If you think about how the first disciples lived with Christ and received first-hand gems of truth from his teachings, you can't help but sense that there was excitement and inspiration in this. But today, if you mention the word "discipleship," you'll probably get an odd look. A Barna Polls shows that biblical illiteracy is rising in the US and there is little interest in spiritual truth and evangelism. And so questions arise: Is Christian discipleship still valid? And why isn't there more of it?
Today, the word "disciple" is bound to get more Google hits for a heavy metal rock band or a clothing company than as a spiritual subject. But the etymology and root basis of "disciple" is based on the New Testament biblical disciples of Jesus Christ: “Biblical borrowing from Latin discipulus "pupil, student, follower," said to be from discere "to learn"...”
Discipleship is marked as one of the most important subjects of Christ's message. But what exactly it consists of and how it fits into today's life style is widely interpreted. I'd like to offer five Bible verses that highlight the nature of Christian discipleship and how it applies today. And I'd also like to address the question as to why it's an unpopular subject, even for true believers of the Christian Church at large. The fact is, discipleship was taught as a central message by Christ, who taught it as a cyclical process that was meant to be repeated.
The same Creator that gave us the four seasons, began the spiritual cycle of discipleship reproduction. In one way or another, all Christians today are a result of Christ teaching the first disciples and the disciples continuing to teach others in a cycle of teaching that continues from one generation to the next, all based upon the original word of God. Christ taught that the word of God is spiritual "seed" that is sown and bears fruit. This original "heirloom seed" of the word of God remains powerful and fruitful through each generation. God calls people to sow this pure seed, to help see it mature in discipleship, and then to help others resow it again. I've listed some points as Five "R's" of Christian Discipleship that can help to identify aspects of this process, not to be confused with the Five R's of Ecology, the Five Rs of Running Recovery, or Five-R Muscle Coaches...
The same Creator that gave us the four seasons, began the spiritual cycle of discipleship reproduction.
Five “R's” of the Cycle of Christian Discipleship...
RESPOND to Christ's calling, through Christ's fellowship, and for Christ's purpose: "He appointed twelve (designating them apostles), that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach." (Mark 3:14 NIV)
REJECT the idolatry of worldly things for the higher cause of God's pleasure and glory: "Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it." (Luke 9:23-24 NIV)
RENEW your strength and mind and in the Spirit and wisdom of God, as based on spending time with Christ and learning of him: “When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.” (Acts 4:13 NIV)
REFLECT God's love, as demonstrated by love among fellow believers and followers of Christ: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35 NIV)
REPEAT the process, as a basis of spreading the gospel. Jesus called on believers to pray that he would send out laborers into his harvest (Matthew 9.38), and his call to reproduce disciples is know as The Great Commission: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19 NIV)
The subject of Christian discipleship confronts us with a noble calling that is much larger than ourselves and much greater than our own personal goals and sense of fulfillment, because the subject of discipleship centers on God's will and God's great pleasure of seeing lost souls come to know eternal life with God, and by using weak vessels of clay like us.
I think that it's important to emphasize that we are following Christ above all, not men or organizations. The Apostle Paul emphasized: "When one of you says, "I am a follower of Paul," and another says, "I follow Apollos," aren't you acting just like people of the world?" (1 Corinthians 3:4 NLT). And I believe that it's also important to clarify that discipleship is not required for salvation, which is the essence of a doctrine called "Lordship Salvation" (LS), and this offers an un-scriptural "works-based" view of salvation.
To summarize Christian discipleship in one sentence:
Christian discipleship is a cycle initiated by Christ, based on a commitment to fellowship with Christ and to follow Christ through the cross and to the harvest, as we intentionally help others to know, follow and teach about Christ, all the while depending on the power, guidance and wisdom of God, as imparted by the Holy Spirit.
Why is Christian discipleship unpopular in the Christian Church today?
I believe that there are many reasons why Christian discipleship is unpopular. One of the top reasons is that present culture increasingly vilifies Christian values and priorities, and so Christians are swayed by the opinions of peers and media and pressured to be silent and passive, not proactive. This can be defined as a culture war and also as a spiritual war that is behind the scenes of the culture war. Ephesians 6:12 outlines: "For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places." (NIV). Besetting sins, the flesh, the world and Satan, also obstruct progress. Seminaries today are subjectively redefining sin and increasingly producing priests and pastors that do not even believe that much of the Bible is true and relevant. A poll by Barna shows that biblical literacy and motivation for following spiritual principles are on the decrease in the US.
Physical "face time" is lacking today in society, simply spending time together, something that has been considered a basis of discipleship. Another reason is simply a lack of time. Though we have more gadgets that save us time in society, people are increasingly in survival mode, struggling economically, spending more time working just to pay rent, buy food and to pay bills. Despite all of these challenges, I personally believe that the Church, myself included, should try to make discipleship easier and pray for creative solutions in order to fulfill Christ's mandate of The Great Commission. And I'd like add this: Be encouraged that Monsanto can never corrupt and hijack the powerful seed of scripture.
Do you consider discipleship something that is important for the Church today?
Are my priorities in keeping with the higher priority that Jesus outlined in "The Great Commission" of making disciples?
Am I intentionally helping to disciple anyone else in the power of the Holy Spirit?
Core Essentials of The Christian Faith
Shocker: Paul Preached the Power of the Gospel as the Main Message
Tags: Bible verses about discipleship, define disciple, define discipleship, definition, Five “R's” of Discipleship, what is Great Commission? Disciple heavy metal, Blind Disciple clothes, Five R's of recycling and ecology, Five-R Muscle Coaches, cycle of discipleship