I was in a meeting with some other leaders recently when someone asked the following question: “Can someone define discipleship for me?”
There was a mix of different reactions in the room. For some, it was a silly question. I mean, we all know that Jesus calls us to make disciples, right? What do you mean you need a definition of discipleship? For others, it tempted us to start long lists of “dos” and “don’ts” and other requirements or attributes. Suffice to say, I don’t think there was a consensus on the matter.
I thought it was a great and helpful question. I think it’s a necessary question. How do you know whether you’re accomplishing the goal if you haven’t defined what you’re really going after? How does the Bible define discipleship?
Over the years I’ve noticed that most churches know that they’re supposed to make disciples and so when asked “are you making disciples?” the answer is almost universally, YES! We know we’re supposed to do it and we want to be obedient, so yes, we are making disciples.
How do you know whether you’re making disciples? It probably depends on how you define discipleship. Thus, the importance of the question my dear brother asked: “can someone define discipleship for me?”
How do you define discipleship?
Let me give you some help and offer some things that are not good definitions of discipleship.
Discipleship is not church attendance. It’s tempting to equate discipleship to getting people into the church building. If people are showing up when the church doors are open, we can know that we’re making disciples! I don’t think it’s that easy.
Discipleship is not just the acquiring of Biblical knowledge or information. Again, most of us typically think about Bible Studies, small groups, Sunday school classes and other efforts designed to impart as much information as possible about the Bible and the Christian life. Those certainly aren’t bad things, but I’m not sure they define discipleship.
Discipleship is not just the training acquired for jobs in the church. When new people come in, we train them to be an usher or a greeter or a teacher or some other role in the church body. Again, these aren’t bad things, but I’m not sure they describe discipleship.
Discipleship is not just getting folks to give intellectual assent to important Christian tenets or beliefs. We’ve got a list of Christian doctrine for you to go over and see if you can pass the test. I think it’s possible to agree to a long list of Christian beliefs and yet never really implement any of those beliefs in your own life or behavior.
So, what is discipleship?
How do you define it? How do you know when you’re making disciples?
I think it’s an important question that we ought to be asking more often if we want to do the work that Jesus called us to do.
I’d love to hear some of your thoughts on this.
CGGC eNews—Vol. 14, No. 10