Discipleship is central to Christianity. In the words of my friend, Dave Hardy, “We are either making disciples, or we are making concessions.”
Christ calls us to be His disciples, and then He commands us to disciple others. This is the core of who we are (disciples), and it is the heart of what we are to do (make disciples). It is our identity and our job description.
Yet, discipleship and discipling too easily becomes a sideline. Nothing that requires as much effort as being a disciple or making disciples stays on course naturally. By default, it veers, and when it does, our walk with God and our ministries suffer. Without discipleship—true, sold-out-for-God discipleship—we are simply making concessions.
I have too many times seen God-blessed, people-reaching, life-changing, community-impacting churches that were built through discipleship—through reaching new converts and teaching them to live wholly for God—deteriorate because leaders got sidetracked from this core mission.
In the spiritual warfare in which we as Christians are engaged, we have two choices—discipleship or apathy. Discipleship leads to growth; apathy leads to concessions.
How do we stay actively engaged in making disciples?
Be a Disciple
Discipling others begins with being a disciple of Christ ourselves. Discipleship isn’t just what we do; it is who we are.
And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.—Luke 9:23
We cannot (and will not) disciple others if we are not first discipling ourselves. This involves developing the personal disciplines that keep us passionate and faithful in seeking the Lord, being yielded to the Holy Spirit, and personally following Christ.
Personal discipleship isn’t a once-per-week meeting with a young Christian. It is a way of life for every Christian who is seriously following Christ. If you have not first committed to be a disciple, you will not be consistent or effective in making disciples.
And yet, if you are a disciple, you will be engaged in following Christ’s instructions to make disciples.
Making disciples starts with leading souls to Christ. If you are passionate about discipleship, you must first be passionate about soulwinning. Are you reaching people with the gospel? It all starts here.
But it doesn’t end here. Making disciples requires that we teach new converts to love God and to wholly follow Christ. It’s a process of leading young Christians in steps of growth, teaching them to completely surrender every area of their heart and lives to Christ, and helping them personally apply His truth to their daily living.
This process is the core of local church ministry. It is the very heart of the Great Commission:
Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.—Matthew 28:19–20
Churches grow where there are growing Christians who passionately love God and are learning the joy of following Him in every area of life.
Every true disciple of Christ will be personally engaged in discipling others. Even if you are not part of the “discipleship ministry” of your church, you will purposefully build relationships with and invest in young Christians—strengthening their faith and encouraging their spiritual growth.
This is essential. If we are not doing this, we will begin a downward spiral of selfishness and apathy. Ultimately we will wither and die.
Discipleship requires courage, faith, vision, and passion. It requires a man or woman who is committed to following Christ no matter the cost. And these kinds of Christians will actively and personally disciple new Christians to develop the same heart.
We are either making disciples, or we are making concessions.
Which are you making?