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The forgotten command of Discipleship for personal growth,
multiplication and health of the church
We are to be “Holding fast the faithful word as he has been taught” (Titus 1:9).
Paul explains God’s preservation process for the church is to continue, “The
things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to
faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (2 Timothy 2:2).
The modern church has a problem: few are able to teach, few are faithful men.
Jesus’ command to the church Matthew 28:19 "Go therefore and make disciples of
all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of
the Holy Spirit” “As you go on your way, teach all the nations making them your
pupils (of Jesus), baptizing them.”
We tell them of Jesus, we baptize, but we neglect the teaching of them
personally. Christ commissioned His disciples to go and teach, make disciples,
learners of him. This means they were personally involved in people’s lives, not
just preaching a sermon from the pulpit on a Sunday. Some churches take this to
extremes to say one is not saved unless they are being discipled and pair them
up with others. Other churches avoid any type of discipleship so they are not
accused of heavy shepherding. The Bible does teach to disciple others and either
of these views are wrong, one is abusive the other is neglect.
Discipleship is not about one’s relationship with another Christian, it is about
their relationship to Jesus (Mark 2:18, John 9:28 they are called disciples of
Jesus.) In its context it means a follower, a learner of Jesus, not other men.
We can understand this better by going to Acts 19 where Paul met disciples of
John, those who were baptized by John and had never heard of the one whom John
spoke of that was to come. So they were still following John’s teachings. Paul
explained to them Jesus came and what he did and they were baptized as believers
in Jesus. They then were to follow Christ.
Disciple is used only once with the same intent in the Old Testament Isa. 8:16
“Bind up the testimony, seal the law among my disciples.” Hebrew- limmuwd
-taught, learned, discipled - taught. In the synoptic gospels the term disciples
is used approximately 160 times, John 78 times, Book of Acts after the church
began 28 times.
The Gospel is preached for one to be saved; then what? As one is born into the
new family it is up to us to be there for them, to train them by word and
example so they go from being a newborn to a mature believer. Unfortunately this
is what is missing.
When we accept belief in Christ as the goal without discipleship, how can we
expect growth afterwards? People cannot be equipped to do what God has called
them to do when they are untrained. The whole purpose of leadership in the
is “for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying
of the body of Christ” (Eph. 4:12). For this to happen they have to actively be
serving others. Because most are not taught the Scriptures properly, they have a
lack of knowledge and motivation. This is why we find ourselves not being as
effective as we once were.
Oftentimes we are being taught by opinions, what works, not by what is
Biblically based. Our evangelism and discipleship are not outdated but there are
those who claim this. Instead they offer a method base church; they are willing
to borrow from business models and new age concepts because they have seen
results. The church today has become very open to new ways; we borrow new
methods and strategies from the world. Inside the church there are all sorts of
programs used that are well intentioned but are not biblical. From bettering our
relationships with other people, to guides on how to live a purposeful life or
be a success in business. Self-help, self-improvement are the focus; Jesus was
These programs are accepted because they are wrapped in biblical language but
not in Biblical doctrine. When these things are practiced and are used they
diminish the churches outreach and real discipleship. Sermons are given without
the teachings found in Scripture and yet we expect great results.
Taking the Church away from the Word as our basis for doing and using something
different made us powerless not powerful. The spiritual power is in the word and
it is seen when it is applied in our lives.
Deuteronomy 4:2: “You shall not add to the word which I command you, nor take
anything from it” (also Deuteronomy 12:32). The reason God says this is because
“The entirety of Your word is truth” (Psalms 119: 160). Why do we settle of a
portion of the truth instead of the pure truth?
Discipleship is far more important than what is used today. Jesus taught those
who followed him, “Whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be
My disciple” (Luke 14:27). A person carrying his cross entered into suffering.
Without reproach, without dying to self, we cannot learn from him. Today’s
church teaches blessings with no self denial but self exaltation. Luke 9:23: “If
anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross
daily, and follow Me.” This is not a single decision but a lifestyle. The cross
we carry is a crucified life, to ourselves and the world.
Our bodies are a dedicated temple which we present as a living sacrifice to our
God, as we present ourselves––heart, mind, body, and strength in service to Him
throughout the day, not just when we attend church.
Paul “strengthening the souls of the disciples, exhorted them to continue in the
faith, saying, “We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God”
(Acts 14:22). This Greek word for tribulations (thlipsis) means pressures.
Anytime one goes against the flow of the world there is resistance, trials come.
This is what it means to be a disciple and carry the cross.
Certainly there is always a percentage of unwilling people that are lazy in
pursuing knowledge of the word. What new born does not hunger for nourishment,
for the newborn Christian it is a hunger for the truth? They can only be fed by
the word. The people do not know what to do, they need to learn by example.
Non-disciples cannot make true disciples. The real leaders are serving, the
people learn by seeing their example.
Many within the Church still struggle with the same habits and bondages as
before and do not move on to maturity because of one reason – no discipleship.
Now I’m not speaking of shepherding like the cults do, but an actual friendship,
a spiritual mentoring. This takes time, patience, and getting to know the
individual, showing genuine concern and love.
The basics are the milk of the Word (Hebrews 6). These basics need to be taught
over and over until the believer is established. If the foundational core
teachings, the milk, are not taught then we cannot expect to go on to eat the
meat. The bible expects those who are born spiritually to go from milk to meat
to become mature and effective. The time this takes is really up to us, we get
out of it what we put into it. We are to live by a higher standard and quality
of life; we are to be changed people who have hope and have answers for life’s
Christians are to be a unique people, called out from the world, we are not to
be friendly to a world that is against our Lord. We don’t ignore the world and
we still live in it but we are not to be influenced in its trends or engulfed in
issues the non believers are. Jesus is our example of a true pilgrim on earth.
If you are following Christ for prosperity or success in the world, then you
following the wrong Jesus and are not being a disciple of him.
The gospel is not supposed to be a message you must attend church to hear but a
message that is to go out from the church, told to those who would not attend
church services. We are to present an intellectual understanding of the fallen
state of man from God’s perspective to impact the culture. Apologetics is
necessary in a twofold way; to explain the gospel as the only solution among the
various religions and to preserve the faith of the believers from corruption. We
cannot persuade people by feelings but by objective reasoning, helping them
understand the Bible, logic that is Scripture based. Should we expect God given
success when we have substituted human concepts for the Bibles Holy Word to
convict and convince people of the truth.
Today we are confronted with competing religious truth-claims from the world’s
philosophies and religions. We need to explain the unanswered questions that
have been obstacles for a person to receive the gospel. This can only take place
when we have prepared ourselves to answer the objections by His Word.
Without being taught a correct understanding of crucial passages one will accept
an interpretation of Scripture not based on truth, and will walk in falsehood,
deceived and unable to be used by the Lord. Doctrine is God’s way to have us
become steadfast in essential truth. To have the truth one must correctly
understand what is being said in the Scripture otherwise they are heading toward
a shipwreck. As Peter wrote of Paul: “His letters contain some things that are
hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the
other Scriptures, to their own destruction. Therefore, dear friends, since you
already know this, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the
error of lawless men and fall from your secure position” (2 Peter 3: 15-17). We
are secure if we stay with what is written!
Where do we stand on Israel? It was the Jews that brought the gospel and
discipled the gentiles. In the last days it is to be the gentiles that bring the
gospel to the Jews. The outreach to the Jewish people is a missing component to
the church and we will be held responsible for this neglect. For it is God’s
focus for the last days into the tribulation.
Twice Jesus specifically said, “blessed are they that hear the word of God, and
keep it” (Luke 11:28; also 8:21) referring to the person in Psalm 1 who will be
as a fruitful tree. John 15:8: “This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much
fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” We are showing ourselves to be in
relationship with Him by learning which when applied will produce the fruit of
the Spirit in our lives. This is supposed to be a natural process of the Holy
Spirit’s work in a believer’s life as we co-operate by obedience. If a person is
a devoted Christian but has not discipled another, it means they have not taken
the time to reproduce. We do not measure a person’s spiritual life by how many
disciples they produce but it certainly should be part of their development to
We too are supposed to be equipped in the church to be able to answer people and
lead them to a correct understanding of what is written. But to do this we must
know the Scripture. Believers that see the power of God at work in their life
personally are the ones to confidently speak the gospel to others.
The church can grow by different means. But not all growth is equal. Growth
without a basis on the Bible can never produce health, this type of church
always has a large amount of problems; backbiting; gossip; lack of love and care
for the brethren; competition; control over people, carnality, adultery;
These problems are never be fully absent because certain people will be
struggling, but the church will have a healthy atmosphere because they are
spiritual not carnal. Churches that are healthy concentrate on the gospel and
discipleship, they have far less of these works of the flesh because they are
busy doing the Lords work.
The church will not survive the many faceted attacks from both outside and
inside the Church if we do not know what we believe and why we believe it. We
should know why the Bible is a preserved book of literature that is inerrant,
and infallible, being without error in its teaching. The deity of Christ which
rests on Jesus’ unique claim that He came from heaven and is Lord. The doctrine
of the Trinity (the triune nature of God), Jesus’ personhood as God, just as the
Father and the Holy Spirit is God is always under attack (even from inside the
church). The teaching of the immortality of our soul and the eternal state of
the dead, being with Christ in heaven or separated from Him in Hell is always
being questioned. All of these teachings are under tremendous attack by
unbelievers, carnal Christians and cultists.
For our survival in this time period prior to the Great Tribulation the church
MUST PRODUCE faithful disciples who are willing to put the time into others to
reproduce spiritual lives. If we all disciple one person a year; consider the
math. If there are 100 million Christians throughout the world who disciple only
one person each year this turns to 200 million in the first year- then 4 hundred
million the second - then 8 hundred million in a three years. Then one and half
billion on the 4th year to three billion on the fifth year to 6 billion in the
6th year. And that is if each of us disciple only one person a year. What if
only half the church (50 million) discipled one person a year, we would have the
same amount in 12 years. What if one million Christians discipled one person a
year, you can do the math and see that it may take longer but the result would
be further along than what we have today.
Lets commit ourselves afresh to discipleship to strengthen what remains.