Summary: Many people fear discipleship but it is the primary command of the ’Great Commission’. This study looks at how we all fit into this calling.
Three Principles of Discipleship (Part 1)
18 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.
19 "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
20 "teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Amen.
We know this as the ‘Great Commission’. This is also the greatest failure in the church. Without discipleship, believers do not understand how to live their faith. It is common to see the great evangelistic effort, but where is discipleship? A disciple is more than a convert and our call goes far beyond baptism. I was not discipled and I struggled to make sense of it all. I fell far away from God and no one reached out or even seemed to care. I didn’t know how to pray. I had no concept that God could use me much less did I think that there was a plan for my life. I did not know that feelings would not be my guide. When the feeling faded, I thought God had rejected me. I tried to pursue emotions, instead of a relationship with God. Why did problems come? Why didn’t God protect me? When I asked God to bless my self-focused desires, why didn’t He honor my prayer? Why don’t I know God’s will for my life?
I could write pages on the common questions that almost all new Christians ask. Unfortunately, the church has left its members to figure these out on their own. Because of this, many give up on Christianity, become calloused and complacent, or get swept away by those who teach error. In most churches, people make a profession of faith; they are congratulated, put on a role and forgotten. The church that seemed so loving and welcoming when I was a prospect, now has left me isolated in the middle of the crowd. Discipleship is not seeking converts, but bringing people into an intimate relationship with God. This begins with a conversion or surrendering ourselves to Jesus Christ. But this is only the beginning. Jesus is the author and finisher of our faith. Surrender is where Jesus ‘authors’ our faith, discipleship points people to the finish line and teaches them how to run the race according to God’s purposes. In His purposes we find joy and fulfillment. There are three principles in discipleship – Relationships, Teaching, and Mentoring for Service.
Of these three, the relationship is the most critical today. This is not because it is the most important, but it is the most neglected. For this reason, this message will put a lot of focus on this point. Most people are intimidated by discipleship. The word ‘discipleship’ has been elevated to a practice for the spiritually mature. People usually think of the ‘Timothy Principle’ where an elder Christian takes an immature Christian under his wing and makes him into a fellow minister. Although mentoring is one aspect of discipleship, that is not the only aspect of discipleship.
Discipleship = friendship with a Christ centered focus. We are all called to be disciplers. We are not called to become spiritual giants and then become disciplers. Anyone can be a friend. The problem with most people is that they feel insecure when it comes to reaching out. That is a flaw in our human nature. Everyone sits in the crowd and expects someone else to reach out to them. When no one reaches out, they feel lonely and isolated. The person beside them feels exactly the same way. Though people with introverted personalities struggle more with this, even charismatic people have this problem. They can be fun loving and handshaking, but still never get beyond the surface of a smile. We can easily be surrounded by smiling faces and touched by no one. You can touch someone’s hand with a warm handshake but that does not ever get beyond the surface and into the need.
A good illustration of this was a couple in a church I once attended. There was a couple that was so loving, kind, and energetic. I considered them to be one of the nucleus members of the church. They attended home Bible studies and knew all the members. What seemed sudden to us was actually a slow growing problem with them. They quit coming and we soon found out they were visiting other churches. That is not uncommon, but the reason has always stuck with me. She said that the reason they were leaving was because she felt lonely. She didn’t know anyone, didn’t have any friends and felt alone. Wow! How could one of the life-blood member of our group say she was alone and friendless? The reason is that there was no discipleship. No one ever got beyond the surface and into her life.