In the broadest sense discipleship includes all that the church is called to do since our Lord’s command was to make disciples, teaching them all that He commanded. However, on a personal level, it would be where one individual commits himself/herself for an extended period of time to an individual (or a few individuals) who have been won to Christ. The purpose being to aid and guide their growth into more Christ-like versions of themselves and to equip them to reproduce themselves in a third spiritual generation. This definition is adapted/edited from Discipleship by Allen Hadidian.
Who has been influential to you in forming your view of discipleship?
God has been extremely faithful to form my view of discipleship through many godly men and ministries. My first glimpse of discipleship began immediately after my father came to faith. He began teaching me, through what he called “daddy-talks,” what he was learning about Christ from the Scriptures. I also watched and listened closely as he would have these talks with neighborhood kids on the front steps. That was really my first glimpse of seeing God use life on life discipleship. Second, my senior year of high-school one of my football coaches, Ron McGinty, invited me and a few other players to his home to eat Sunflower Seeds, drink Sundrop (the greatest soda on the planet, but you gotta come to the Carolinas to get it) and talk about, meditate on, and memorize God’s Word. Third, the most formative influence on my view of discipleship came from my time as a student and on staff with Campus Outreach Charlotte. During this time, Joe Naramore, among others, modeled and taught me what life on life discipleship looks like. The Master Plan of Evangelism by Robert Coleman and Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands by Paul Tripp have also been extremely influential to me.
How would you sense if a church or ministry is straying from discipleship?
I think the great danger with the type of ‘life on life’ discipleship that I am emphasizing is the propensity to make disciples out of a particular person or personality type rather than disciples of Jesus. I continually ask if the men I am pouring into are becoming more and more like Jesus and more and more dependent upon Jesus. I think we know that we are straying from Biblical discipleship when all of those whom we are discipling are only doing what we do and being passionate about what we are passionate about. The beauty of biblical discipleship is that in the process God reveals gifts, callings, strengths and passions that we had no idea were there when we began this process with those whom we were seeking to pour into.
In terms of discipling new believers, what is of chief importance?
The glory of God, the centrality of the gospel, the authority of the Scriptures, the power of the Holy Spirit, and the end goal of helping people become more Christ-like versions of themselves. New disciples need to consistently see and understand a massive God whose glory is of utmost importance and beauty. They need to understand how the gospel is what brings them to Christ, grows them in Christ and keeps them in Christ. New disciples need to understand that God’s glory and the gospel are infinitely and readily available in God’s authoritative Word, and therefore their life is to be wholly submitted to It. They need to understand that new birth and sanctification are supernatural miracles that only happen by the power of the Holy Spirit. And lastly they need to know that the end goal of all discipleship is that they might better reflect, magnify, and enjoy the glory of God by becoming more like Jesus Himself through the power of the Holy Spirit.
How should a ministry define success in terms of discipleship? What does winning look like?
Ultimately winning looks like faithfulness to point people to Jesus. In the first chapter of John’s gospel we see John the Baptist proclaim, “Behold the Lamb of God!” (1:36). Immediately after this declaration verse 37 records that John’s disciples, “followed Jesus.” John the Baptist poured in by pointing to. Later on in the chapter Philip tells Nathaniel that they have found the Messiah. After Nathaniel questions whether anything good can come from Nazareth, Philip simply says, “Come and see.” A few verses later Nathaniel proclaims, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” Philip, just like John, poured in by pointing to. Discipleship success happens when one believer says to another, “Behold the Lamb of God” and it results in the disciple following Jesus. Discipleship success happens when one believer simply says, “Come and See” and it results in the disciple declaring to Jesus, “You are the Son of God!”. We pour in by pointing to. Success must be measured by faithfulness to point people to Jesus. As we point people to His person and work, people will begin to follow Him and become like Him.