Missionary Guidance

What is Discipleship?


Written by Madeline Peña

How you choose to answer this question defines the way you live. Discipleship affects every part of life when practiced effectively and allows you to walk in your true identity  Jesus describes discipleship as: “By this, My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be My disciples. As the Father has loved Me, so have I loved you. Abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in His love.”

– John 15:8-10

Jesus said we prove to be His disciples when we bear much fruit. That fruit comes from our unity with Christ. Just as He was obedient to the Father, He is also one with the Father. A disciple is loved by Christ and abides in that given love. That love leads the disciple to keep His commands. This is essential to discipleship.  Discipleship is a crucial aspect of living for Christ.

Jesus’ Discipleship  

We don’t need to look any further than to Jesus for discipleship. He was the perfect example of what it means to be a disciple. When Jesus came to make disciples, He not only showed the importance of discipleship but also the necessity of it.   His life was focused on discipleship; the very first to ever transform a culture with the Gospel, to be baptized with the Spirit, and to follow God’s commands perfectly.   Below are some examples of why Jesus is the perfect example of discipleship. 

Obedience to the Father

He followed the Father’s commands, just as we are called to follow His. By laying His life down on the cross, He exemplified the act of total obedience unto the Father. We are called to walk in this obedience as well, and He even took it upon Himself to model perfect obedience for us.

Preaching the Gospel

To be a disciple and to make disciples, we must look to the one who we follow. Jesus is our one true teacher of discipleship. Without following Him, we are not true disciples ourselves. The truth of discipleship lies within His teachings. In His final command, the Great Commission, Jesus tells His disciples to teach others to obey Him, just as His disciples did. Let us take note that Jesus did not simply use His words to teach; He taught through action.

Teaching to Follow

Jesus urges us to follow His teachings.  Jesus was a Jewish Rabbi, a teacher by title. He taught His disciples to obey these instructions and commands. He was a perfect example of obedience, love, and sacrifice. In Matthew 16:24 we see that Jesus calls us to follow Him in discipleship. “Then Jesus told his disciples, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me‘”. If it’s unclear as to what it means to be a disciple or what discipleship is, here are a few instructions of Jesus’ discipleship: 

A few Instructions of Jesus’ Discipleship:

  1. Baptize them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28: 19-20 NIV) 
  2. Teaching them to obey everything He has commanded us (Matthew 28: 19-20 NIV) 
  3. Peace be with you. “As the Father has sent me, even so, I am sending you…” Receive the Holy Spirit. Forgive the sins of many, do not withhold their sin, but release it (John 20:21-23 ESV) 
  4. Go into all the world and proclaim the Gospel to the whole creation. Baptize as a proclamation of faith, “but whoever does not believe will be condemned.” (Mark 16:15-16 ESV) 
  5. Repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in Jesus’ name to all nations (Luke 24:47 ESV) 

How to be a Disciple  

A disciple is one who follows another’s teachings. How can one go and make disciples if they do not know how to be one themselves? Jesus did not call Simon Peter to first be a fisher of men. Jesus initially said “Come and follow me,” and then Simon Peter would be sent to fish for men himself (Matthew 4:19). Learning how to be a disciple is the foundation of discipleship.  We cannot lead others to Christ if we do not know Him ourselves. We must know Him. The disciples called Jesus “Lord” a countless number of times. We should take note of this. By calling Him “Lord,” they were giving Him ownership over their own lives. As should we. Today we must follow the steps of the first disciples. This life is not ours, it is Christ’s. We lay down our lives to follow His ways, His teachings, and His commands. He came into the world to exemplify His selfless love. Not only did God give us the way, but He showed us the way, and we have the Holy Spirit to guide us along the way.

Here are a few examples of how to be a disciple of Jesus:

  • Be Humble. Jesus sets examples of humility for His disciples. He washes their feet and tells them to model what He has done. Humble yourself enough to walk as Jesus walked. What could be humbler than the God of all of Creation, to be beaten and crucified on a cross, let alone that He even washes man’s feet?
“‘Do you understand what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. 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'” (John 13:12-15).
  • Have Faith. Jesus commanded the disciples to act with faith, and not in fear. They were to have faith that Jesus is God, even over the terrifying circumstances.
“But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, ‘Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?’ And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” (Mark 4:38:40)
  • Trust Him. Peter is an excellent example of trust in this story. He chooses to trust Jesus, to walk towards Him during a tempest on the middle of the sea. As a disciple, Peter chose to be obedient, follow Jesus’ voice, and to go.
“And Peter answered him, ‘Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.’ He said, ‘Come.’ So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus'” (Matthew 14:28-29).
  • Take Courage. As a disciple, persecution, and suffering are inevitable. Jesus calls us to endure for His name until the end. Find courage in the eternal life given by Christ.
“Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake… But the one who endures to the end will be saved”. (Matthew 24:9,13)

How to Disciple

“Only a disciple can make a disciple.”

– A. W. Tozer.

We must follow Jesus’ ways of discipleship. He was not a man who came with words, but with action. To be Christ’s disciple is to take action.  Our life is changed when we have been transformed by Jesus Christ. This transformation from death to life can be shared with others. The life of living for Jesus is spread through our personal testimonies and teachings to those who may not be a disciple.  To break down discipleship more simply, we have interviewed Kenneth E. Ortiz, author of Redefined and Executive Director of New Initiatives at Bethany Global University. Ortiz gave an outline to the workings of discipleship. He also offered a view of discipleship as “Christ-centered friendship”. Remember that there is time invested in your disciple, just as Jesus spent time with His disciples.

9 Steps to the Art of Discipleship by Kenny Ortiz:

  1. Find the greatness in others. 
  2. Spend time with the one you are discipling – “shepherds should smell like sheep”.
  3. Formalize a discipleship relationship with them – keep the relationship strong.
  4. Know that we are all a “discipler” and the “disciplee.” There is no one higher than the other. Jesus is the head, while every other person is the body. So, walk in humility and have a mutual respect for one another.   
  5. Give clear instructions on how this particular disciple fits in with the bigger picture. Help them to better understand God’s calling and their potential in Christ.
  6. Show the disciple ways to be excellent. Reveal areas in need of improvement and keep accountability in their life.
  7. Give encouragement to the disciple. This is an act of love. Jesus even encouraged His disciples, “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16 ESV). 
  8. Give correction. It is loving to give correction through a gentle spirit because, in this way, you are bringing the disciple closer to Christ. “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness…” (Galatians 6:1) 
  9. Challenge the disciple to go make others disciples, by following in Jesus’ footsteps.
Always look for those who have the desire to know Christ. “Teaching them to obey everything I (Jesus) have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:20) is an instruction of how we must disciple. Teach them to obey.  The commands that Jesus gave His disciples, were not only taught but obeyed.

Discipleship: Unity with Christ 

All disciples must have obedience, in all nations. As an obedient disciple, we will produce much fruit. While we will also bring others into a life of discipleship. This offers not only life but life to the fullest. Discipleship is a completion, a unity with the only one who can offer true identity.

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