“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.” (Matthew 28:19 NKJV).
True Christianity is much more than playing church. It is far beyond the religious and monotonous praying and reading of the Bible daily. It is much deeper than gathering or fellowshipping together with other believers seven days a week at a worship centre.
True Christianity is evincing or expressing the Life, Nature, Power and Glory of Christ. It is conforming to Christ in all things. It is observing all things that the Lord Jesus Christ has commanded and teaching others to do so. It is walking in the footsteps of Jesus. It is following Jesus daily and closely. It is shining as light in the midst of a perverse and crooked generation.
The Great Commission of the Church is to make disciples of all the nations, baptizing and teaching them to observe all things that the Lord Jesus Christ has commanded His disciples. Sadly, this is no longer today’s Church priority, purpose and pursuit.
When the Lord Jesus was about to leave the world, He gave a charge or commission to His disciples in Matthew 28:
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. (NKJV).
The Great Commission of the Church has unfortunately become “the Great Omission” of the Church. How we have cast away and undervalued that which is great in the Lord’s sight!
What do we value greatly and boast about today?
Our magnificent cathedrals and edifices, our special programmes, conferences or conventions, our church attendance, our huge financial incomes, our vast knowledge of the original Bible languages (Greek and Hebrew), our preaching and teaching abilities, etc. How sad!
The Scripture states: “For what is highly esteemed among men is an abomination in the sight of God.” (Luke 16:15 NKJV).
From Christ’s perspectives, we are not doing well regardless of our achievements or exploits until we make it our highest priority, purpose and pursuit to make disciples for Christ.
How do we make disciples with a singular purpose of knowing Christ intimately, following Christ closely and becoming like Christ increasingly? Through Discipleship!
Discipleship is not a new idea or concept in the Church though it has become very unpopular, unfashionable, and unappealing to many believers today.
It is certainly not without any significance that the word “disciples” appears in the New Testament 269 times and the word “believers” or “believer” only 4 times (Acts 5:14, 1 Tim. 4:12, 6:2, 2 Cor. 6:15).
This surely indicates that the purpose, calling and mission of the Church is not making “believers” of the people, but rather making them “disciples” of Christ. It also shows that there is a world of difference between being a believer and a disciple of Christ.
For a true understanding of what true Christian Discipleship is, it is important first to consider what true Christ Discipleship is not.
Therefore, in this piece we shall examine some things that many believers and Church leaders today have erroneously considered to be Discipleship, but which are not true Christian Discipleship.
First, Discipleship is not the New Birth Experience:
The New Birth is an instant spiritual experience whereby the Holy Spirit changes or transforms the heart of a sinner who believes on the Lord Jesus Christ, confesses and surrenders to Jesus as his personal Lord and Saviour.
However, Discipleship is not an instant spiritual experience, but a lifelong journey or process of progressive transformation into Christlikeness. Discipleship is not a onetime, but a lifetime commitment to Christ. It is essentially a spiritual journey from a “self-centered life” to a “Christ-centered life.”
Experiencing the New Birth or becoming born-again is the first right step in your spiritual journey of becoming increasingly like Christ in your will, speech, emotions, conduct or character.
Sadly, many believers today are stuck in this first step because they are unwilling to yield their necks under the yoke of Christ, to deny themselves, pick up their cross daily and follow the Master, the Lord Jesus Christ (Matt. 11:28-30).
The Lord Jesus said to the multitudes that came to Him, “Whoever wants to be my disciples must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9:23 NIV).
Second, Discipleship is not a Bible Course or Programme:
Discipleship is not a programme but a personal, intimate and loving relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. Discipleship is not attending and graduating from a Theological Seminary, Bible College or Leadership Class.
Discipleship certainly involves studying or learning from God’s Word, but a mere acquisition of mental or intellectual knowledge about Jesus Christ does not make anyone a disciple of Christ.
Discipleship is not acquiring more biblical knowledge about Christ, but growing in intimacy with Christ and becoming more like Christ. A disciple of Christ never stops learning at the feet of his Master, the Lord Jesus Christ. A disciple never graduates from following Christ daily.
Discipleship is a daily close walk with the Lord Jesus Christ. While a disciple of Christ leads people to Christ, he continues to pursue a deeper or closer walk with Christ. While a disciple brings people to Christ, he never quits waiting upon Christ daily to behold His glory and beauty, and to learn from Him (Psa. 27:4, Mark 4:33-34).
Third, Discipleship is not Church Confirmation or Church Ordination:
While it is good and helpful for a believer to belong to a church, a local assembly or a fellowship of believers, yet commitment to a church is not to be mistaken for commitment to Christ.
It is possible to be carrying a church membership card and be actively involved in church activities and yet not know Christ personally and intimately, or be following Christ daily or closely (John 3:9-12).
It is good to be trained, ordained or set apart in the church to perform specific duties or functions. However, being an ordained minister is not the same as being a disciple of Christ.
Many ordained ministers of God today are entirely preoccupied with ministering to the people and carrying out religious rites, functions, or services, but unfortunately they are not preoccupied with ministering to the Lord Jesus and becoming increasingly like Him (Acts 13:1-3).
Fourth, Discipleship is not Doing Ministry or Christian Service:
Discipleship is not primarily about doing, but about being like the Lord Jesus Christ; not about working for the Lord Jesus Christ, but about walking with the Lord Jesus Christ; and not about living for the Lord Jesus Christ, but about letting the Lord Jesus Christ live in you and through you.
Paul puts it this way, “I have been crucified with Christ; 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 for me.” (Gal. 2:20 NKJV).
While active involvement in ministry works or commitment to Christian services is good, it is not the same thing as discipleship. Discipleship is not measure by Christian service but by Christ-likeness.
You cannot determine your progress in discipleship by your works for the Lord Jesus Christ, but by your walk with the Lord Jesus Christ. Neither can you measure your progress in discipleship by how much you have studied, read or learned about the Lord Jesus Christ, but by how much you have become transformed into Christ-likeness in your conduct or character (Luke 10:39-42).
Fifth, Discipleship is not Mentoring or Coaching:
Mentoring and Coaching are development techniques and helpful relationships aimed at helping individuals achieve their personal or career dreams, goals and pursuits in life.
The primary goal of mentoring or coaching is to boost self confidence, promote self awareness, encourage self development, enhance skills, or increase knowledge and thus increase work performance. They are certainly good, helpful and beneficial, but they are not the same thing as Discipleship.
Unlike Mentoring and Coaching, the primary goal of Christian Discipleship is Christ-likeness. The Lord Jesus said, “A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone who is perfectly trained will be like his teacher.” (Luke 6:40 NKJV).
The focus of Biblical Discipleship is not self development or self enhancement, but self-crucifixion. True Discipleship is not about improving self, but denying self daily. The daily pursuit of a true disciple of Christ is: “He must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:30 NKJV).
Beloved, while you may attend a Discipleship School or Course for a limited period of time, Discipleship itself is a lifelong relationship and a daily walk with the Lord Jesus Christ. Although Discipleship has a definite starting point (the New Birth experience), yet it continues throughout the believer’s lifetime.
The disciple’s full transformation into Christ-likeness will only take place when he sees the Lord Jesus Christ face to face, when He returns physically.
The Scripture assures: “Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.” (1 John 3:2 NKJV).
If true Christian Discipleship is not the same thing as experiencing the New Birth, attending Bible School, Church Confirmation and Ordination, doing Christian services, or mentoring and Coaching; what then is true Christian Discipleship?
Find out in the second part of this piece!
Prayer: My Dear Heavenly Father, I repent today of my neglect of the Great Commission. Dear Holy Spirit, help me to make daily progress in my discipleship journey and to encourage and help others to embark on the same spiritual journey into Christ-likeness, in Jesus’ name. Amen.