I LOVE leadership material. Leadership books, leadership podcasts, leadership conversations, leadership workshops, leadership conferences … leadership, leadership, leadership. I. Love. It.
I couldn’t be happier that God has led the church into so much content and teaching regarding leadership. I think Christians should be the greatest leaders on the planet because Christ was (and continues to be) the greatest leader.
I don’t think we should decrease our passion for developing world-class leaders, if anything, let’s continue!
However, I do believe in our passion for developing leaders we can lose focus on our mission to make disciples.
Quick disclaimer – I am not creating a false dichotomy where you have to pick one or the other. This isn’t an issue of “either/or” but “both/and.” I also don’t think developing leaders and making disciples are necessarily the same. While there is a lot of overlap, I believe there are distinctions.
My prayer is that this would weigh your appetite not to abandon leadership content, but to consume just as much discipleship content additionally.
What Is A Disciple
A disciple generally speaking is a student (or pupil) of a teacher. The idea isn’t just someone learning a specific subject from someone (like you would learn math from a math teacher), it’s about becoming an imitator of the teacher in everything. They become a flesh-and-blood role model for their lives in every area.
In Christianity, a disciple is any believer in Christ. We often differentiate between a “convert” and a “disciple.” We talk about how a “convert” is one who believes in Jesus, and a disciple is someone who has devoted themselves to the regular work of becoming more like Christ. As much as I “understand” this distinction, it can, unfortunately, be misleading. Every Christian is a disciple of Christ. The question isn’t, is a Christian a disciple but are they a good disciple of Christ. Just like at your school, everyone enrolled is a student – regardless if you have an A in a class or an F- if you’re enrolled, you’re a student.
If you claim to be a follower of Christ, you are a disciple of Christ.
The question is are you passing the class or failing the class. It’s important to make this distinction because if we don’t then people can almost excuse themselves for not being a disciple. If I can be a convert but not be a disciple, then I’ll coast there. But if being a convert means I am a disciple, it puts responsibility in my court to take it seriously.
What is Discipleship
Discipleship is reproducing the Christ in you (not the “you” in you) in another so that they can reproduce the Christ in them in another. You can only form Christ in someone to the degree Christ is forming in you. That means your effectiveness in discipleship is directly connected to your effectiveness in pursuing discipleship yourself.
Discipleship is not “a deeper Bible study,” it’s “Christ-centered multiplication.” Discipleship isn’t sitting down at a coffee shop with someone for one hour for one-on-one time. It may include that, but that’s not the totality of what it is.
Discipleship is “baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey all [He] has commanded [you].”
There is even sometimes a false dichotomy communicated with discipleship and evangelism. Making a disciple isn’t just teaching a believer deeper spiritual truths. Discipleship includes a lost person becoming saved. So if you led a lost friend into saving faith with Christ, you just made a disciple. They certainly aren’t a mature fully formed disciple, but in every shape and form, they are a disciple of Christ. Discipleship includes the work of evangelism and training people to evangelize.
Marks of a Disciple
∙ Consistent Devotion Life
∙ Planted in the community of the Local Church
∙ Submitted to Spiritual Authority within that Local Church
∙ Financial Generosity
∙ Progressive Sanctification
∙ Regular Rhythm of Bible Study
∙ A lifestyle of Confession and Repentance
∙ Servant’s Heart and Hands
∙ Spirit-filled Life
∙ Missional Lifestyle
What Should a Disciple Know?
∙ God’s Love
∙ How to Read the Bible
∙ How to Pray
∙ How to Evangelize
∙ How to grow in godly character
∙ Their spiritual gift and authority
∙ Foundational Doctrine
∙ Foundational Theology
Why Should I Make Disciples
“And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and 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
Verse 19 says, “Go therefore and make disciples…” The, therefore, communicates that the statement prior (verse 18) is the cause for the statement present (verse 19.) In other words – verse 18 is the cause, and verse 19 is the effect.
You should make disciples because all authority in heaven and on earth belongs to Jesus.
Jesus’ authority speaks of two things: our submission to Him and His commission to us.
Our Submission To Him
Jesus has authority over our lives. When we explicitly say, “He is Lord,” we implicitly say, “I am not.” We are submitted to Him. He doesn’t command us to get jobs, get married, get an education, get success, get money, get a family, get a house, etc. but for many of us, that becomes the pursuit. Culture commands us to get those things – Christ commands us to make disciples. If you’re going to get those things and not going to make disciples – you are not submitted to Jesus. He is not your Lord.
His Commission Of Us
Jesus gives authority over our lives. I can’t pull a car over on the highway. It’s not because I’m not smart enough, strong enough, old enough, tall enough, experienced enough, etc. It’s because I haven’t been given the authority to do so by the law. That authority must be conferred onto a citizen by a higher authority. Jesus is the higher authority that confers on us the authority to make disciples. You’ve been commissioned. You’re not stepping out in your authority you’re stepping out in His authority.
A discipleship-less life is a life that doesn’t understand and/or observe the authority of Christ.
It is vital that we work to make sure our leaders of disciples of Christ because they will be disciples of something or someone. Discipleship isn’t optional, and it’s happening every moment in the life of every person.
Creating A Discipleship Culture
A discipleship culture happens at the intersection of community and challenge. Mark 3:14 says Jesus called His disciples to be with him and to send them out to preach challenge.
Community is inviting a select group of people to do life with you. It’s to see a movie together, go grocery shopping, hang out at a coffee shop, etc. This is like being a nurturing parent – caring for them. It’s these moments that show the disciple you love them for who they are.
Challenge is challenging a select group of people to grow in their faith. It’s to correct wrong attitudes and behaviors, encouraging them to share their faith, asking them have they been consistent in their devotion life, seeing what sins they’ve been struggling with, etc. This is like being an exhorting parent – coaching them. It’s these moments that show the disciple you believe in who God has called them to be.
If the culture of your discipleship is only “community,” you’ll create comfortable and complacent followers. If the culture of your discipleship is only “challenge,” you’ll create performance and legalistic followers. If the culture of your discipleship has both you’ll create loving and committed followers.
There is much to say about discipleship systems and methods, but all of that is relative to your church rhythms. Honestly, there is no perfect “method” and no perfect “system.” What’s more important is creating a discipleship culture which is why I’ll leave you with the above.
May we continue to raise the greatest generation of leaders this world has ever seen.
And may they all be mature disciples.
Young Adults Pastor