DISCIPLESHIP was considered an important topic by the writers of the New Testament, as the word “disciple” can be found over 200 times in their writings. Disciple and discipleship have remained important up till today but even a cursory overview of church history will show that the interpretation and outworking has changed many times and is currently going through another major change in the 21st century.
With that in mind, we want to un-wrap the basic principles on which our understanding of discipleship, for this time in history, has been built.
- We believe that all followers of Jesus are called both to be disciples and to make disciples.
- We have moved away from the “making converts” mindset of the 20th century to the “making disciples” mindset of the first few centuries of church history.
- The practice of bringing people to church or to evangelistic outreach meetings is not a necessary part of the discipleship process as we understand it today.
- Jesus outlined discipleship on five different occasions with five different emphases and in a specific historical order (John 20:21, Mark 16:15, Matthew 28:18-20, Luke 24:46-49, and Acts 1:8). For us, Matthew 28:18-20 outlines the foundational methodology upon which we have based our primary ideas on discipleship.
- Following the original language structure of Matthew 28:18-20, we believe that “disciple” or “make disciples” is the central message of the passage with “going”, “baptizing” and “teaching” used to qualify this main thought.
- Within the meaning of “going” is the sense that we have already been sent. “As the Father has sent me, so send I you”, said Jesus. We are all a “sent” people who, as we engage in our daily activities, are making disciples.
- As obedient disciples, we go wherever God instructs us at any time. But we are not all sent to other nations as missionaries, evangelists or apostles. Everywhere Paul went, he left behind groups of new disciples who were to make disciples as they went about their day-to-day activities.
- We desire to make “discipling” a part of the everyday practice of followers of Jesus as the Holy Spirit guides them to those whose hearts are prepared. It is not our desire to make them feel this is impossible by placing all kinds of obstacles in their way e.g. an expectation that they knock on the doors of strangers, preach on street corners or learn ways to gain a response. We simply want to see the Holy Spirit guide people into a meaningful relationship with Jesus.
Following the release of our first book ‘As you go…make disciples’, we have been encouraged that many ordinary followers of Jesus have begun to turn outward again and have been motivated as they see the Holy Spirit at work.
If you are interested in looking at how best to engage potential disciples in our current cultural context you might find our blog site helpful. Just go to the URL below and register to receive regular blog notices via email (click on Blog Subscription).
If the blog spikes your interest, we would also encourage you to pass the URL on to friends who are also looking at how best to engage potential disciples in the 21st century.
Colin Noyes is the Director of ResourceZone. He has 35 years of ministry experience as a pastor, college lecturer and consultant/coach to consultants, denominational leaders and local church pastors. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com