In the church, there are many roles that build up the body of Christ and there are many ways to serve Jesus. One of them is vocational discipleship, which encourages the church and helps us love Jesus more. But what exactly is vocational discipleship?
What is vocational discipleship? Vocational discipleship is a full-time position within the Body of Christ. It oversees the discipling of believers and prepares future leaders within the church or Christian organization.
What does it Mean to be in Vocational Discipleship?
Vocation is the strong calling someone has on their life for a certain career or occupation. As Christians, we know that calling is from God. We can rest knowing that when or if He calls us to be a part of vocational discipleship, He is doing it for our good, His glory, and others’ freedom.
That’s right, vocational discipleship can be working towards freedom. In fact, God gave Adam work in the Garden of Eden and even though work became difficult due to the fall, it is still meant to be fulfilling and a way for us to glorify God.
A disciple is someone who follows Jesus wholeheartedly. They are ministered to by the Holy Spirit and they themselves teach others about God’s ways and call them up to the life worthy of their calling.
Therefore, discipleship is making others into disciples and helping them grow in their relationship with Jesus.
When you mix vocation and discipleship together, you create a job of discipling the Body of Christ, the members within the church, and leading them into the ways of God.
Vocational discipleship could look like taking on a job as a discipleship pastor at a church or becoming a discipleship leader within a Christian organization. Either way, it is an avenue to serve the church and strengthen the people in it and their gifts.
Through this work, the vocational disciple-maker is backed by the church or organization. It is typically a paid position.
They are responsible for guiding the congregation in spiritual health and are called to be intentional with members of the church.
What does the Bible say about Vocational Discipleship?
The Bible is clear about who should be in leadership positions in the church, including pastoral roles regarding discipleship.
This saying is trustworthy: ‘If anyone aspires to be an overseer, he desires a noble work.’ An overseer, therefore, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, self-controlled, sensible, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not an excessive drinker, not a bully but gentle, not quarrelsome, not greedy.
He must manage his own household competently and have his children under control with all dignity. (If anyone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of God’s church?)
He must not be a new convert, or he might become conceited and incur the same condemnation as the devil. Furthermore, he must have a good reputation among outsiders, so that he does not fall into disgrace and the devil’s trap.1 Timothy 3:1-7 CSB
Here in 1 Timothy, we realize just how intentional God calls the church to be when choosing people to lead or oversee. It is a noble job with a more than fair amount of responsibility.
These leaders are called to be above reproach, respectable, teachable, and much more.
A similar version of this is stated in Titus:
An elder must be blameless, the husband of one wife, with faithful children who are not accused of wildness or rebellion. As an overseer of God’s household, he must be blameless, not arrogant, not hot-tempered, not an excessive drinker, not a bully,
not greedy for money, but hospitable, loving what is good, sensible, righteous, holy, self-controlled, holding to the faithful message as taught, so that he will be able both to encourage with sound teaching and to refute those who contradict it.Titus 1:6-9 CSB
How to be All in for Vocational Discipleship
You might be wondering how to live by these standards that the church and God’s word has for leaders. Jesus tells us to abide in His word and to make disciples.
So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”John 8:31-32 ESV
Like with any other area of life, God calls us to abide in His word. It is the number one prerequisite to going into vocational discipleship.
Remaining and abiding in His word is essential because it makes us more like Jesus. When we are allowing ourselves to be transformed by scripture and learn from the Holy Spirit, we realize that it is not by our own power that we accomplish anything.
We will never accomplish a perfect career in vocational ministry. We will never accomplish a perfect career in anything. Our goal should not be perfection, because that can easily lead to legalism.
We need to understand how to abide in Christ.
If this is the case, you may ask what’s the point? Does a leader in vocational discipleship have to constantly be looking over their shoulder, making sure they’re never messing up? As Paul would say, “Absolutely not!”
Instead, there is boundless grace for those in leadership. Because of this, could those in vocational discipleship ignore the biblical qualifications of their position? Absolutely not.
I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me.Philippians 3:12 NLT
Jesus has already achieved victory for us in all things. Because of His blood, God can extend grace to us as we press on to abide in His word and follow Him in our calling, whether it’s in vocational discipleship or not.
Why Does Vocational Discipleship Matter?
One day, when Jesus comes back and God creates a new heaven and a new earth, we will not need encouragement to seek after Jesus because we will have Him, we will be in His perfect and whole presence forever.
Until then, vocational discipleship is vital to the church and vocational disciple-makers are essential in helping us draw near to God and love Him with all of our heart, soul, and mind.
Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’Matthew 22:37-39 NIV
Vocational discipleship matters because it is a means by which to encourage the church, Christ’s bride. It raises up the next generation of leaders and believers, teaching them to imitate Jesus and walk in freedom.
The heartbeat behind vocational discipleship is to see people love Jesus and for the church to flourish together. It is intentional, it is community. It’s a picture of God pursuing a relationship with us, loving us, and wanting to be our friend.
It matters because it encourages the church and helps us grow as children of God.
God designed us to need each other, to love each other, and love Him. We thank Jesus because we are not alone and we have leaders, vocational disciple-makers, who help us grow in this and in our relationship with Him.