What is Discipleship?
This three-word sentence is the most important confession of the Church through the ages: Jesus is Lord! The Lord Jesus of Nazareth is central to Christian theology, worship, spiritual formation, and ministry outreach. After his resurrection from the dead, Jesus declared his authority over everything. He then said, “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 end of the age” Matthew 28.19–20 (ESV).
At the top of Jesus’ checklist after leaving the tomb was to order his apostles to make disciples of all nations. But what does that mean?
The life and ministry of Christ is both the center and the pattern of the Christian faith. During his earthly ministry, Jesus calls twelve apostles to follow him, and to “be with him and that he might send them out to preach” Mark 3.14 (ESV). Each was called to take up their cross and follow him, to “hate” their own lives, “count the cost,” and flip their priorities (Luke 14.26-33).
They would prove to be his disciples if they loved one another as Christ loved them (John 13.34-35), bore much fruit (in character and ministry) (John 15.8), and held Jesus with supreme allegiance—above family, kin, or nation (Matt. 10.34-39). They would gain everything if they simply gave up all for him alone (John 12.24-26). As these disciples followed their Master daily, they could then equip and train other disciples, who would in turn do the same (2 Tim. 2.2; Luke 6.40).
Shortly after Christ’s ascension, these “disciples” were first called “Christians” in Antioch (Acts 11.26), connecting the two concepts. Throughout church history, believers in Christ have been challenged to be Christ’s disciples in their own generation, being welcomed into a local church, and formed by the Gospel for spiritual maturity and compelling witness. God has granted apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers to equip the members of his body to live as Christ’s disciples where they work and play (Eph. 4.11-15). The local church is the soil in which disciples sprout, mature, and bear fruit for Christ.