Clarifying Discipleship

In light of my new discipleship workbook released on March 16th, I will be posting 4 blogs on discipleship. Each blog will cover discipleship from a different perspective. 

Whether in person, or in preaching, or online, or in print, I have come across many well-meaning believers that have either complicated or over-simplified discipleship, leaving fellow Christians confused about what it actually means and what it is. Hence, this first blog is on clarifying discipleship.

So What Does Discipleship "Actually" Mean?

“Many Christians, leaders, pastors, and scholars define discipleship differently. For the most part, they are communicating different descriptions of discipleship in the name of “defining it”. Nonetheless, these different “definitions” of discipleship floating around can cause confusion if they’re not clarified as being a description and not a definition. So let’s clear the air…

There is only one definition of discipleship, and it comes from the etymology of the words “disciple” and “-ship” . The definition of discipleship is the following of one’s teacher/master to become like the teacher/master. The term “discipleship” is simply conveying what a disciple is and does.” (DSM Workbook, 2018, p. 13).

Therefore, "discipleship" means a believer of Jesus following Jesus to become like Jesus.

So What "Is" Discipleship?

Now that we're clear on the definition of discipleship, let's explore and clarify what is discipleship—i.e. some inherent aspects of discipleship—according Jesus in Matthew 28:19-20. 

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (ESV)

Evangelism & Missions — "Go...and make...of all nations"
Because many assume evangelism and missions are different, allow me to clarify.

  • Evangelism = sharing the good news of Jesus with unbelievers unto their salvation.

  • Missions = the sending of believers into all the world to make disciples of all nations.

evangelism = missions

missions = evangelism

Evangelism is missions. Missions is evangelism. Evangelism/Missions is discipleship. Disciples are made—by the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit through the proclamation of the gospel by other disciples—and then told to “go” and “make” more disciples “of all nations”. Disciples are evangelists/missionaries. If you are born-again, you are a disciple, which means you are an evangelist/missionary.

Baptism — "baptizing them"
Baptism is discipleship. Disciples are baptized as a public identifier of their saving faith upon Christ, of their following of Christ, and of their identity in Christ.  If you are born-again, you are a disciple, which means you are to be baptized and be baptizing others.

Teaching & Learning — "teaching them"
Teaching requires learning first. So teaching and learning all that Jesus commanded—i.e. the whole counsel of God—is discipleship. Disciples are learned ones who help others become learned ones. Discipleship is being both teacher and student in one. If you are born-again, you are a disciple, which means you are to be learning and sharing what you're learning.

Obedience — "observe all that I have commanded"
"Observe all" is a continual keeping of what was commanded, which is obedience. Obedience to God/His Word is discipleship. Disciples willfully and desirably follow their Teacher (Jesus) in obedience to His leading, His instructions, and His lessons. If you are born-again, you are a disciple, which means you are to be walking in obedience to your Savior & Lord and His Word.

Companionship — "I am with you always"
Companionship with Jesus is discipleship. The relational aspect of following Jesus is the most important and influential in our discipleship. Everything in discipleship will naturally flow from here or break down here.


Final Word

While the definition of discipleship is straightforward, the reality of discipleship is far more involved. 

I hope this brief explanation has helped clarify the complication or over-simplification of discipleship you may have heard.