Over the last half-century or so there has been a developing interest in the idea of discipleship in the American church. The purpose of this article is to define the concept of discipleship and discuss some of its inherent dangers. The article begins first with a brief analysis of the background of the concept of discipleship in both the Greek and Jewish worlds. We move from there to the concept of a disciple in the NT and in particular the distinctive nature of the discipleship taught by Jesus Christ. The article will conclude with a brief discussion of some of the dangers of discipleship as they are connected to the issue of authority.
1. What is the background to the idea and meaning of discipleship?
2. Describe discipleship in the NT. In the Old Testament.
3. Discuss Jesus’ method of discipleship. What are some aspects of it?
4. What are some dangers inherent in the discipleship process?
5. Develop your own definition of what a disciple is. Think about such things as salvation and obedience to Christ, learning Scripture, prayer, and service to others.
The people we think would make good disciples are not always the ones the Lord thinks will make good disciples. The men the Lord chose as his disciples were certainly not the brightest, most wealthy, nor were they the most influential group in their communities. They were young, middle class Galileans—a diverse group without any formal, theological training. This is a real critique regarding some of our attitudes about the kind of people we think will make good disciples. We don’t want to discourage the wealthy from becoming Christ’s disciples, but we shouldn’t think that just because a person does well in business, they will necessarily make good disciples of Christ. These are some of the issues we need to give serious thought to. And, finally, the article ends with a discussion of the process of discipleship and the relevance of NT discipleship for today, including ideas of lifelong service and the sequence of discipleship.
1. What do you think about the kind of people Jesus chose as his disciples?
2. Is being well educated a hindrance to being a disciple of Christ? Why? Why not? How does the fact that a disciple is supposed to be a learner comport with this idea that to be a Christian you have to “check your brain out at the door,” so to speak?
3. Describe the process of NT discipleship.
This article, as the title implies, is centered around two aspects of discipleship, namely, its requirements and rewards. The requirements of discipleship include putting Christ first, valuing him above life itself, and certainly above all our material possessions. In short, the true disciple is the one who has learned to die to himself/herself, take up their cross daily, and follow the Lord. But the rewards for such a person are great. First, they will experience the presence and gentleness of the Lord. Second, God will never ask them to do anything that his grace cannot achieve through them. Third, committed disciples have the opportunity to know the Lord better because he reveals his innermost thoughts to such as these.
1. What does it mean to put Christ first in your life?
2. What is the proper relationship between Christ and ourselves and our material possessions?
3. What is the relationship between God’s grace and the process of discipleship?
4. What are the rewards for the person who draws near to God in the process of obedience (i.e., discipleship)?
5. What areas of your Christian experience (mind, emotions, will, relationships) need to be brought under the Lordship of Jesus Christ in terms of discipleship? Give careful thought and extended prayer before you answer.