What is discipleship? How did Jesus make disciples? How can I become a disciple? How can I be a disciple-maker? Why should I prioritise discipleship? How can I be discipled in The Salvation Army?
If you are asking these questions, you are not the only one. In fact, I think you would find many, who are asking the exact same questions. This three-part series of articles contains some insights into discipleship.
“Christianity without discipleship is always Christianity without Christ.”
— Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Four Essential Components Evident in Jesus’ Life and Leadership
Relationship! Relationship! Relationship! Relationship!
[This is the second article of the three-part series on discipleship, written by Colonel Janet Munn]
Mentoring and Role Models
People grow through relationships. Therefore, leadership must be relational for maximum influence.
As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him. While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples.
Jesus chose to be available, accessible and vulnerable to a wide variety of individuals; in one-on-one conversations and interactions. In fact, He was the ultimate mentor.
He taught thousands on hillsides but was superb in one-on-one situations. He invested in the individual – regardless of age, status, gender – from the rich young ruler to the Samaritan woman to Nicodemus the Pharisee to the haemorrhaging woman to the thief on the cross.
Jesus also deeply invested in the three among the twelve disciples – Peter, James and John – with whom there are more recorded mentoring dialogues in the gospels than any other individuals.
Consider the impact of these three on following through on the Great Commission.
Small Group Participation
People grow through participation in a small group community of like-minded people, who share a common passion. In a small group there is vulnerability and acceptance and a chance to give and receive prayer
Jesus and his twelve disciples can be seen as a small group:
Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them. (Matthew 5:1-2)
Jesus’ primary model for disciple-making was that of a small group, the twelve. That was the context he used for investing deeply in developing the first generation of Christian disciples. Jesus certainly had alone time, sought out solitude to pray and commune with God, but he developed disciples in community.
Jesus chose to be a member of a small group. In fact, He was the ultimate small-group leader. He taught thousands on hillsides and was superb in one-on-one situations, but when it came time to pour His life into the people He knew would be the most critical to the spread of the gospel, He chose to invest a huge portion of His time and discipling efforts into the lives of just twelve (young) people.
In other words, the incarnate Son of God began his strategy to reach the world with the love of God by starting a ragtag youth group.
Personal Spiritual Ministry
– giving and receiving personal ministry (i.e. prayer ministry, preaching/teaching, etc.)
People grow through giving and receiving personal ministry:
Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him. (John 13:1-5)
Jesus chose to not only give but also receive personal ministry. In fact, He was the ultimate in ministering through prayer and Scripture. He integrated Scripture and prayer into his lifestyle and relationships. He preached and taught the Word to large and small groups, as well as to individuals. He drove out demons and healed the sick. In Jesus’ own time of need, as he approached the crucifixion, he requested prayer for himself from his friends. He received the ministry of the “sinful woman” as she anointed him “for burial” and blessed her for it.
People grow by going out in mission together:
When Jesus had called the Twelve together, he gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal the sick.
Jesus was a missional man. In fact, He was the ultimate missionary. He taught his disciples to be and to do the same. When the popular thing to do was to respond to the demands of the multitudes, Jesus remained clear on his life’s mission and “steadfastly set his face” toward the cross – his mission focus. (Luke 9:51)
All Four Necessary
All four discipleship components mentioned in this article are necessary for maximum effectiveness in growing disciples into maturity in Christ – giving evidence of holy living and perseverance long term.
Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children. Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. (Ephesians 5:1-2)
For Personal Reflection
Go through these questions and consider your own journey in a life of discipleship.
- Who was or is your mentor? Someone who influenced you personally for the better, as a significant formational influence in your life in Christ.
- Mentoring – Who are you currently mentoring? What young person are you influencing and investing in now?
B. Small Groups
- What small group community impacted your life significantly?
- What small group are you now part of that continues to nourish your soul?
C. Personal Spiritual Ministry
- Describe an experience when you received significant benefit from a ministry time such as – a sermon, someone praying for you in person, an encounter with the Lord, or a revelation – that changed your spiritual journey.
- How do you approach ministry to others? How do you lead ministry times in prayer these days?
D. Mission Opportunities
- What mission experience changed you spiritually?
- What are the mission opportunities currently available to you that strengthen your life in Christ?
[In the third and last article we will explore how discipleship is unfolded in The Salvation Army.]
Colonel Janet Munn
Download a PDF version of the article here