the weblog of Alan Knox

I’ll take "Discipleship" for 1000, Alex

Posted by on Apr 30, 2008 in blog links, discipleship | 11 comments

I ran across two excellent articles on discipleship yesterday.

First, Alan from “DownshoreDrift” discusses many of the same concerns that I have about discipleship in a post called “Is it really that hard to know how to follow Jesus? Or why we DON’T really need religious professionals to explain God to us“. He begins with this:

I really think that we spend WAAAAY too much time overcomplicating the spiritual life for people. All around us are people who are really struggling with their personal life, their marriages, their jobs, their children, their future, their investment portfolios, how to spend their free time, what so and so said about them at the ball field the other day, how to decide where to spend vacation this year, exactly what color to paint the kitchen, etc., etc. Life can be really hard! So, as ministers, we develop all kinds of “strategies” to help make life more bearable for the average American Christian.

After discussing the way that he previously tried to teach and organize people into mature Christians, he says:

For some reason, the American Church has become enamored with the corporate world. We have come to believe that discipleship is a “process” that can be manufactured, not unlike an assembly line. If we put a young believer into our series of steps and processes, then a mature disciple of Christ will be produced on the tail end. Fidelity to our training system is equated to fidelity to Christ. I think that we all know that it does not work that way, even though that approach is very appealling and impressive to our modern minds. Discipleship is different for everyone. It has many ups and downs. But, more important than strategies, procedures, steps, manuals, and discipleship wheels, are the simple concepts of faith and obedience. Our problem is that we have been taught a boat load of information on the Christian life, but we only obey a little bit of it. Because we are taught far more than we obey, we begin to believe that obedience is optional. Worse yet, we begin to believe that obedience can be ascertained by giving even more information that might somehow unlock the desire to obey. We have become quite gnostic that way.

He concludes with this:

The spiritual life is not very complicated, but it is very hard because we have to die to ourselves. Unfortunately, it seems that we’d rather write manuals and develop new strategies to organize the works of the flesh, instead of truly placing our faith in Jesus.

These are excellent comments concerning discipleship from someone who has tried “Christian Education” and organized programs.

Similarly, Dave at “” has written an article called “Putting ourselves at a disadvantage?” After discussing the struggles of being a “professional” missionary and all of the expectations that come along with that label, Dave concludes with these four steps for those who find themselves “caught up in the busyness of the ministry” but would like to prioritize discipleship:

  1. Don’t stop preaching discipleship. Our continued involvement and reflection on the theme will continue to motivate us to “practice what we preach.” It will also enable us to explain our inability to fulfill expectations that others may try to place upon us that do not enable disciple-making ministry to take place.
  2. Expand our circle of influence intentionally to include non-Christians. This requires an honest look at our lives in order intentionally create relationships with those who do not know Christ. Are we truly like our Master who was known as a friend of sinners?
  3. Look for opportunities everywhere. Discipleship opportunities can take place over a play-date with the kids or a late night greeting across the street. But we need to look out for them, recognize them for what they are, and utilize them to bring seekers closer to a relationship with their God.
  4. Be in constant prayer. When I prepare for a meeting or a teaching, I can control the elements. I pick the theme, the illustrations, and the length of time that I am going to speak. As a discipler, I don’t have these luxuries. I have to rely on the Holy Spirit for direction and clear insight into the matter at hand. Hearing his voice is only enabled as I practice acknowledging his presence in every moment.

These are two excellent posts about discipleship. Discipleship and education are not the same thing. Similarly, being involved in activities – even “Church activities” – is not the same as being discipled or maturing spiritually.

We need to re-think discipleship.


Comments are closed. If you would like to discuss this post, send an email to alan [at] alanknox [dot] net.

  1. 4-30-2008


    I couldn’t agree more. Discipleship has become a matter of information transfer instead of learning of Jesus. Disciples who are making disciples need to do more than just give people information (although information is obviously necessary). It is pointing others to Jesus and helping them learn to walk with Him. This is more practical and hands on than infomational.

    I love books. But how many books do I need to read about prayer? How many books do I need to read about evangelism? How many books do I need to read about the Bible? What I need to do is pray, share my faith, and meditate upon the glorious truths Scripture! (However, don’t expect me to give up my books just yet!)

    I don’t think a lack of knowledge is my problem as a disciple. I think my problem is knowing (not just knowing about, but really knowing) God and his love, loving Him back and loving others as well. If I spent as much time practicing my walk with God as I do learning about it, I might actually get somewhere.

    P.S. I’m the guy who left the
    “anonymous” comment on your post “Give a Little Bit” that you used on a subsequent post called “When institutions get in the way.” I decided to come out of the shadows and into the light! 🙂

    I love your blog. Keep up the good work.

  2. 4-30-2008

    “We need to re-think discipleship.”

    How very true. My wife and I were talking yesterday about how much time should pass before a disciple becomes a disciple-maker.

    The Scriptures seem to indicate that once a person became a disciple they were expected to be discipling others rather quickly. Days, months, a year or two? Certainly not the five,ten,twenty, or more years most people sit in the pews!

    Dave’s quote of Guy Muse is similar to my own convictions on the matter, “The only way to win/disciple a million in a year is to begin making disciples that make disciples.”

    On-the-job training is most important! Jesus set the pace for us by living day by day WITH A FEW, being an example to them, showing them how,and teaching and explaining as they went.

    To teach, exhort, harangue a congregation regarding the theory of making disciples is about as useful as telling a five year old the theory of build a computer. Tell both to go and do it and the result will be the same.

    Nothing less than quality time, spent in loving person-to-person relationship,DEMONSTRATING how to function as a disciple, and disciple-maker, is the absolute minimum.

    In doing this a leader may not have his ego massaged by standing in front of a large congregation and demonstrating his great learning and skills of rhetoric and oratory, managing the people with the CEO precision of a business corporation, BUT, he WILL multiply the genuine Biblical ministry God’s job description in Ephesians 4 declares.

  3. 4-30-2008


    I’m glad that you decided to identify yourself. I think your previous comment was awesome… and this comment is awesome as well! You’re making many of the same distinctions between discipleship and education that I’m trying to make.

    Aussie John,

    Another excellent comment! Thank you for continuing this discussion.


  4. 4-30-2008

    All I can say to this post is “Amen”.

  5. 4-30-2008


    Thank you! By the way, I hope you have a great day tomorrow!


  6. 5-1-2008

    Thanks, Alan! And thanks for the Facebook message, too. We’ll do most of our celebrating on Sunday because tomorrow (today, now) is my birthday and Dylan’s adoption day (I adopted him two years ago, and it was final on my birthday!) and next Friday (the 9th) is Christy’s birthday. So we’ll celebrate in the middle on the 4th!

  7. 5-1-2008

    So Alan, are you going to write a book about that? 🙂

    Seriously, I think also much of how we see ourselves as disciples has to do with how we are discipled. i.e. the standards we feel we must reach before we become disciplers.

    What Aussie John said about how long it might take to become a discipler is directly related to how effective a discipler we see ourselves as…AND how much responsibility we feel we have.

    So we DON’T look for those opportunities because we don’t see ourselves as being “qualified” to disciple…

    It sounds like I’m rambling, I hope you all get my point. Anyhow, thanks for talking about this. I learned something.

  8. 5-1-2008

    Some great pick ups and thoughts Alan.

  9. 5-1-2008


    Wow! In that case, Happy Family Day!


    Great observation! I think you’re right about people not feeling “qualified” to make disciples. This stems from a misunderstanding about what it means to be a disciple and to make a disciple.


    I agree. They were great posts about discipleship.


  10. 5-1-2008

    I’m a bit behind on reading your blog but this is a subject of great interest to me. Our church is known for it’s disciple making practices. We have no set “program” or series of curriculum by which we guarantee a believer that they’ll grow in their maturity. No 12 step program. We do offer some classes but they are more subject specific rather than being geared toward a church wide goal of discipleship.

    Here’s the “strategy”…we encourage those with a desire to grow in maturity to find other believers (and we can facilitate that if needed) that are more mature in the faith. They are then to get to know one another and “do life” together learning about the things of God. Those who are discipling are, in many cases, also being discipled and the disciple is often encouraged fairly quickly to begin looking for opportunities to disciple younger Christians. Very simple yet profoundly effective. Christians walking through life with other Christians.


  11. 5-1-2008


    Yes! I think that’s exactly how discipleship should look. Not only should all believers be both disciples and disciple-makers, they should also view discipleship as “doing life together”.