What Discipleship Is and What it is Not

Making disciples is an amazing investment; one that requires great dedication and sacrifice. It is the greatest command that Jesus gave us, to make disciples all over the world.

But what is a disciple? In its literal meaning, it is a pupil or a learner. A disciple is one who is receiving through another vessel the ways of Christ, so they can be equipped to walk intimately with God throughout their own day to day life.

Making disciples is the heart of ministry. And ministry is very simple. It is the Holy Spirit working in a human being towards another person.

To make discipleship effective, the person giving out and the person receiving need to be aligned with God’s heart to walk in the fullness of this process. No method or formula can overthrow a genuine work of God between two people. That is why we cannot understand the power of discipleship without understanding relationship.

Discipleship Involves Effective Relationships

God’s desire is that His invisible nature be made visible through our relationships. Discipleship then becomes the laboratory by which we all grow up and process out our relationship with God. How we relate to each other is a key litmus test to the quality of our walk with God.

Those Being Discipled Need to be Teachable and Hungry

There is no point to discipleship if the person being discipled has not positioned their heart to learn, be taught and grow. They have to take full responsibility for their growth and transformation. In doing so, our discipleship process involves being connected to those who become our teachers, overseers and spiritual fathers.

This environment becomes so much more fruitful when the person being equipped is teachable; meaning they never act like they have arrived or know it all. They are always hungry as a child to be fed and grow. The hunger cannot be stirred up for them. There must be a internal work of the Holy Spirit in their heart to keep them humble in their journey to learn and grow. When someone is hungry and teachable, there is nothing that will stop their growth.

Discipleship Involves Fathering

The highest level of discipleship involves spiritually fathering people, where we spend invested time in relationship. Over time, the person is empowered to journey to the next level in their walk. Fathers are more than teachers.

They do more than teach precepts, they model out and process through life with the one being discipled. They show they have the person’s back. They do not control, but they excercise a father’s heart to empower. Just like a good biological father’s job is to train up a child to eventually live on their own, a spiritual father empowers a spiritual son to become all he was intended to be.

Discipleship Involves Being Available

As Christians, we are called to be disciples. So who are you discpling in their journey? Most believers couldn’t list one name. Yet discipleship is one of the most important needs in the body of Christ.

Discipleship Involves Standing in the Gap at Times

Discipleship often involves seeing the gaps in people’s lives and introducing them to Father God’s power to fill in those gaps in their life. True discipleship shows that only God can satisfy the desperate needs of a man or woman’s heart. Yet we cannot just expect people to get everything on their own. They need modeling and at times help to enter into their own encounters with God.

God is their source, but we can be reservoirs of that power into their lives. This is not something that we perform our way into. Discipleship involves just being available in relationship. All we need to do is be who we are in God and allow the Holy Spirit to flow through that.

A lot of times in discipleship, we need to be available to watch and pray. Sometimes its also just as important to NOT step in, because the Holy Spirit needs to show the Father’s agenda in their life. We cannot be their Holy Spirit or try to control anyone’s actions. Oftentimes our heart’s focus should be that God would bring His goodness and show His strategy over this person’s life. Sometimes my prayer is not so much, “God what should I do” but “how can I stay out of your way, God?”

Here are some other things we need to remember that discipleship is NOT:

1. Discipleship is NOT hand holding every day.

Too often our discipleship relationships become codependant, where the leader is wanting freedom more than the learner does. This creates a false burden bearing situation that causes many believers to enter into burnout.

2. Discipleship cannot be done in a classroom only.

The greatest work of discipleship is involved in powerful relational interaction. Classrooms are great places to learn and allow God to shine His Word over our hearts. Yet only in the context of relational exchange–doing life together–that we gain the freshest fruit of God’s transformational power.

Sometimes the most spiritual thing to do is to bread bread together; eat and share life so that the issues of our heart can come to the surface and God can deal with us. This means that powerful discipleship relationships are only effective to the degree that there is honesty, transparency and authenticity.

3. The one doing discipleship is not the source.

It’s important that we honor the people that God puts in our lives to disciple us. Sometimes we are ignorant that some people around us are on assignment for our growth and equipping. Yet at the same time, we cannot make these people our source. A classic mistake occurs in discipleship when we move from honoring the work of God in someone, to instead making the person our source instead of God.

Question: What aspects of discipleship here do you find to be helpful. What thoughts do you think help to the effectiveness of true discipleship?