What does “discipleship” really mean?

discipleship,christianity,faithI recently attended a seminar called “D21”, short for “Discipleship for the 21st Century”.  I really didn’t know what to expect but I decided it would be a good thing to go and learn all that I could.

There were 5 different classes offered.  After a brief introduction in the main sanctuary we all chose a class to attend for the evening based on what was most relevant to us.  I chose the “Simple Discipleship” course which was aimed at small group bible study and Sunday School teachers who were looking to learn more about discipleship.

Over the course of about 2 hours we discussed the state of discipleship in our modern churches (more on that in a minute) and then focused on a few very easy questions and methods that literally anyone can use to help someone else in their walk with Christ.  Stories were shared.  Ideas were verbalized.  Real love and real prayer for one another occurred in that classroom before it was all said and done and it was a great experience that I hope I never forget.

But let’s back up for a second.  What, in its purest form, is discipleship?  Simply put, it is one individual sharing of themselves with another individual for the cause of Christ.  We simply need to tell of God’s great mercy and provision in our own lives and then ask what God is doing in their life.  It doesn’t require programs.  It doesn’t require literature.  It doesn’t even require education or training.

Don’t believe me?  Go check out Mark 5: 1-20.  This is the passage of scripture our teacher for the evening opened up with and it gives a powerful example.  It tells the story of a demon possessed man who accosted Jesus almost as soon as he got out his boat in a region called the Gerasenes.  If you know the story then you know that the man was in a bad way and no one could restrain him and he spent his days by wailing and shouting and hurting himself with stones.  Jesus healed the man and set him free from his demonic possession and the man wanted to stay with Jesus and worship Him.

But Jesus didn’t let him.  Jesus said in verse 19 “Go home to your people and report to them what great things the Lord has done for you, and how He had mercy on you.”  Jesus was asking him to become a disciple and a witness and to tell his story of redemption and freedom.  The really important part is this: How much discipleship training had this man had? (zero)  How many days had this man spent in church and Bible study?(zero)  How much time had passed since he became a believer before the Lord asked him to go? (not very much)

What this man had was a powerful encounter with Lord Jesus Christ that forever changed his life.

Right now, today, we have even more than that man had.  We have the living Holy Spirit who, if we allow Him, moves and works in our lives.  We also have our own individual stories of how the Lord saved us and called us out of darkness and we need to share them with each other as a way of strengthening and encouraging other believers.

And to show you an example of how God works, I recorded Monday’s video blog that Thursday morning.  At the close of that blog I talked about how we need to share what God is doing in our lives because it shows us a fuller picture of God’s great love and is so very encouraging.  Thursday evening I went to the discipleship seminar and what did we end up talking about?  We talked about sharpening each other spiritually by sharing what God was doing in our lives!

Do you think God is trying to tell me (and us) something?

Now ask yourself, how much of this type of simple discipleship is going on in your church.  How much of this type of simple discipleship are you personally involved in?  And, if the answer to either question is “not very much” or “not any” then where do you start?

What this type of simple discipleship requires is relationship, connection and trust.  It requires getting to know someone a little bit by making an effort to be friendly, helpful and concerned.  It requires us asking questions about another person’s well being and actually being interested in what they say.  It also requires that we open up about what’s going on in our lives.  And then, as we begin to forge connections with those around us we are given the opportunity to share Christ; with another believer for edification and with an unbeliever for salvation.

So, I have a challenge for you and for me.  The challenge is this: Ask someone how it’s going with them spiritually.  And then be ready to follow up if they don’t have an answer to that question or if their answer is not a good one.  Start with someone you already know well, like your spouse or a close friend and work from there.  Take small steps towards sharing the God that is alive in your life and and I guarantee that God will bless your effort.

So, are you ready to start practicing simple discipleship?



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