Why is Discipleship Important?
Jesus is Lord. He has supremacy over everything. When God unites us to Jesus, He becomes our life and identity (Rom. 6.1-13; Gal. 2.20); union with Christ is the essence of our salvation our formation and our spiritual inheritance. The growth of the church follows this same pattern: local churches win people to Christ and form them to be disciples; the disciples can win those within their own circles of relationships (i.e., families, friends, and associates). In time, these new converts can be equipped to live as disciples as well (1 Thess. 1.1-6; Acts 16.1-31).
This is the first reason discipleship is so critically important. God has called local churches to equip their members to be Kingdom agents who make disciples in every community where they gather and serve.
Secondly, discipleship preserves the fruit of evangelism and ministry. God does not call his church to simply do good works or merely tell others of the Gospel; rather, God desires believers to become fully mature children of God— “little Christs,” as one commentator put it— to be conformed to the image of Christ in character, conduct, relationships, and life. Without discipleship, new believers are subject to false teaching, division, and immaturity.
When local churches equip new and immature Christians to live the Christian life in community, they ensure that they can grow up to fullness in Christ (Eph. 4.11-15). God’s purpose is to conform all who believe to Christ’s pattern of holiness (Rom. 8.28; 2 Cor. 3.18)
Thirdly, discipleship recognizes and actualizes the calling and gifting of every Christian. The Holy Spirit has endowed each disciple with unique gifts, callings, and opportunities to live effectively for the Kingdom (1 Cor. 12.1-27; 1 Pet. 4.9-10; Rom. 12.1-8; Eph. 4.11-15). Regardless of background or history, God has empowered each believer to fulfill their own unique calling and ministry in the Gospel!
Discipleship in a local church empowers a growing Christian to discover their gifts, find opportunities to use them, and minister within their own circles, with God’s anointing. Through membership and participation in a local church, a growing disciple may discover their unique calling and gifting to build up Christ’s body (1 Cor. 12.1-7). All the resources of the local assembly—its leaders, programs, resources, and prayers—can enable the believer to grow to maturity in Christ.
These reasons underscore why we are passionate about the local church. Christ commands his church to go and make disciples of all nations (Matt. 28.18-20). If healthy churches are planted in communities of poverty, disciples will be multiplied, and neighborhoods will be transformed.