If you are a follower of Jesus, you are called to be a disciple who makes disciples who also make disciples. But how do you start discipling someone?
What lessons on discipleship can we learn from scripture? There are many lessons from the Bible on discipleship that we can learn from. These lessons include:
- Building Relationships
- Leading by Example
- Spirit-Led and Spirit-Empowered Discipleship
- Equipping Others to Equip Others
- Group Discipleship
- Teaching from God’s Word
- Living Life Together
In this blog, we will look at 10 different lessons from the Bible on discipleship and how you can practice applying them in discipling others today.
10 Lessons on Discipleship
To begin, let’s look at prayer and it’s role in discipleship.
Before you start discipling others, you need to first spend time praying for those whom you will be discipling.
In the scriptures, we see that before Jesus chose who He was going to disciple, He sought God and prayed all night alone on a mountain. This gives us insight into why prayer is so important before entering into discipleship ministry.
In these days He went out to the mountain to pray, and all night He continued in prayer to God.
And when day came, He called his disciples and chose from them twelve, whom He named apostles: Simon, whom He named Peter, and Andrew his brother, and James and John, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon who was called the Zealot, and Judas the son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor.Luke 6:12-16 ESV
Discipling others is hard because you deal with other people. Things can get messy.
If you are not first invested in prayer and spending time with the Lord developing intimacy with Him in your relationship, then you are going to end up doing things on your own strength.
Prayer and intercession help you rely on the Lord for wisdom, strength, and direction.
It also keeps you in a place of humility. Without first running to Him, your ministry in discipling others will fail.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths.Proverbs 3:5-6 ESV
Prayer is a crucial lesson in the process of discipleship. It not only strengthens your and other’s faith in God but it helps you give glory to God for the work and fruit He is producing in other people’s hearts.
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this, all people will know that you are My disciples if you have love for one another.”John 13:34-35 ESV
Learning to love people as God loves them is an essential lesson on discipleship from the Bible. We see this by looking at the life of Jesus.
Jesus’ life was clearly marked by His love for His disciples. When He taught them about God, He always taught with the desire for them to know and love God more.
The full display of His love was seen on the cross, as He gave His life willingly for all those who believe in Him.
As Christians, we are to follow Jesus’ example by demonstrating His love toward one another and putting other’s needs before our own.
We must lay down our wants, desires, time, and money to fully invest in the lives of others God has put before us so that they can experience His unconditional love.
When people see how much you love them just as Christ loves you, this can bring radical transformation as God works in their hearts to love others around them.
3. Building Relationships
A third aspect of discipleship that we learn from the Bible is to build relationships.
Jesus knew that His time on earth with His disciples was short. But this did not stop Him from developing deeper relationships and investing in people’s lives.
He intentionally spent three years with His disciples leading them around Israel, teaching them who He was so that eventually they could go out and share who He is with others.
As you study the life of Christ, you will discover that Jesus was consistent and intentional in His relationships with His disciples and also with all the people He met.
One such example is found in Luke 19:2-10, where Jesus intentionally seeks to spend time with a man who was a rich tax collector.
In Jesus’ day, tax collectors were often rejected because they did not have integrity with the money they were in charge of. However, Jesus still sought this man out to reveal that His purpose is to seek and save the lost.
And behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus. He was a chief tax collector and was rich. And he was seeking to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was small in stature. So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was about to pass that way.
And when Jesus came to the place, He looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.”
So he hurried and came down and received him joyfully. And when they saw it, they all grumbled, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.” And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.”
And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”Luke 19:2-10
In the same way, we are to be intentional in building relationships with the people so that we can disciple them.
When you want to build relationships, you need to put other’s needs before your own. One of the best ways to build deeper and meaningful friendships with people is to ask them to tell you their story. Then sit there and listen to them.
Jesus invested in His disciples by spending time with them. He knew their stories, their personalities, their likes, and their dislikes.
He also chose who He was going to disciple intentionally, which shows us that we need to be aware of our capacity of many people we can effectively disciple at a time.
4. Leading By Example
Jesus never forced people to follow Him. He called people to Himself.
Jesus led and taught by example. One such action was by washing His disciples’ feet.
Although He was their Lord and Teacher, He humbled Himself and did something that would have been considered to be a servant’s position. This is a paradigm mindset shift that we must have when wanting to disciple others.
If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you.
Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.John 13:14-17 ESV
Jesus, our King, humbled Himself as a servant so that His disciples could see how to follow His example. This is one of the reasons why He came, to teach us how to lead others in humility.
As you meet with people to disciple them, how are you practicing servant leadership like Jesus did?
Jesus calls us not to become great leaders by placing ourselves above others but to be humble followers who love Him and want others to know Him.
5. Spirit-Led & Spirit-Empowered Discipleship
Jesus relied on the Holy Spirit for His ministry. He knew that God had given all things into His hands and depended on the Holy Spirit to empower Him in discipleship.
As followers of Jesus, we are to rely on the Holy Spirit for everything in life and ministry, including discipleship.
But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.John 14:26 ESV
Without the leading of the Holy Spirit, you are going to hurt people in the process of discipling them. You cannot disciple people on your own strength and understanding.
The Holy Spirit teaches us how to be sensitive to the needs of others and how to approach them with the truth of the gospel in love.
We need to trust that He will lead us to do and say things that only reflect who Jesus is as we lead by example, but we can also know and rest in the truth that He gives grace to those who are walking with Him daily.
To be Spirit-led and empowered in discipleship, it is extremely important that you are daily abiding in Christ and spending time in His Word.
By spending time with Jesus, you will gain a bigger heart for His people and be led in the Spirit to lead others where He wants to lead them.
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.Acts 1:8 ESV
Never come to discipleship with your own agenda. Instead, seek after the Lord’s heart and let Him show you what He wants to do.
He is the one who will empower your ministry to be fruitful for God’s kingdom.
What He has prepared to bring about is more beautiful than anything we can hope or imagine.
6. Equipping Others To Equip Others
And what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also.2 Timothy 2:2 ESV
The goal of discipleship is to help people follow Jesus who will teach others how to follow Jesus who will then disciple others how to follow Jesus.
In the Bible, we read that Jesus trained His disciples during His three years of ministry so that they could train others. This is seen in His final commands to His disciples before He ascended into heaven.
And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. 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.”Matthew 28:18-20 ESV
Jesus taught the principle of multiplication. As followers of Christ, we are to equip and train others to go out and make disciples. This is what the Great Commission is all about.
The command of the Great Commission is to teach people about who Jesus is by making disciples who follow Jesus and make more disciples.
If you are discipling someone, encourage them to share with someone else everything that they are learning from you. This is how disciples are made.
7. Group Discipleship
Another lesson we can learn on discipleship from the scriptures is Jesus also discipled in a group.
Sometimes Jesus took only a couple of disciples aside to let them see what He was doing (Matthew 17:1-13; Luke 8:51), but He almost always taught all of His disciples together (Luke 8:9-15; John 13).
In our culture today, we think of one-on-one discipleship. In many contexts, this works well. However, making a true disciple of Christ takes community.
A new believer needs to be established in a Christian community so that they can nurtured and discipled properly.
In the time and culture Jesus lived in, it was appropriate to teach people within a group. While Jesus did have one-on-one interactions with His disciples, most often we see Him explaining a parable or leading by example to the whole group.
The Bible emphasizes the need for community in discipleship. Through community, a disciple learns how to interact with other Christians and be built up in their faith. Just as Proverbs says,
Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.Proverbs 27:17 ESV
As you are discipling others, encourage them to get plugged into a community of fellow believers who love Jesus and are living for His purposes.
Every believer needs to be connected with fellow believers so that they can mature in their faith. Group discipleship is so valuable to the life and wellbeing of a disciple of Jesus Christ.
And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.Hebrews 10:24-25 ESV
To learn more about leading a discipleship group – click here.
Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety.Proverbs 11:14 ESV
The Bible teaches the importance of having mentors in your life who are older, wiser, and more mature in the faith.
This is not only necessary for discipleship but is essential for encouraging disciples to increase and grow in their walk with Christ.
Throughout the scriptures, we see different mentorship relationships. Joshua was mentored by Moses, Elisha learned from Elijah, the twelve disciples were taught by Jesus, Barnabus took Paul under his wing, and Timothy grew in his faith by spending time with Paul.
As you are discipling others, find a mentor who can teach you how to disciple people. Ask them for wisdom and advice on how to equip others and lead them to Jesus. Sometimes you just need someone to listen to you process discipline others.
Having a mentor will not only encourage you in your walk with the Lord but give you helpful tools to help equip others in training others.
9. Teaching From God’s Word
Another important lesson discipleship is to teach only from God’s Word.
Discipleship should point people to Jesus and give them a desire to study God’s Word.
As you disciple someone, issues and questions regarding sin, the world, and life will come up. It is important that you go back to the Bible to see what God says about these things.
It is also important as you study God’s Word in discipling people that you look at both the cultural and history context of the passages you are reading before looking at how you can apply those same principles to life today.
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.2 Timothy 3:16-17 ESV
10. Living Life Together
Jesus’ disciples followed Him everywhere. They ate, walked, and traveled together. They saw Jesus in normal, daily life.
Jesus never grumbled or complained that His disciples were always hanging out with Him but instead used those opportunities to teach them something about the kingdom of God. Because of this, Jesus’ disciples saw who He was in all aspects of life.
As you disciple others, your life becomes a model of discipleship for them to reach others with the gospel of Jesus Christ.
You are to be a living example of how to live a life worthy of Jesus Christ.
As Paul wrote in his letter to the Corinthians,
Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.1 Corinthians 11:1 ESV
As you continue on your journey of discipleship, how can you live life with the people you are discipling? Can they learn from watching your reactions to different situations? Do they get to watch how you interact with your family?
As a follower of Jesus, you are called to be a disciple and make disciples.
Happy disciple making!