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What Is Discipleship?

If you are preparing for a life of ministry, you will do well to seek out and practice a lifestyle of discipleship.

What does it mean to be discipled? According to the KJV Dictionary, the word “disciple” means “a learner; a scholar; one who receives or professes to receive instruction from another”.

Jesus is called “Rabbi” several times in the gospels, a word that means “teacher”. And that’s just what he was. He traveled around teaching and preaching  the good news about the kingdom of heaven to anyone who would listen.  Although He often spoke to the masses, he had an inner circle of followers to whom He revealed more of the Father’s heart and will. When Peter, James, John, and the other apostles chose to follow Christ, they became his disciples. They spent more time with him during his earthly ministry than anyone else, and therefore had the most opportunity to learn from him.

In a broad sense, we as believers are being discipled by God Himself all our lives. As we grow to know Him through His Word, we are receiving His instruction. We are slowly being transformed into the image of Christ as we walk with Him.

But God also desires that believer-to-believer discipleship be a part of our lives. This means putting ourselves in positions to learn from other believers who are more mature than us.  It means building friendships with those who will invest in and teach us. It means  welcoming the instruction and wisdom of Christians around us who have walked with and know the Lord. As disciples, we have the amazing privilege of being ushered into a deeper understanding of who God is by those who have gone before us.

In preparing for a life of ministry,  seek out discipleship.

An Example Of Biblical Discipleship

Paul and Timothy are two biblical examples of this relationship. Timothy became a Christian because of Paul’s teaching, and then spent time learning from him. The books of 1 & 2 Timothy display Paul’s fatherly and instructive attitude toward Timothy, who had become a leader in the church of Ephesus .  Paul refers to Timothy as “my true child in the faith” (1 Timothy 1:2), and “my beloved child” (2 Timothy 2:2). He talks affectionately to Timothy and is excited when he thinks about seeing him again. In both of these books, Paul encourages Timothy in his faith, as well as warns and admonishes him against pitfalls and temptations in leading the church and in his own personal Christian life.

This is a picture of bibilical discipleship—a caring and loving friendship between two believers, where the one who is wiser, more experienced, and more knowledgeable about the Lord and His will teaches and nurtures the other in Christ.

As Timothy pursued the Lord and sought to stand firm in his role in the church, he needed someone like Paul to be his mentor and friend.

You Can’t Do This Alone

Ministry is not an autonomous endeavor, and as you prepare for life of ministry, you will need to be very aware of this reality. We tend to want to “go it on our own” and take pride in being independent, especially in our Western culture. But when God describes the Christian life in His Word, it is marked by dependence, not self-sufficiency. We are to be dependent first of all on Christ (John 15), and secondly on the believers around us (Hebrews 3:13, Titus 2:3-5, James 5:16). Even though Timothy was known for his faith and purity, and had a high position in the local church, he still needed Paul’s guidance.

Paul also encouraged these relationships in the dynamics of how the church functioned. 2 Timothy 2:2 says, “You have heard me teach things that have been confirmed by many reliable witnesses. Now teach these truths to other trustworthy people who will be able to pass them on to others.” This design is from the Lord and is meant for  believers worldwide.

Admitting the fact that we are in need of other people is not a sign that something is wrong. It is a sign that we are being realistic about the fact that we don’t have it all together. It shows that we know we are not perfect, model Christians. It says that we have come to grips with the fact that we are frail and finite humans. It is a sign of growing maturity when we are okay with admitting to the fact that we haven’t yet reached full maturity. We need those around us, and they need us as well. And since we know that we will never reach complete perfection until we see Christ (1 John 3:2), we can count on the fact that we will need discipleship until the day we either die or Christ returns.

Preparing For A Life Of Ministry? Pursue Discipleship Now.

Discipleship has the potential to teach you many things. You may learn humility, how to deal with someone bringing areas of sin to your attention, vulnerability, the value of learning from those with more wisdom, and more. These qualities will be huge assets as  you minister to others.

You can begin to understand discipleship by seeking out people to engage in this type of relationship with you right now. Observe the believers around you. Who do you know that is intentional in their relationships with God?  Who is older, more mature, and more knowledgable about the Lord than you? Ask them to speak into your life.

Preparing for a  life of ministry will without question include discipleship. Don’t wait. Be bold about asking an older believer in your life to mentor you. If no one comes to mind, begin praying today that the Lord would bring someone into your life who will disciple you.

“Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17).