What discipleship is and isn’t – Becoming Disciplemakers, Part 1

In our study through the Gospel of John, we have seen Jesus interact with his disciples. Their relationship began in chapter 1 when Jesus showed up to be baptized by John.  Then the disciples watch him at the wedding in Cana in chapter 2.  They’re with him when he clears out the temple.  In chapters 3 and 4 Jesus begins a baptism ministry in Judea, and he has his disciples do the baptizing. 

But just as ministry is going great, to avoid the watchful gaze of the Pharisees, they pack up and head north to their home area of Galilee, but not before a pit stop in Samaria.  Jesus’ decision to talk with a Samaritan woman surprises his disciples, because in their culture a Rabbi would rarely talk with a woman in public, and especially not a Samaritan.  This gives Jesus an opportunity to discuss ministry and mission with his disciples.  As we continue studying John, we’re going to observe even more about Jesus in his role as disciplemaker. 

That is what I want to talk about further this week.  Next week begins Advent. So we’ll return to the Gospel of John series in the new year.  As we’re watching Jesus, absorbing how he interacted with his disciples, let’s try to apply his discipleship choices to our lives. 

That begs the questions, though Jesus made disciples, are you and I called to make disciples?  We’re certainly not in the same league as Jesus, right? Well, turn to Matthew 28:16-20.

In this passage, Jesus is just about to leave the disciples and return to his father in heaven.  These are his final instructions for them.  What does he say? 

“Make disciples, teaching them to obey everything I taught you.” 

He had made them into his disciples, and now he wants them to do what he did.  And that’s exactly what they did. 

Another time Jesus hints at this is John 20:19-23,

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord. Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”

Christians are people who are sent by Jesus, just like Jesus was sent by his Father.  God sent Jesus to the earth to die, yes. But that’s not all Jesus was sent to do.  If all he was supposed to do was die, then he could have been born one minute and die the next.  No, his mission was larger.  God sent him to make disciples, to start a movement of disciplemaking.

This is why Jesus needed time.  As we saw in John 4, though he had a thriving ministry in Judea, Jesus packs it up, and along with his disciples, he heads north, away from the headquarters of the Pharisees.  He wants time with his disciples.  He wants to invest in their lives, to teach them the way of the Kingdom.  Jesus was a disciplemaker. 

But here’s the problem, there is much confusion in our day about what disciples are and what discipleship is.  What is discipleship?  What exactly are we talking about when we use the word “discipleship”?  What do you think it is?  Take a moment and write down the words or pictures that come to mind when you think of discipleship.

Is discipleship what an outdoor evangelist does? Think about people who have a bold outward style of evangelism.  They are out on the streets, on college campuses, at major sporting events, holding signs hoping to attract attention of passersby and engage them in conversation.  Many people have thought of that as discipleship.  Many have wondered, “If I have go out on the street corner and tell the crowds about Jesus, then I don’t think I can do that.” 

But what outdoor evangelists do is only one of many options for proclaiming the content of the Gospel. Furthermore, proclaiming content is different from discipleship.  It is part of discipleship, but it does not encompass all of discipleship. 

When you hear Jesus instruct his disciples to “make disciples” he is not referring to what outdoor evangelists does. Proclaiming the content story of Good News is not discipleship.

This brings us back to the question: What is discipleship?

Discipleship is crossing the Matthew 7 line. Do you know the Matthew 7 line? No? We’ll find out about it in the next post.

Photo by Maayan Nemanov on Unsplash

Published by joelkime

I love my wife, Michelle, and our four kids and two daughters-in-law. I serve at Faith Church and love our church family. I teach a course online from time to time, and in my free time I love to read and exercise, especially running,

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