It is not a class.
It is not control.
It is not a 12-week program.
It is not an activity to be performed by an elite few.
I agree with Chris’ description of what discipleship is not, and could probably add a few. I think lists like this are very important because they help us to orient – or re-orient – our thinking. I also think that this is a good turning point. Let’s move from what discipleship is not, to what discipleship is.
I once sat through an intensive summer course in which the professor taught about the “ministry” of the pastor. He began by exhorting us to do everything according to or to based everything on Scripture. He then taught us how to marry someone, how to baptize someone, how to serve the Lord’s Supper, how to run a deacon’s meeting. Somehow Scripture rarely, if ever, came up in those lessons.
At the very end of the class, he asked the class what they thought was the pastor’s most important responsibility. Several people offered suggestions. He finally said that the most important responsibility of any pastor – and in fact the most important responsibility of any Christian – was to make disciples. Then, he stopped.
I have heard this throughout my seminary career. We are to make disciples. But very few people actually discuss what it means to make disciples.
What is discipleship? What role does God play in discipleship? What role does the disciple-maker play in discipleship? What role does the one being discipled play in discipleship? Can there be a blurring between the disciple-maker and the discipler? Is that type of blurring good or bad?
What is the goal of discipleship? Do certain activities lead to that goal? Are certain settings more conducive to reaching that goal? Is discipleship only one-on-one or can someone disciple a small group or a large group? What role does teaching play in discipleship? How is education related to discipleship? What about other spiritual gifts?
I’ve thought through many of these questions, and I’ve found that a person’s ecclesiology greatly affects his or her understanding of discipleship. I write about discipleship often on this blog, and if you browse through the posts with the label “discipleship”, you’ll find that many of the posts simply deal with sharing life with other believers. This is primarily how I make disciples.
Perhaps you agree or disagree with my understanding of discipleship. Either way, share your concept of discipleship with us. Then, answer this question – either in a comment or to yourself – regardless of your concept of discipleship, are you making disciples?