For a while, the word discipleship was a buzzword in many religious and spiritual circles. The religious ones spun the term to mean the implementation of ritual and religious habits. Their emphasis was on discipline and training. The spiritual ones reinterpreted discipleship to mean following the esoteric Jesus of history. Recast as a hippie vagabond life, discipleship meant being free from theory and theology but obsessed, instead, with an esoteric and mystical quest for fulfillment.
In reality, discipleship simply means to follow Jesus. Though this may sound simplistic and derivative, it incorporates more than the Christian cliché of “following Him.” It does retain some discipline and training as well as spiritual fulfillment. But biblical discipleship transcends popular church programs and trendy curricula. Relevant to His disciples today more than ever, discipleship at the core is about Christ’s teachings, Christ’s way of living, and an organic relationship with Jesus.
This quarter will look at different foundations for discipleship. We will address the instruments of discipleship, the goal of discipleship, the power of discipleship, the process of discipleship, the venue for discipleship, and the attitude of discipleship. Because discipleship is about all of these—relationships, the devotional life, spiritual development, and the life of the church—only a comprehensive study could be effective.
Before starting the study, we must establish some presuppositions. First, the Bible is the source of this ongoing process of discipleship. The process is ongoing because we never quit the discipleship course; its dynamicity causes us to grow perpetually, and our maturation is continual for eternity. And this spiritual growth takes its cue from within the Word of God.
Second, the study seeks to address a large problem in the church: many are leaving. While many may quote the lack of love or the problem of particular doctrines (or even the concept of doctrine itself) as reasons for leaving, this study argues that the exodus is caused by a lack of personal “real” time with God. Therefore, discipleship is seen as the answer to nurturing and retaining Christians in the church. Simply stated, each lesson will address how to get back to connecting with the Lord Jesus. Each week’s study adds another part of the picture so that, at the end, we will create a composite picture of biblical discipleship.
The third presupposition is that many leave the church because of stubborn habits that exist in the church. Some of these habits include the mentality that pastors are to conduct evangelism while everyone else is merely a “member.” It is the goal of this study to do away with “member” mentality so that we understand our identity as disciples of Jesus. Other habits will be mentioned throughout the study; it will be advantageous to see whether these habits exist in your church. Prayerfully seek the Lord’s grace in pardon and power to overcome these cultural barriers.
Though the study seeks to be as practical as possible, at the end of the day the study is in fact merely that—a study. Discipleship does not happen by chance. Habits are not changed overnight. Definitions are not reworked in a day. Members do not become self-denying workers by accident. Consumers hardly become producers by nature. Instead of merely trudging through this booklet for three months, take a prayerful attitude to see how real heavenly change can be wrought. The goal of this study guide is to ask the Lord to change our hearts, change our churches, and change the world by His grace.