What discipleship is not

Fellowship, church attendance, meeting up, hangouts, spiritual conversations, reading the Bible together, evangelism, making converts.

What is discipleship?

The intentional process of making disciples of Jesus Christ.

What is a disciple?

  • Matt. 28:19
  • Greek definition: “one who engages in learning through instruction from another, pupil, apprentice”
  • Closest synonyms of “disciple” — Pupil, apprentice, student, follower, learner

Where do we see this idea in Scripture?

  • John The Baptist had disciples
  • Jesus (12; 70; 5000+)
  • Paul — made disciples at Lystra, Iconium, Antioch; Titus, Timothy
  • Elijah —> Elisha

Is discipleship necessary?

  • We need physical, real life examples of how to follow Jesus
  • 1 Cor. 4:16; 1 Cor. 11:1; Phil. 3:17; Phil. 4:9; 1 Thess. 1:6; 2 Thess. 3:7,9; Heb. 6:12; Heb. 13:7; Titus 2:4

Are “Christian” and “disciple” synonymous?

  • At times, and in certain contexts, they are used interchangeably (Acts 11:26)
  • But other times, they are not used interchangeably

Who is qualified to disciple?

  • Two short answers:
    1. A disciple is qualified to disciple
    2. Any Christian is qualified to disciple the lost
  • Longer answer
    • Those who are mature/spiritual/strong
    • Phil. 3:15; Heb. 5:12-6:1; Rom. 15:1; Gal. 6:1
  • Who is mature/spiritual/strong?
    • Not necessarily people who are older/more experienced
    • Should be accessed from the outside
      • By a discipler; Or a Pastor/elder/leader

Who should be discipled?

  • Everyone
  • Maturity/spirituality is not just for a select few Christians
    • Col. 1:28; Eph. 4:13
  • Discipleship is not the Executive Membership, it is Membership

How often should you meet?

  • Ultimate ideal — Parent and child; Roommates
  • Realistic ideal — Once a week
  • Busy ideal — Once every two weeks
  • Not ideal, but better than nothing — Once a month

For how long should you meet?

  • 1 year minimum
  • Ideal — 1-2 years
  • Too long? — Anything over 3 years?
  • How do you know when to stop?
    • The relationship/mentorship always continues
    • But the regular meetups…
      • When they are ready to make disciples themselves
      • The discipleship has plateaued and is not moving anywhere

Does it need to be one on one?

  • No.
  • Jesus had the 3, 12, 70, 5000
  • Paul had — John Mark, Timothy, Titus, Luke, Silas
  • 1 on 2 (no more than 1 on 3)
  • If you are discipling a Christian and a non-Christian, you can merge them together

Who should you disciple?

  • In one sense, everybody
  • Corporate responsibility of discipleship
    • Col. 3:16; Heb. 3:13; Heb. 10:24-25
  • In another sense, 1 or 2 individuals (whether separate or together)
    • It is better to invest in 1 or 2 people deeply, than 3, 4, 5+ people shallowly

Common fears for the discipler

  • I don’t know enough
    • Plenty of free online resources that are solid/robust
  • I’m afraid I will mess them up
    • The Holy Spirit is greater than your mistakes
  • What if they ask me all these questions and I don’t have the answers?
    • Discipleship is not a time for spiritual pride, but humility

Common excuses for the disciple

  • I don’t have time
    • We have time for what we prioritize
  • I already hear sermons, read books, attend church, etc.
    • Why I have never broken 80 in golf — never had a coach
  • I don’t want people prying in my life or judging me
    • 1 John 1:6-7
  • I don’t think I need it
    • Eph. 4:14 — The danger of tides — it carries us away without sensing it


  • Bible study
  • Christian Book study (Supplemental to the Bible)
    • “35 Books Mark Dever Recommends for Discipling Relationships”
    • Q&A
    • Organic life on life (Great for “Evangelistic Discipleship”)
    • Curriculum
      • E.g. http://www.downlinebuilder.com/


  • Is this a sit down, face time, kind of meeting?
    • Yes
  • Should it have rigid, formal structure? Or more laidback, informal structure?
    • Tennis game — do you need to serve more? Return more? Both?


  • The only clarifiers in the Great Commission of how to make disciples are “Baptizing & Teaching”
  • Discipleship is primarily Teaching
1. Teach how to read the Bible
  • If we could only do 1 thing in discipleship, this should be it.
  • Heb. 5:12-14; Rom. 15:14; 2 Tim. 3:15-17
2. Teach how to pray and be intimate with the Lord
  • The Lord’s Prayer; Paul’s Prayers; The Psalms
  • Pray with them
    • Pray for each other, pray for the body, pray to spend time with the Lord
3. Teach how to share the Gospel
  • Make sure they know the Gospel inside and out
  • “News” part of the Gospel (The Content)
  • “Good” part of the Gospel (Do they know why it’s good?)
  • Go and share the Gospel together
4. Teach Orthodoxy
  • Correct belief (Titus 1:9)
  • Create a list of topics
    • E.g. Stewardship, Worship, Holiness, the tongue, Will of God, Perseverance of the saints, Apologetics, how to fight sin
    • Systematically go through this list
  • Teach theological terms
    • E.g. Justification, Propitiation, Sanctification, Glorification, Redemption, Election, predestination, Sovereignty, Trinity, Adoption, Regeneration, Reconciliation
  • Where do I find correct information on these?
    • Wayne Grudem — Systematic Theology — $32
    • Baker Encyclopedia of Bible — $90
    • Trusted Website — Free
      • Gospel Coalition; Desiring God; Ligonier Ministries; 9 Marks
5. Teach Orthopraxy
  • Correct practice (Phil. 4:9)
  • Create a list
    • E.g. Quiet time, Studying the word vs reading the word, Reading Christian books, Memorizing Scripture, loving people, Serving the church, Membership/the body
    • Systematically go through this list
    • Glean truths from the Bible; tell them what you know
  • Maybe serve together?

Ongoing roles/responsibilities

1. Reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching
  • 2 Tim. 4:2
  • When you see something is wrong/sinful or just “off” — Say something
    • Prov. 27:5-6
  • If you sense something is off, gently ask
2. Ask questions
  • Probing, personal questions
  • Jesus asked direct questions
  • Every Christian needs at least one person in their life who knows everything
3. Answer questions
  • Theological questions; Personal questions; Life application questions
  • If you think that a question is above your “pay grade”
    • Ask your Pastor; Consult a book/resource; Consult a trusted website
  • Make sure to ask if the disciple has any questions and/or carve time to ask/answer questions
    • Encourage them to ask questions
    • Write them down in between meetings and bring them to the meetings
  • Don’t get tunnel vision with material/curriculum—be flexible
4. Provide Counsel
  • Proverbs 1:5; 12:15; 15:22; 19:20; 20:18; 27:9
  • Counsel is vital because there are many:
    • Gray issues; Wise/unwise issues; Best/good issues
5. Make judgements
  • Difference between being judgmental and making a judgment
  • 1 Cor. 5:12; John 7:24; Heb. 5:12; 1 Cor. 3:1-3; Matt. 7:3-5:
  • Be slow to make judgements, but not inert
6. Encourage and support
  • Rom. 14:19; 15:1-2; 1 Cor. 14:12; 1 Thess. 5:11:

What I’ve learned from Discipleship — 7 Lessons

1. Speed of Sanctification
  • Two issues:
    1. Everybody has a different speed they think is godly/correct
    2. That speed varies from one sin to another, and from one person to another
  • Sanctification is an intentional slow process by God and therefore both patience and admonishment are needed
  • Heb. 5:12, 6:1; Phil. 3:15:
2. Tensions and paradoxes of Christian life
  • The Christian life is built upon tensions and paradoxes
    • Discipleship must take this into account
    • Help the disciple to understand and balance these paradoxes and tensions
3. Be vulnerable
  • 1 Cor. 2:3
  • Discuss mistakes, struggles, sin, trials
    • Use wisdom, discernment, and discretion (Rom. 14:21)
  • Tension of: Pedestal discipleship vs. Broken discipleship
  • Disciples grow by seeing both:
    • Strong, mature, wise, and healthy disciplers depending on God
    • Weak, weary, helpless, and sinful disciplers depending on God
  • Share personal stories and examples
4. Be sensitive to the leading of the Spirit
  • Don’t get tunnel vision with curriculum or agenda
  • Rabbit trails
    • Not all rabbit trails are created equally
  • Extended time in prayer?
  • Sharing the Gospel with a stranger
5. Ask questions, listen, remember, and follow up
  • Ask personal, probing, direct questions
  • Listen and listen to the details
  • Remember what was said
    • If you need to take notes, take notes
  • Follow Up
6. Be flexible, not hypermobile
7. Share your life, not just discipleship hour
  • 1 Thess. 2:8