It is my goal with this article to explain why discipleship is a vital factor for the church and ministry. To do this discipleship must first be explained, and then put into the context of ministry and the church.
Instead of a definition a few examples may better explain. A disciple is a person who is becoming spiritually mature, a person who cares for the lost, does life with others and builds relationships, knows what righteousness is, worships God with resources and energy, and is a witness for Christ in every way . In other words, a disciple is someone who is committed to Christ and is committed to a deeper walk, and teaching others what it means to be a Christian. This is precisely what the Great Commission is all about. Jesus said in Matthew 28:18-20 states, “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 close of the age .”
I have attended many churches across this great country and the ones that are struggling seem to have something is common. They are great at getting commitments for Christ, but they are not following up with discipleship. Eventually, these new believers hit roadblocks in their faith and since they have never been taught the faith they assume it wasn’t the real deal. Getting commitments is fantastic and is something we need to do, but if we build disciples we will mentor believers into soul winners. They will know the faith, be on fire for it, have a strong relationship with Jesus, not be afraid to take someone under their wing, and our churches will thrive. This is the true essence of ministry! As David Platt writes, “All Jesus wanted was a few good men who would think as he did, love as he did, see as he did, and serve as he did. All he needed was to revolutionize the hearts of a few, and they would impact the world .” How are our ministries having this impact? Discipleship allows Jesus to transform our ministries and help the Gospel spread like wildfire.
I spent the last couple paragraphs discussing how discipleship is a vital part of ministry. I will now describe how it is also a vital part of the local church, and in truth I touched on it a little already. To be blunt, discipleship is the key to church growth. Our pastors are awesome, but they are only one person and can only do so much. Burnout is a real threat and kills ministry careers on a daily basis. Discipleship empowers believers to not only share the Gospel, but to give others the tools to live the faith. This has the effect of getting the gospel on the street and therefore, more in attendance. It is a cycle that keeps giving our church new members and more disciples. Where there is a good discipleship program that is where a healthy church is going to be. We must keep the words of Christ in mind from John 15:1-2 which states, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch of mine that bears no fruit, he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit .” This fruit that Jesus speaks of can only grow from a life of discipleship, and that life starts in the local church. It is a slow process, but it is a process that we are called to do. The local church has a responsibility to the believer and in the end the local church will be repaid with the talents of the fruitful disciple. In regards to discipleship, I will leave you with the words of the early 20th-century theologian and martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer. In regards to discipleship he wrote, “Discipleship is a commitment to Christ. Because Christ exists, he must be followed…. Discipleship without Jesus Christ is choosing one’s own path. It could be an ideal path or a martyr’s path, but it is without promise. Jesus will reject it .” Discipleship is the key to a successful ministry and to a successful local church. Let us do a little self-reflection. Have we been treating discipleship as the priority it needs to be?
God bless you friends.
Bonhoeffer, Dietrich. Discipleship. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2003.
John 15:1-2 (Revised Standard Version).
Matthew 28:18-20 (Revised Standard Version).
Platt, David. Radical. Colorado Springs, CO: Multnomah Books, 2010.
Putnam, Jim, and Bobby Harrington With Robert Coleman. Discipleshift. Grand Rapids, MICHIGAN: Zondervan, 2013.