What's All The Fuss About Discipleship?
If you’ve been anywhere near a church lately, chances are you’ve heard the d-word.
Whoa, whoa. Not the word that makes your grandma grab the bar of soap, but the word we use to spiritualize coffee-dates and social events and church functions.
That word is “discipleship.”
Many are calling it a “buzz word” for the church-crowd today, and while it may be gaining popularity, many are still entirely confused about the definition and necessity of discipleship.
Because it lacks a certain cultural familiarity, some might push “discipleship” off as an ancient word that we’re using to label another church function or small group pitch.
But it’s actually much more.
What Does It Mean?
In the Greek, the word disciple can be translated, “a learner or pupil.” Jesus’ disciples left everything and followed Jesus throughout His years of ministry, watching Him, participating in His mission, supporting His cause, listening to His words. It was common in that culture for teachers, tradesmen, and spiritual leaders to have disciples. Oftentimes disciples would even live with their leader. (Learn more about this in our study of The Gospels!)
Our definition of discipleship at Reaching Her is this: As I seek God, I intentionally come alongside someone to do life together with them for the pursual of their spiritual maturity.
In short, biblical discipleship is following someone who is following Jesus.
Not the casual type of “following” you would use to follow someone on Instagram or Twitter, but aligning and opening your life to be taught, led, and instructed by another person who knows something better or longer than you do.
In our case, discipleship is following someone who is pursuing Jesus in all areas of life and, therefore, resembles Him.
Why Is Discipleship Important?
In this culture of having the world wide web in our back pocket, it might be easy to assume that everything we need to be a good follower of Christ can simply be googled.
But it’s not.
Information is not enough. We need imperfect people to step into our lives, to help us recognize our blind spots, to encourage us when we are weary, to challenge us to use our gifts and serve others, and ultimately keep pointing us to the Perfect One.
God desires for us to “know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 3:19, ESV)
Discipleship helps us enter into the fullness that God offers us through fellowship with the body of Christ. Jesus did not come to earth and stand at a distance from people. He stepped into the messy lives of those around Him, turning ordinary days and tasks into holy moments.
Discipleship is critical. And the benefits are powerful for everyone involved. As Trillia Newbell explains in her article Three Benefits of Discipleship:
1. Discipleship builds humility.
Our temptation might be to think we know what is best for ourselves. As you’ve heard, and maybe said before, “we know ourselves better than anyone.” Scripture says that we might actually be more confused than we think. The heart is deceitful and so to trust yourself at all times is probably not the best route to take (Jeremiah 17:9). Wise counsel from a friend, pastor, or spouse could be just the thing God uses for our protection.
Proverbs says that a wise man will hear and learn, and will acquire wise counsel (Proverbs 1:5). So we can safely assume that an unwise man will not hear from others, will shut them down and will not listen, will lack understanding and will not acquire wise counsel. We need to resist the temptation to be wise in our own eyes (Proverbs 3:7). This isn’t so easy! But as we seek to gain understanding, we must first acknowledge that we don’t always know what is best.
2. Discipleship unites us with fellow believers.
The body of Christ isn’t meant to simply exist for us to gather together on Sundays and then move along with our lives the rest of the week. God’s word paints a picture of believers doing life together (Acts 2:44–47). Seeking counsel and discipleship is one way to invite others into your life.
Most of the time people won’t know the details of your life unless you are willing to share with them. Being willing to be discipled by another provides an opportunity for prayer and mutual encouragement (Galatians 6:2;1 Thessalonians 5:11). We want to pursue one another because we are members of His body (Ephesians 5:30).
3. Discipleship equips us for faithfulness.
Paul tells us in Titus 2:3 that the older women in the church should teach what is good and train the younger women. They are to equip other women in how to walk in step with the truth of the gospel. And this isn’t a suggestion — it is God’s instruction for how we should relate to one another.
This is Discipleship 101. It’s yet another proof that we need each other. We can’t obey the commands in Titus 2 without being willing to be discipled (and being available and willing to disciple others!).
Jesus chose “discipleship” as the method to spread and strengthen the Church.
Let it be our joy to engage this great calling and Reaching Her is eager to help you in any way.