the weblog of Alan Knox

Alot of talk about discipleship

Posted by on Jun 4, 2009 in discipleship | 24 comments

Discipleship is about following. A disciple is someone who follows, and making disciples means helping someone follow. Following is about doing the same things that someone else does.

Thus, a disciple of Jesus is someone who follows Jesus. Making disciples of Jesus means helping someone follow Jesus. Following Jesus is about doing the same things that Jesus does.

In my time at seminary, I have heard alot about discipleship. We have been told that our seminary is concerning with the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20), in which Jesus tells his followers (disciples) to make disciples. Many professors have exhorted us in class to “be about the Great Commission” and to “make disciples”.

I remember one class in particular. The class was called “Pastoral Ministry”. The class was designed to help vocational pastors carry out their responsibilities. We talked about how to conduct a marriage ceremony, how to baptize, how to serve the Lord’s Supper, how to conduct a business meeting and a deacons’ meeting.

On the last day of the class, the professor asked, “What is your most important responsibility as a pastor?” The students gave many different answers. Finally, the professor said, “Your most important responsibility as a pastor – and as a Christian – is to make disciples.”

The professor then moved on to another topic. For the next several minutes, I contemplated what the professor said. Eventually, the professor asked if there were any questions. I raised my hand.

“You said earlier that our most important responsibility is to make disciples. Since I’ve been in seminary, I’ve heard that we should be making disciples. We’ve been told to carry out the Great Commission, which is to make disciples. But, what do you mean by ‘make disciples’? Do you mean that we should lead ‘discipleship classes’? Do you mean that we should go on mission trips around the world? Do you mean that we should have prayer meetings? What do you mean when you say ‘make disciples’?”

The professor stopped for a moment. Then, he gave the best advice that I’ve heard in a seminary classroom.

He said, “All of those things can be included in discipleship, but none of those things are discipleship. When I say that we should ‘make disciples’, I mean that we should spend time with other brothers and sisters in Christ and help them do the things that Jesus did. We help them serve others and teach others. While classes can be part of this, primarily discipleship happen when we live our lives among one another. It happens in our homes and at restaurants, in parks and stores. We disciples when we drive somewhere together, work together, eat together, anytime we spend time together. And, in order to make disciples, we must spend alot of time with the people that we discipling – and most of the time should be outside of the classroom.”

I asked him, sincerely, “If discipleship is so important, then why is this the first time I’ve heard anything like this from someone at the seminary?” Many of the students around me nodded in agreement. (I thought, but didn’t ask, “And, if this type of discipleship is our most important responsibility, why was it an after-thought – an answer to a question – in this class?”)

I’ve noticed that it is much, much easier to talk about discipleship than to actually do it. It is much easier to prepare a lecture about discipleship than to spend time with someone else. It is easier to give a sermon series on discipleship than to help someone serve others. It is much easier to write a book about discipleship than to invite someone into our lives.

There is alot of talk about discipleship and the importance of discipleship.


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

  1. 6-4-2009


    Great point. After 15 years of teaching and serving in the local church, there were two questions I kept coming back to:

    1) Am I, are we being disciples and am I and are we making disciples?


    2) If pastors/elders and teachers are given to the church to equip the Saints to do the work of the ministry, what is the work of the ministry?

    Mike Hutchison

  2. 6-4-2009

    I think we often the miss the mark. We interpret the Great Commission to mean evangelism when in fact it says to "make disciples".

    I think one of the primary reasons we see so little happening around the world with church planting is because we don't know how to disciple. We lead people to faith…maybe give them a few basic tools and then we leave. Then we blame the enemy when they struggle and often return to their previous belief system.

    We don't do it because we don't understand it….it takes time and requires transparency…not something alot of people want to do. It's easier to lead them to faith and then throw a method or process at them.

  3. 6-4-2009


    That word "ministry" is a slippery term in English. But, in Scripture, it simply means "service". So, what if we translated Eph 4:12 like this:

    "… to equip the saints for the work of service…"

    To me, this is not as difficult to understand.

    (By the way, I had a conversation with a friend yesterday about the connection between service and discipleship, so I'm glad you brought this up.)


    I also think a desire for converts instead of disciples is one of the problems. But, I think its only part of the problem.

    I think you hit on another part of the problem when you sad "it takes time and requires transparency"… in other words, discipleship is hard word and requires sacrifice.


  4. 6-4-2009

    "…discipleship is hard work and requires sacrifice."

    Here in the US, we have allowed the instant gratification and bigger is better mindsets to filter into the church. We want to double congregations in two years, and create big, thriving ministries whose purpose is getting more converts who can then "get involved" in our work. It boils down to butts in the pews and checks in the offering plate.

  5. 6-4-2009

    Alan, you asked, "If discipleship is so important, then why is this the first time I've heard anything like this from someone at the seminary?"

    I would honestly loved to have been a fly on the wall for the collective, "Doooooooooooooh", that followed.

  6. 6-4-2009

    Nicely done. I really appreciate that you took the time to consider the question and then gave the prof the courtesy of answering it honestly. Sound like it was a great learning moment.

  7. 6-4-2009

    I love how these two clips together make such a great point…

    "The class was designed to help vocational pastors carry out their responsibilities. We talked about how to conduct a marriage ceremony, how to baptize, how to serve the Lord's Supper, how to conduct a business meeting and a deacons' meeting"…

    and then:

    "When I say that we should 'make disciples', I mean that we should spend time with other brothers and sisters in Christ and help them do the things that Jesus did. We help them serve others and teach others."

    If we're honest with ourselves, what does the first paragraph really have to do with the second? The first quote is a list of specialized tasks to be performed by a special class of trained individuals, the second paragraph describes something that absolutely anyone who who is truly a disciple of Jesus can do…

  8. 6-4-2009

    Sometimes life is really complicated – women for example (OK the whole relationship thing between both parties but men should know what I'm saying albeit tongue firmly in cheek) – but there are few things as humbling as hearing the simple things about what faith in Jesus is all about. Here again, Alan, you've challenged and reminded us about the simple things of faith (not necessarily that easy, but it is simple). Thanks.

  9. 6-4-2009


    Thanks for the discussion here. I know that it would take a paradigm shift in thinking and living to see the kind of discipleship that we see in Scripture. After the discussion in class that I mentioned in this post, I asked a fellow student how he discipled people. He responded, "I'm pastor of such-and-such church and we have a wonderful list of discipleship classes that meet on Wednesday evenings." Yes, this conversation came immediately after what the professor said about discipleship.


    For many people, you're probably right. I also think there are some who have been taught that discipleship is evangelism or classes, and haven't considered any other option.


    As you can see from my conversation with a fellow student, some did not have a "doh" or an "ah-ha" moment.


    Thanks for the comment and the re-tweet. I had already been thinking in this direction, but it was great for me to hear a professor articulate it. I wish I heard and saw this more often in the seminary environment.

    Daniel/Heather (Like a Mustard Seed),

    Yes, I noticed that too. I left out that on the first day of class the professor said that everything we did or said should be according to Scripture. Then, for the remainder of the class, he talked about things that were not in Scripture. Ironic.

    Christopher (Ur Man CD),

    I'm not going to touch the women comment. :)

    Yes, the simple things of faith are often difficult… because of the faith aspect. We have to trust God instead of ourselves.


  10. 6-5-2009

    When I think about how
    Jesus "discipled" 12 men, it appeares that essentially He spent 24/7 with them loving and being their friend, till they were able to relax in His acceptance of them warts and all, and begin loving Him and being His friend. I think they understood when He told them to disciple all nations, that He had already shown them the how.

  11. 6-5-2009


    "I left out that on the first day of class the professor said that everything we did or said should be according to Scripture. Then, for the remainder of the class, he talked about things that were not in Scripture."

    I probably would have spent the remainder of the class pointing this out to him. Which probably explains why certain pastors were never really fond of me. But ironically, I've found most school teachers actually appreciate their students paying close enough attention to notice such things. ;)

  12. 6-5-2009


    That is the conclusion that I came to, the shepherds are to model what it means to follow Jesus and teach others in word and deed how to follow Jesus-these would then go on to do the same. Making disciples is doing the work of the ministry/serving others. This is both an individual as well as corporate effort as we all grow in following Christ.

    In the past I read a lot of materials put out by The Navigators, their basic premise is that we have a majority of recognized pastors/leaders who have never been taught how to make disciples, so they in turn are not doing it and actually cannot teach others how to do it.

    Mike Hutchison

  13. 6-6-2009

    Alan – First time on your blog.
    Lots of work I’m sure.

    re: "Alot of talk about discipleship"
    Very intresting dialog.

    “I've noticed that it is much,
    much easier to talk about discipleship
    than to actually do it.”

    I’ve tried many times
    and found it imposible.

    Here’s a thought.

    Is discipleship in the Bible?

    Can anyone (human) make a disciple of Christ?

    Why is the word disciple not in any of the Epistles?

    With all the instructions to the ekklesia
    Paul doesn’t even mention disciples.
    John doesn’t mention disciples.

    You concluded,
    “Thus, a disciple of Jesus
    is someone who follows Jesus.”

    Well, the word disciple means “a learner.”
    That’s a little more than a follower.
    That’s someone who sits at
    Jesus’ feet and learns from Him.

    Yes, His disciples were with Him 24/7.
    If someone is with me 24/7
    don’t they become my disciple?

    If they’re with a Baptist
    don’t they become a Baptist disciple?
    And say and do the things a Baptist does?

    If they’re with a Lutheran
    don’t they become a Lutheran disciple?
    And say and do the things a Lutheran does?

    Are they learning from me
    and not from Jesus?

    Are they learning from you
    and not from Jesus?

    Isn’t the best we can teach someone
    is that Jesus will teach them?

    Jesus said,
    It is written in the prophets,
    And they shall be all taught of God.
    John 6:45

    Out of heaven he made thee to hear his voice,
    that he might instruct thee:
    Deuteronomy 4:36

    I will instruct thee and teach thee
    in the way which thou shalt go:
    I will guide thee with mine eye.
    Psalms 32:8

    Why do we not believe Jesus? when He says,

    John 14:26 But the Comforter, [which is] the Holy Ghost,
    whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things…

    John 16:13 Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth…

    Why do we not believe John? when He says,

    1 John 2:20 Ye have an *unction <5545> from the Holy One, and ye *know all things.
    *unction = anointing *know = perceive, discern, discover.

    1 John 2:26 These [things] have I written unto you concerning them that seduce you.
    27 But the anointing <5545> which ye have received of him abideth in you,
    and ye need not that any man teach you:
    but as the same anointing <5545> teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie…

    Maybe only Jesus can add unto the Ekklesia?
    Maybe only Jesus can make a disciple of Christ?

    Be blessed and keep questioning.

  14. 6-6-2009

    A. Amos Love,

    You said, "Maybe only Jesus can add unto the Ekklesia?" Absolutely. Only Jesus builds the church. You said, "Maybe only Jesus can make a disciple of Christ?" Correct. A disciple – a follower of Jesus – can only be birthed by God, and cannot be created by man.

    However, God does work through other believers, both in proclaiming the Gospel and in helping one another to walk according to that Gospel. This is what I mean by discipleship.


  15. 6-7-2009


    I think that an example of Jesus making disciples today, is what you have told us of your relationship with people in the neighborhood. Loving them and being their friend warts and all. As they experience your relationship with Jesus, they have the opportuniny to relax in His presense be real with Him and experience their own relationship with Him. I think then their questions will be how is God showing Himself in this area of your life and also sharing how He is doing the same in your life.

  16. 6-7-2009


    Thank you for your response.
    Your post was appreciated and
    your questioning of the system was
    admired and appreciated.

    I think we have a gap that needs to be bridged.

    I guess what I mean about discipleship
    is discipleship is not in the Bible.

    When I hear words that are not in the Bible
    I wonder why we use them
    and where they came from.

    It's challenge enough understanding
    the truth of the words that are written.
    How much harder word's that we make up.

    The Bible warns us about,
    the commandments of men,
    the doctrines of men,
    the philosophies of men,
    and the traditions of men
    that make the Word of God
    of non effect.

    Making the word of God of none effect
    through your tradition…
    Mark 7:13

    Disciple in the Strong's is #3101 mathetes,
    from #3129. A learner, pupil.

    Many claim to be disciples of Christ.
    How many learn from Him?

    Many can follow at a distance,
    and walk on the same path
    but are they learning from Jesus?

    Or learning from others on the same path?

    Jesus always spoke to the multitudes in parables.

    All these things spake Jesus unto the multitude in parables;
    and without a parable spake he not unto them.
    Matthew 13:34

    and when they were alone,
    he expounded all things to his disciples.
    Mark 4:33

    These people were all in the same location
    But only the disciples, the pupils,
    learned what he meant.

    When we have discipleship classes,
    is that the tradition of men?
    trying to do a nice thing?

    Be blessed and be a blessing.

  17. 6-7-2009


    Yes, we are encouraging people in the neighborhood to follow Jesus and trust him.

    A. Amos Love,

    I think Strong misses the definition of mathetes there if he says it only means "learner" or "pupil". Yes, it can have that limited meaning, but I think "follower" is a better definition, since it includes more than simply learning about someone.

    And, since we see that Jesus did use the word disciple (noun and verb) often, I think it is quite safe for us to use as well.

    If you've read this post, or any of my other posts about discipleship, you'll know that I do not consider classes to be discipleship, regardless of what they are called.


  18. 6-8-2009

    Alan – Praise Jesus

    I agree with you about the word follower.
    It certainly is a part of describing a disciple of Christ.

    All disciples of Christ are followers of Christ.

    The question remains –
    Are all followers of Christ disciples of Christ?

    It is written, “great multitudes followed Him.”
    Were they all disciples?

    Did some follow because of the miracles?
    Did some follow because of the food?

    Were these followers disciples?

    John 6:26 Jesus answered them and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you,
    Ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles,
    but because ye did eat of the loaves, and were filled.

    Some follow Christ because it makes them feel good.
    It makes them feel like good people.

    Do all followers learn “from” Jesus?

    Or do they just learn “about” Jesus from someone second hand.

    Do all followers forsake all and follow Him?

    Luke 5:11 And when they had brought their ships to land,
    they forsook all, and followed him.

    Are all followers of Christ willing to obey Him?

    To His disciples Jesus said… Not to be called Rabbi or Master.

    Matthew 23:8 But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ;
    and all ye are brethren.
    Rabbi – #4461 rhabbi {hrab-bee'} Rabbi, a title used by the Jews to address their teachers
    Rabbi – Dictionary – an ordained teacher, The spiritual head of a congregation.
    Rabbi – Strongs – my master, as an official title of honor: Master, Rabbi.

    Matthew 23:10 Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ.
    Master – Dictionary – a man who rules others or has control, authority, or power over something;
    specifically, a man who is head of a household or institution;
    Master – Strongs # 2519, kathegetes – from # 2596 + # 2233 (to lead) – A guide, teacher, master.
    The Interlinear Bible- Nor be called leaders, for one is your leader the Christ.
    Phillips Modern English- you must not let people call you leaders, you have only one leader, Christ.
    Today’s English Version- nor should you be called leader, your one and only leader is the Messiah.

    For me, being a disciple of Christ, encompasses and envolves so much more than being a follower.

    It means hearing “His voice” and learning “from” Jesus and not about Him.

    It means hearing “His voice” and obeying Jesus.

    John 10:27 MY SHEEP HEAR MY VOICE, and I know them, and THEY FOLLOW ME:

    Deuteronomy 4:30 When thou art in tribulation, and all these things are come upon thee, even in the latter days, if thou turn to the LORD thy God, and shalt BE OBEDIANT UNTO HIS VOICE…

    Luke 6:46 And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, AND DO NOT THE THINGS WHICH I SAY?

    John 10:16 And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring,
    and they shall HEAR MY VOICE; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.

    Exodus 19:5 Now therefore, if ye will OBEY MY VOICE indeed, and keep my covenant,
    then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people…

    Deuteronomy 5:24 And ye said, Behold, the LORD our God hath shewed us his glory
    and his greatness, and WE HAVE HEARD HIS VOICE out of the midst of the fire:
    we have seen this day that GOD DOTH TALK WITH MAN, and he liveth.


    Blessed in your search for truth.

    By His Grace.

  19. 6-10-2009

    Hi Alan, in 2007 I wrote a post on discipleship.

    If you have the time, can you please go to
    and tell me what you think about it?


  20. 10-10-2011

    Great post, Alan. One of the best takes on the real aspects of making disciples. You must have gone to a Baptist seminary because I took “Pastoral Ministry” too! I went to Southwestern.

  21. 1-9-2012

    Alan, so true that we forget and then fall short of God’s design for discipleship. I believe that one hindrance is that we don’t completely surrender to what God has called us to do. When we do, we by extension of that (fruit if you will) we begin to disciple. What you do here is disciple. Keep it up. Be blessed.

  22. 2-28-2012

    Never get tired of this post

  23. 5-3-2012

    This make so much sense, all too often Christians especially leaders have the excuse of being too busy to spend time making disciples. Instead they become insecure and distant. I agree so much lies with spending time with each other as well as being transparent.

  24. 5-3-2012

    Well, well, well,… Can’t help but see the cliche in a class you paid for, a seminary structure, and the lack of real discipleship discussion that was delved into. One doesn’t get paid for living life with others, nor get recognized in prestigious circles, nor is religious status built. Yes a harsh response to your question of why is it only mentioned but not deeply discussed and encouraged with actions.
    I am thankful that your posts Allen, as they focus on life with one another , which as your profffesor said is the avenue for discipleship. I don’t know you but I wonder if Christ lead you into seminary because of your teaching gift wanting to be fed, but that you would help feed many to disciple?