What Is Discipleship?

What Is Discipleship?


What is discipleship?

The way you define the term may be different from the way others understand it, but if we desire to be good disciples or give our lives to making disciples, we need to know what we mean when we use the term. We asked some of our plenary speakers from our 2023 RightNow Conference Grow: Making Healthy Disciples to share how they define discipleship.

Eric Mason, pastor and author

“So when I define discipleship—of course, we know of the verse about it in Matthew 28 and other verses—but I define discipleship as being in a lifelong apprenticeship to Jesus Christ, in which he takes you not only from spiritual death to spiritual life but from spiritual infancy to spiritual maturity in gospel community.”

Libin Abraham, pastor

“According to Paul in Ephesians 3, discipleship is the Holy Spirit working in our inner being, Christ dwelling in our heart through faith. The idea of dwelling is this pervasive presence of Jesus not as a guest but as a host, as a resident in our heart to our every thought of our mind and desire of our heart, every day of the week and time of the week, that he is fully reigning and ruling as king. As he dwells pervasively in our hearts, we are formed into the image and likeness of Jesus. Just as he walked, we walk.”

Lisa Harper, author and speaker

“All too often discipleship becomes transactional. It becomes, ‘I am going to have someone who is younger than me in the Lord and we’re going to spend exactly ninety minutes together every Tuesday at this particular coffee shop, and I'm going through this Bible study.’ Well, that feels more dutiful, almost like studying a proposition instead of engaging with a person. God has called us to be a family, a community of ‘one anothers,’ so it has to be relational. There has to be compassion involved because if you're discipling and someone is probably making the same mistakes you made 10 years ago, you need grace for that. Then there has to be time to have some face-to-face, eye-to-eye, where you take off your dadgum Apple watch and make eye contact.”

Jennie Allen, author and speaker

“You have to remember that the ultimate goal is that, when a disciple has been discipled, they are making disciples. Are they on mission? Are they giving away what you've given to them? If you have a stagnant pool of people where you are pouring, and pouring, and pouring in, and no one is pouring out, that is not the way of Jesus. I don't know what that is, but it is not the way of Jesus. So it should be a constant sense that new believers are coming in, that baptisms are happening, that people are regularly encountering Jesus. Why? If they truly are being discipled and they are knowing Jesus more, then they are called. Their next step of obedience and discipleship is that they’re discipling somebody else.”

Though our definitions of “discipleship” may vary, the essence of all the answers focus on being attached to Jesus. A disciple is someone who knows Jesus personally, is committed to obeying him, becoming more like him in character, and equipping others to know and follow him as well. That is God’s call to all of us.

How would you define discipleship and how does your life reflect what it means to be a disciple?

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Kelley Mathews

Writer, RightNow Media

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