Throughout the year I’ve been posting interviews with different Christian leaders concerning the topic of discipleship. This week, Dr. Jerry Johnson, soon-to-be former President of Criswell College and newly-elected President of the National Religious Broadcasters, shares his thoughts on discipleship.
Who has been influential to you in forming your view of discipleship?
Robert Coleman’s The Master Plan of Evangelism has convinced me that the irreducible minimum of discipleship is evangelism. This means training the new believers you have evangelized to evangelize and disciple others. It must begin here.
What has changed, for good and bad, in the practice or methods of discipleship in recent years?
We have made discipleship too complicated. I think Paul and Peter, perhaps Jesus, would be surprised to hear some of our discipleship jargon. Jesus said, “Come, follow me.” Paul said something like that as well.
How would you sense if a church or ministry is straying from discipleship?
If no new leaders are emerging, year after year, the ministry probably has not found the handle of discipleship.
In terms of discipling new believers, what is of chief importance?
The three basic “disciplines” of a disciple are Bible intake, prayer, and witness. If you get that right, everything else will work out in the process of sanctification. If you miss this, everything else is almost beside the point.
How can technology help or hinder discipleship?
It is probably a wash, a giant plus-minus, as Dr. Criswell would say. New technology means that discipleship resources are available like never before and that we can stay in constant contact with one another. But when it comes to contact with the living God—the distractions, the entertainment, and the noise are a constant pull away from abiding in Him.
When thinking or training on discipleship, what passages are anchor passages for you?
The first passage I think of is Matthew 28:18-20. Jesus is Lord, has “all authority”, and commands us to “go and make disciples of all nations.” As the “Great Commission” unfolds, the first public step of discipleship is baptism and continues with “teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you.” Unfortunately, baptism does not show up on the radar screen for many would-be discipleship gurus. Of course, the back end is just as important. We must continue discipleship by teaching “everything I have commanded you.” This task is two dimensional. On the one hand discipleship is simple—teach the Word. On the other hand it is huge—“everything I have commanded.” Keep it biblical and keep it broad.
The second passage I think of is 2 Timothy 2:2. Paul instructs his disciple Timothy to pass on what he learned from Paul to others, who will pass it on yet again to a fourth generation. We have the gospel today because Timothy, and others like him, did just that. May we be so faithful. May we pass on the baton of the gospel and the gospel way of life. This is your real discipleship “down line”, and it can only be measured in eternity. This is the exciting, eternal nature of discipleship!