking what’s behind all this? What is our core human problem? One rather fatalistic answer is that “if it isn’t one thing then it’s another… and then you die.”

That’s one way to look at it, but let’s see if we can find a more satisfying answer by getting even closer to the root from a Biblical worldview perspective. According to Job, our basic problem doesn’t stem from the Earth itself but from the condition we were born into, the natural world of human life and needs. Ever since leaving the Garden of Eden, men and women have had to find their place in society and make their way in the world. We’ve been created in God’s image with intrinsic worth, born with fleshly urges through the interplay of human parentage, raised in various family structures, and educated further in the broader communities of humanity. From the earliest stages of our development when we first become self-aware, we begin to have thoughts that we assume come from ourselves until we discover that the world of ideas is a patchwork quilt of influences from ourselves, others, and nameless sources. Not everything we see, hear, or think is helpful, so all of us have choices to make, and we don’t always make the best decisions.

Who are we? Where do we fit in? What should we do? How should we handle this situation, this relationship, this problem, this entanglement? And we’re surrounded by millions and even billions of other similarly situated human beings, both alive and dead. Where is our home, our place of acceptance, comfort, peace, rest, and wisdom?

The necessity of becoming a disciple

It’s true that the first steps in making a disciple start with confirming a person as a converted or “born again” believer in Jesus, the Messiah (Christ). This is accomplished through revelation of God’s love, conviction and confession of sin, repentance and commitment to following Jesus. This phase in the new believer’s life, called salvation, is confirmed through baptism in water and empowered by the infilling of the Holy Spirit.

Following the early steps of salvation comes a time of cleansing from dysfunctional attitudes, behaviors, and habits of “the old (pre-converted) man” and renewal in the truth and purity of Christ’s ways. These steps, referred to as sanctification, are accomplished by the Holy Spirit through meditation, prayer, further confession, repentance, and mutual upbuilding in the Body of Christ, which is the Church.

By being cleansed of doublemindedness, sinful behaviors, and hypocrisy, we become strong enough in our faith to learn how to not only enjoy it but share the Good News with others – in other words, how to be links in the ongoing chain of the Great Commission. This is what the first three study guides in The Joy of Christian Discipleship Series are all about, starting with conversion to Christ in Saved, then progressing to maturing in grace in Sanctified, and reaching out to share with others in Sent.

The process of becoming a disciple

Many congregations run into difficulty with “making disciples” through lack of knowledge and simple tools to use in carrying out the Great Commission. The failures begin with incomplete salvation experiences, inadequate support for pursuing the righteousness of God through sanctification, and lack of enough understanding about the the ekklesia (church) and its relationship to the Kingdom of God to be able to share about it. As a result, new believers are rare and many church-goers suffer and fall from the same moral afflictions that characterize their unconverted counterparts.

Steps in the discipleship process

Start by making disciples in small groups with the members of your own church using our Celebrate Salvation material. For many this may be a “refresher course” in subjects they already understand, but you’ll be delighted by the individual and corporate growth your members will experience when they have the opportunity to share their faith personally  and intimately with others! And as a special bonus, you’ll be ready as a congregation to welcome new believers into your midst during the revival that’s coming and make disciples of them, too.

Saved, Sanctified, Sent

I am enjoying this immensely. It was right on time given the state of the world. I’m grateful for Celebrate Salvation and would recommend this if you want to change and get a better understanding of yourself and how Christ can truly change your life.

This book was written in a way that is perfect for both the new believer and those who are in ministry – no matter your growth stage with Christ, it’s understandable. The structure of facilitator and not teacher, has given me the opportunity as a Missionary to be a student, participate as part of the class, and allowed me to be safely vulnerable and open in away I haven’t experienced. I have grown, been encouraged and able to examine my walk with Christ in away that’s positively helping me to self examine my walk for the purpose of growth and to help other people find the comfort, joy, and peace I found by giving my life to Christ. This book and class was an answer to my prayer of having a group that’s informal, fosters a judgment-free zone, learn and address and get deliverance from things that I may have buried. This book has been life changing for me and I highly recommend!!!

While you’re thinking and praying about it, consider checking out our handout Starting Groups in Your Church.