Last week we covered the question: “What is discipleship?” If you have not read last week’s article, I invite you to do so, as the answer to this week’s question will mean much more if you do. This week we ask, “What is discipling?”
As for a definition, I believe Mark Dever puts it well in his book “Discipling: How to Help Others Follow Jesus.” He writes bluntly but truly, “Christianity is not for loners and individualists. It is for a people traveling together down the narrow path that leads to life. You must follow and you must lead.” Discipling is helping other believers live lives committed to Jesus, in both spirit and truth.
Where and how does this happen? First, let’s address where. The answer is in the church. The church is the covenant people of God — the assembly of the called ones who have united themselves to both Christ through confession and other local believers through common confession.
Truly, the church is so much more than what happens at the front of the building on any given Sunday morning.
The church is the covenant community living in an other-worldly bond with one another, brother and sisters, joint heirs with Christ, all members of the same eternal body. And, as such, we are commanded to be accountable to one another and, likewise, responsible for one another’s walk with Christ. Scripture is rich with commands to do so (Col. 3:16, 1 Peter 1:22, Gal. 6:1; Heb. 12:15; James 5:16, 19; 1 Timothy 4:7f; etc.).
Now that we know where discipling should happen (that is, through the local church) how does it happen? Well, the answer to this question could be as diverse as our lives and circumstances are. The scriptures are full of teachings and admonishments for the Christian life, especially in the Pauline epistles. All are for our godliness. All are equally valuable. All are spoken by God, for His glory in us. The point is that we are to lead younger Christians in their discipleship, as we are led by older Christians in ours.
Though sharing in this pilgrim life together does not have one style or format, every Christian’s discipleship and efforts in discipling should be focused on living for Christ’s glory.
Is discipling happening in your church? When you sin, are you lovingly confronted by others, never given an excuse, but met with biblical encouragement and prayer? When you succeed, are you celebrated, not for the sake of personal vanity but to magnify the glory of God, for the wonderful things He has done in your life?
Have you ever been discipled? Are you discipling someone yourself? Has the Lord providentially brought someone into your life who you can help with their walk? If you are a member of the local body and the answer to any of these questions is no, then pray for God to send you someone and reach out. Some may only be waiting for someone to ask them. I hope you do, and I hope you share in this joyous pursuit.
We began last week with the great commission text of Matthew 28:18-20, and I wish to end this week with it, as well. Many apply this text only to missions, but it is so much more than that. In fact, your discipling others is a matter of fully completing the commission, to go and teach the disciples that have been made to observe all that Jesus had commanded (Matt 28:20).
I pray you will make this charge your own to help others in their discipleship!
Until next week, God bless.
(Jeremy Breland is a farmer in Ruffin and a M.Div. student at Southern Seminary. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)