Evaluate Your Definition of “Discipleship”

“Disciples, discipleship, discipling, disciple-making. These words are such an established part of conversation about ministry and church life that we rarely pause to consider what we actually mean by them,” write Colin Marshall and Tony Payne in The Vine Project: Shaping your Ministry Culture around Disciple-Making.” As their follow-up to the very popular book, The Trellis and the Vine, the authors now seek to help church leaders apply what they argued for in their first book. Some of our staff are currently reading through this book, along with a pastoral intern, and I am being refreshed.

At the end of a chapter entitled, What Is a Disciple?, the authors encourage their readers to discuss each of the following common views of discipleship. What truth (if any) do they express? Where are they wrong or inadequate?

View #1: Discipleship is a second stage of Christian experience that happens sometime after conversion. You can be a Christian but it’s only the really dedicated, committed people who are disciples.

View #2: Discipleship is an intentional ministry strategy or program–like one-to-one mentoring, small group ministry, or a 12-week discipleship program.

View #3: The essence of discipleship is personal accountability to a discipler. Discipleship is about the kind of trusted relationship where someone keeps us accountable about quiet times, church attendance, or avoidance of particular sins, like pornography.

View #4: Preaching is not really about discipling people. It’s more to do with proclamation, teaching and exhortation.

If you or your church need to step back to evaluate whether or not all you do falls under the umbrella of making disciples (the one command in the Great Commission), you will be helped by the writings of Marshall and Payne.

You may also be interested in reading Counseling One Another: A Theology of Inter-personal Discipleship.

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