Discipleship: You’re Invited
The phone rang. A woman from our youth ministry was calling, and she got straight to the point. “We wonder if you would consider joining high school staff to lead a girls’ small group?” Well, my first thought was, why are they asking a boy mom to lead a group of girls? I did not know girls, and that whole prospect was frightening. Secondly, all those girls were being raised in Christian homes and attended Christian schools. What did I have to offer when they already had so much spiritual wealth in their lives? I would soon discover the one-word answer: More.
And it didn’t take long for me to want more. More of that. More of pouring spiritual truths into the lives of others. More of watching the Spirit of Christ change others more into His likeness, and more of changing me right along with them. More of the sacred process of discipleship.
Simply stated, discipleship is following the teaching of someone, being a pupil of someone. What makes discipleship sacred in the church is the Who our someone is. We have been completely reborn by the unmerited favor of God, but how do we be this new person we have become (2 Corinthians 5:17)? This is the point and purpose of discipleship. We embark on a lifelong journey of discovering, in part, who Christ is in all his divine righteousness, how to love him, how to live for him.
Maybe you are thinking, Great, sign me up! Here’s the thing. You are already signed up. As a follower of Christ, discipleship began for you immediately. We mistakenly presume that the church reserves discipleship for the most experienced, highly educated Christians to teach us all we need to know. There is a need for pastors and Bible study teachers, to be sure. But there’s more. Discipleship becomes a lifestyle for the born-again Christian, an exciting new normal that never ends. Each believer is a link up and down the chain of ongoing discipleship.
Here are a few principles to help you see that a heart for discipleship is in all of us, and it’s not as complicated as you might think.
1️⃣ Personal desire. The apostle Peter wrote, “Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation” (1 Peter 2:2). The point of this verse is our desire, the longing God himself has placed in us. That longing is fulfilled, and we grow in Christ by feasting on Scripture. Jesus promised, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” (Matthew 5:6) Grudem put it this way: “To drink the milk of the Word is to ‘taste’ again and again what he is like, for in the hearing of the Lord’s words believers experience the joy of fellowship with the Lord himself.” Each one of us must feed our hunger for Christ by the Word of God and help others do the same.
2️⃣ Personal holiness. The apostle Paul wrote, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 11:1) Paul wasn’t telling the church in Corinth to reproduce little Paul’s. I can hear his objection, “May it never be!” No, imperfect Paul modeled the perfect Christ. Several of the New Testament epistles were written to explain salvation and describe our new spiritual realities (i.e., Ephesians 1). One of those amazing realities is that “as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct” (1 Peter 1:15). Each one of us must be examples of Christ and help others do the same.
3️⃣ Personal involvement in the lives of others. We are saved into a personal relationship with Christ, but it is not meant to be private. No, we have been designed for community. God imparts His love to us, and we move toward people with it to see needs and meet them. 1 Corinthians 13 tells us what love is and is not, what love does and does not do. God’s love must flow through us. We are weeping with those who weep — rejoicing with those who rejoice. Visiting the sick and serving the elderly, praying for each other. These are moments of discipleship in action. Each one of us must invest in the spiritual lives of others and help others do the same.
At our first meeting, that group of high school girls sat before me with ready bibles, pens and journals, and hearts very eager to learn more about their Savior and how to follow him. It was easy to give them more because they wanted more.
Where are you in the chain of discipleship? Do you want more of Christ? Do you imitate Christ more and more, pointing others to him? Do you have more of Christ to pour into the lives of others who are hungry for it? Allow God’s love to flow through you in giving and receiving sacred discipleship.