As Bible and theology major, I have been studying about Jesus and his disciples. Through these studies, I have learned what discipleship is, why we should desire to be a disciple of Jesus, and practical steps we can take to become disciples.
What is discipleship? Discipleship is when a person is trained by someone to spread their message. For Christians, discipleship is when a person trains and equips a fellow believer to spread the message of Jesus Christ.
Since Jesus had twelve disciples while on earth, we can learn about discipleship from the Son of God himself by how he trained and equipped his own disciples to go out and spread the message of the Gospel.
Discipleship in the Bible
We can learn from Jesus’ example of discipleship by how he calls his disciples, guides them by showing them how the Kingdom of God works, and in the end he commands them to help fulfill the Great Commission.
To start, how Jesus called his disciples and tells them what they were expected to do.
Jesus Calls His First Disciples
Imagine this scene: Jesus is standing at the edge of the water from Lake Gennesaret. There are two fishermen, named Peter and Andrew, who were throwing their net into the water when Jesus calls out to them, “Come, follow me.”
Peter and Andrew immediately left their nets and followed him without thought or question. They didn’t hesitate or wait for a “better time,” they obeyed immediately.
This is a lesson for us all to be obedient. If we hear God’s voice, like Peter and Andrew did, we need to respond immediately and without hesitation. Don’t wait. Let’s live our lives like the disciples who were willing to stop everything when they heard God calling them.
Jesus Guiding the Disciples
Here are four examples of Jesus guiding and training his twelve disciples.
1. Feeding of the 5,000
The story of Jesus feeding the 5,000 is found in John 6. A great crowd had followed Jesus along with his disciples and Jesus tests Phillip by asking him how they would feed all these people.
He replied, “It would take more than half a year’s wages to buy enough bread for each one to have a bite” (verse 7). The disciple Andrew found a boy willing to give them his two fish and five small loaves of bread, but he knew this wasn’t enough for 5,000 people to eat.
First, Jesus prayed and gave thanks for the meal then he took the bread and fish to the crowds and each person took as much bread and fish as they wanted. After the meal was over, the disciples gathered twelve baskets filled with leftovers.
This story shows us how Jesus brought his disciples into ministry with him. The disciples were not off to the side when Jesus performed this miracle, but right alongside him. Jesus allowed his disciples to join him in ministry and witness his miracles.
We are joining God in his ministry when we follow him and become one of his disciples. We have the authority through the Holy Spirit to perform miracles in Jesus’ name. Our authority does not come our own strength but from Jesus. We can step out in faith and ask God to work miracles in the people’s lives around us!
2. Jesus Casts out Spirit from a Boy
The story of Jesus casting the spirit out of a boy is found in Mark 9. Jesus walks up to a group of his disciples and religious leaders arguing.
When asked what they are arguing about, a man from the crowd tells Jesus his son is possessed by a mute spirit and he asked his disciples to heal him, but they couldn’t. Jesus calls for the boy to be brought to him. His father tells Jesus the spirit has been in the boy since childbirth and it often torments him and tries to throw him into the fire.
Then, Jesus commanded the spirit to leave the boy and never to return to him again. The spirit shrieked and violently and came out. Afterward, Jesus went indoors and his disciples asked him privately, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?” He replied, “This kind can come out only by prayer”‘ (verses 28-29).
Jesus shows his authority over Satan and his kingdom by commanding the spirit out of the boy and the spirit obeying. He shows his disciples that he has authority given to him from God.
The disciples tried to cast out the demon in their own strength, but Jesus casts out the demon with authority and strength from God, not man. This would have been a humbling experience for the disciples, and we can learn like the disciples did that our authority doesn’t come from man but from God.
3. Jesus & The Little Children
The story of Jesus and the little children is found in Mark 10. People were bringing their children to Jesus so that he might place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them.
When Jesus saw this he told them,
Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. “Truly I tell you, anyone, who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them.Mark 10:14-16
Jesus taught his disciples that children are important, for the Kingdom of God belongs to such as them. The disciples didn’t value the children but Jesus shows them their value by blessing them. They wanted to be in control of who Jesus was with by rebuking the children, but instead, Jesus tells them to become like the very person they rebuked.
If we are controlling and are filled with pride, how can we enter the kingdom of God? Jesus tells us to become like a child to enter the kingdom, therefore, we must let go of our pride and give up control.
4. The Great Commission
Jesus had defeated death and risen from the dead. In Matthew 28, he tells his disciples the come for him to leave earth has come.
This is what Jesus told his disciples,
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age’Matthew 28:17-20
The disciple’s work was not done; it was going to continue even after Jesus had left them.
What Jesus commanded the disciples to do applies to us today. We are also called to make disciples of the nations, baptizing them, and teaching them the ways of Jesus. If we don’t help to fulfill the Great Commission, who will? If we are to be disciples of Jesus, it is our call to help spread the Gospel to all end of the earth!
3 Reasons Why Being a Disciple Matters
Why does discipleship matter? If we claim to be a Christian, then we are claiming to be a follower of Jesus and if we are a follower of Jesus, then we are one of his disciples.
All who are called to salvation are called to discipleship, no exceptions, no excuses!Bill Hull
Here are 3 reasons why being a disciple matters.
1. Jesus Tells Us to Make Disciples
When Jesus gave the disciples the Great Commission, he tells them to make disciples of all nations. How can you make a disciple if you aren’t a disciple yourself? In order to make a disciple, you have to be a disciple of Jesus yourself.
If you are not strong in your faith, you wouldn’t be able to train and make disciples. No matter where you are or what profession you’re in, you’re called to be a disciple of Jesus. He will use you wherever you are, whoever you are.
When Christ calls a man he bids him come and die.Dietrich Bonhoeffer
2. You are Living out Your Faith
Anyone can say they are a disciple of Jesus but are they living out their faith? In Luke 9:23-25, Jesus clearly tells us the cost of discipleship. It says,
If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it. For what is a man profited if he gains the whole world, and loses or forfeits himself?
In order to live out your life as a disciple, you must lay down your own life and pick up your cross. It’s time to give up the desires of your flesh and surrender them to God.
I would encourage you to pray and ask God for specific areas you need to lay down. Seek Him while you are laying down your life and be open to hearing what he speaks to you!
I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.Galatians 2:20
3. You Become More Christ-Like
When you lay down your life for the sake of Christ, you are making a step towards becoming more Christ-like. Discipleship is a direct result of sanctification.
Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” We are made new when we surrender our life to Christ and allow him to work in us.
Our old ways of sin and living are in the past! We no longer need to feel guilt or shame for what is in our past because after we ask for forgiveness, the past is forgotten.
He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west.Psalms 103:12
In order to become more like Jesus, we should surrender our lives daily and deny our flesh. We will never live a perfect life but we can walk in the fruits of the Spirit, pick up our cross daily, and ask for forgiveness when we fail and then get back up and try again!
My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples.John 20:21
The 3 Main Goals of Discipleship
Once you have committed to being a disciple of Christ, there are three main goals of discipleship you should keep in mind: share the Gospel, make disciples, and glorify God.
1. Share the Gospel
To be a disciple of Jesus, you must share the Gospel, this is what Jesus told his disciples to do before he left earth.
Put yourself in places where you will have the opportunity to share the Gospel. For example, volunteer at a homeless shelter or help your neighbor with a painting project.
Not only are we to share the Gospel to those in our community but we are called to share with every nation. If you’re not called to be a full time missionary, you can support missions from home with your finances and prayers. You can also pray for an unreached people group in the world (for more information on Unreached People Groups visit Joshua Project).
Pray and ask God to guide you and provide you with opportunities to share the Good News of Jesus!
The key [to sharing the Gospel] is that you be inspired of God, that you ask Him for direction and then go and do as the Spirit prompts you.M. Russell Ballard
2. Make Disciples
After sharing the Gospel, we are called to make disciples. This means teaching people how they can live out their faith and encouraging them in their walk with Jesus.
You may consider volunteering at your church’s youth group or mentoring someone. Discipling people will look different for everyone depending on your age and how mature your walk with God is. Again, I would encourage you to pray and ask God who He has placed in your life for you to disciple.
It is only because he became like us that we can become like him.Dietrich Bonhoeffer
3. Glorify God
The most important part of being a disciple of Christ is to glorify God. Let all that you do be honoring and glorifying to Him. Do all things for His glory rather than your own.
For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.Galatians 1:10
We can show God glory by being responsible at work and complete tasks with diligence, by having healthy relationships and growing alongside each other, and by setting aside devotional time every day. We don’t just bring him glory when we are at church; we can bring him honor during our everyday tasks too.
Lastly, we can give God glory by praise God throughout the way day. When you are working or running errands, tell Him how grateful you are for the blessings he has given to you!
Now that you know your call as a disciple is to make disciples of all nations and teach them the ways of Jesus, it’s time for action. Pray and see how God wants to bring discipleship into your own life and how you can disciple others.
Lastly, remember the most important part of being a disciple is to bring God honor and glory!
How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!’Romans 10:14-15