The Responsibility of Discipleship
Some time ago, I attended the leadership portion of Word Explosion here at Victory in Tulsa, OK.
A pastor that I had never heard of, who reportedly pastors a church of 15,000+ somewhere in the Eastern United States brought a word about the seasons of God in the church, and he was very articulate and relevant, in bringing out the various things Holy Spirit was accenting, decade by decade here in churches in the United States.
From the Healing movement, to the Charismatic renewal, to teaching and the Word of Faith, to leadership, etc.
Then he made a couple of statements that confirmed things that Holy Spirit is screaming to me.
He explained that the day of a person simply accepting Jesus, receiving the baptism of the Holy Spirit, and attending church, is not enough in this upcoming season of God, but that what must occur is discipleship.
He went on to say, that to the average pastor, you would look for someone saved, filled with the Holy Spirit, attending regular worship services, attending a small group, and then serving somewhere in the ministry as good indicators of what a disciple should look like, and I agree these are good indicators, but here is where he and I take a different path to the same objective.
I believe a true disciple of Jesus, is a person that is fully led of the Holy Spirit, all day, every day.
Historically, there has been grave excesses in what is called ‘the discipleship, or Shepherding movement’
Yet, what about true discipleship?
Jesus said: Matthew 28:19
Go out and make disciples in all the nations.
I think back on my own discipleship experience with my pastor, where, for a period of 5-7 years, he had me read every book in his library, develop a strong devotional life and Bible reading plan, and had me serve in every area of the church for 3-6months.
Was that the end of my spiritual growth?
Was I fully prepared for ministry by this process?
No, but it was a great foundation.
So let’s dig into this concept of discipleship a bit:
Let’s begin by looking at the definition of a disciple:
Full Definition of DISCIPLE
: one who accepts and assists in spreading the doctrines of another: as
a : one of the twelve in the inner circle of Christ’s followers according to the Gospel accounts
b : a convinced adherent of a school or individual
capitalized : a member of the Disciples of Christ founded in the United States in 1809 that holds the Bible alone to be the rule of faith and practice, usually baptizes by immersion, and has a congregational polity
For the sake of simplicity, I call a disciple ‘a disciplined one’.
For example, when I swam on the college varsity swim team, I was expected to make 7 swim practices a week, and we usually did 2 weight work-outs on top of this. In order to stay on the team, I had to be a full time student and maintain a ‘C’ average academically.
What this meant, was that literally every minute of my week, seven days/week was scheduled, so that we could survive not only the training schedule, but the weekends spent on buses travelling to inter-varsity swim meets all over the province.
I was a disciple of competitive swimming and robotics engineering, listening carefully to my Olympic coach on how to make all this possible.
Obviously I survived and completed three varsity seasons, and completed my BSc in robotics, by being a disciplined one…
I was a disciple of robotics and swimming. No Jesus anywhere though.
Yet, we are called to follow Jesus…
So what does a disciple of Jesus look like in today’s world?
Here are some thoughts:
- Aggressively following Jesus, having established a morning prayer watch, deliberately seeking Him first thing, every day.
- Walking in the Word in deliberate Bible reading, confession, memorization, study, and meditation.
- Consistently demonstrating the power of the Holy Spirit, with signs, wonders and miracles flowing in everyday life, in spirit-led days. Flowing in God all day, every day, not merely on Sundays, or in devotional times. Walking with Holy Spirit, one day at a time, fully submitted to Jesus Lordship.
- Consistently exhibiting the fruit of the Holy Spirit in our character, carefully watching over our words, that they be faith-filled, representing Jesus well, as an ambassador should.
- Consistently witnessing and sharing the gospel.(Here is a way to do this on-line:https://chrisaomministries.wordpress.com/2014/11/10/the-gospel-the-power-of-god/)
- Consistently growing their families in the call of God, through their example, love, consecration, and recognition and fulfillment of their responsibility in their role in the home
- Consistently attending church, and seeking to serve and build it, growing in faithfulness and responsibility. https://chrisaomministries.wordpress.com/2014/12/04/why-go-to-church/
- Living a lifestyle of worship, singing, praying in the spirit, with an attitude of humility and gratefulness, demonstrating the acts of compassion the gospel commands: helping the poor, feeding the hungry, visiting the prisoner, the sick, clothing the naked, empowering the fatherless. https://chrisaomministries.com/2017/01/15/we-worship-by-serving-the-people-god-loves/
- Consistently seeking to grow in their gift and calling, spiritually, academically, and physically. https://chrisaomministries.com/2017/01/03/the-chinese-bamboo-a-parable-of-growth/
- Consistently seeking to grow others in their gifts and callings, empowering, equipping, and encouraging them to hear and fully obey God in all things.
- Consistently giving and growing financially, learning how best to keep money under the Lordship of Jesus as a good steward.
- Deliberately seeking and pursuing our personal mandate, vocation, and assignment, individually, growing in responsibility levels, on purpose.
Jesus had 12 disciples.
These are simply 12 guidelines I seek to live by.
Yet, as I have meditated upon the concept of discipleship, I discover questions that have difficult answers.
I remember many years ago, an organization called Promise Keepers, encouraged us to find a Paul, and Barnabas, and a Timothy in our lives. The ‘Paul’ being a spiritual leader we could look to for leadership, mentorship, and instruction. The ‘Barnabas’ being a ‘son of encouragement’, another brother in the Lord we could look to for encouragement in the day to day battles of life, and the ‘Timothy’ being one we could pour life and wisdom into, one we were deliberately discipling.
This is a good start surely.
As we grow in our Christian walk, we surely need a pastor who can gently help us learn the basics of this Christian life and character development.
Through our growth process, God will bring the other 4 ministry offices to add strength and structure to the formation of Christ in us, the hope of glory.
Yet, as I have walked with God these years I see many of these ministers see the kingdom of God only through their particular ministry gift, and for humor I write:
GO TO CHURCH! Is it not written: Ps 122: I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go into the house of the Lord.”
not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.
They are right! We all need to be part of a local church, https://chrisaomministries.wordpress.com/2014/12/04/why-go-to-church/
Then we have the apostle, often called the missionary today, whose favorite verse might be
And so I have made it my aim to preach the gospel, not where Christ was named, lest I should build on another man’s foundation
Kind like the old Star Trek television series, ‘To Go Boldly Where No Man Has Gone Before”
For I think that God has displayed us, the apostles, last, as men condemned to death; for we have been made a spectacle to the world, both to angels and to men.
Since the greatest in the kingdom is the servant of all, the true apostles I have met over the years are often gentle, suffering, humble servants of Jesus, who almost glow when they walk, carrying great spiritual authority and power….
We call them missionaries….
Then there are prophets:
Dreams, Visions, revelations, ‘This is the Way Walk Ye in It!’ people.
A couple of verses from the office of the prophet, you often hear, when they show up:
Then Moses said to him, “Are you zealous for my sake? Oh, that all the Lord’s people were prophets and that the Lord would put His Spirit upon them!”
‘And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, That I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh; Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, Your young men shall see visions, Your old men shall dream dreams
[ Prophecy and Tongues ] Pursue love, and desire spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy
It has been my experience that true prophets stir up controversy by what they say, apostles by what they do…
Repent, and get saved!
If you are not winning souls, I question your salvation!
These are the great soul winners, those called to train and equip believers for the work of winning the lost.
Biblically, they usually demonstrate great miracles to draw the crowds to the gospel.
And the multitudes with one accord heeded the things spoken by Philip, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did
A perfect modern day example of a firely evangelist is Rhinhart Bonnke, or now Danial King.
Then there are the teachers
Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
There have been great studies in the life of Jesus, showing how He is the ultimate apostle, pastor, prophet, evangelist and teacher, but what is the purpose of all of these gifts?
Here is a passage of Scripture I continually come back to:
Eph 47 But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift. 8 Therefore He says:
“When He ascended on high, He led captivity captive, And gave gifts to men.”[b]
9 (Now this, “He ascended”—what does it mean but that He also first[c] descended into the lower parts of the earth? 10 He who descended is also the One who ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things.)
11 And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, 13 till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; 14 that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, 15 but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ—
16 from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.
So we are given men and women of God, from God, to grow us in the things of God, that we can be delivered from the trickery of men, that we can take our place in the Body of Christ, our particular spot, gift, place and calling, that the whole Body of Christ might grow as we edify each other in love.
Been thinking about some what a disciple might look like in 2015, and I see questions, not full answers before me.
Since Jesus only ministered on the earth to His 12 disciples for 3-1/2 years before appointing them leaders in His kingdom in the earth, as His representatives, can we as leaders raise up people to send, in a similar three and a half year time period?
Yes, He promised that we would perform greater works than His, yet He lived with His disciples 24/7 for His entire earthly ministry.
How many of us are willing to embrace twelve people, and lovingly live with, teach, train, equip, and work with for 3-1/2 years until they are raised up in their particular ministries?
As I thought about the church structures in place across the earth, I see churches that place pastoral staff on salaries, but then how are the other four ministry gifts supposed to ethically receive financial support?
Do they simply attend a strong local church, and then perform their particular ministries outside of it’s four walls?
Evangelists raising up evangelistic centers that receive donations from the Body of Christ to finance their living support, and to host the crusades and conferences that train and equip us in the work of evangelism.
Prophets, who host conferences, and produce books and teaching materials to train and equip us in the prophetic…
Missionaries who solicit support to GO and perform missionary assignments, and to raise their families on the missions field.
Teachers, who receive salaries for teaching in the various educational institutes where they are called.
Somehow all this must flow through the local church, and how I have seen cat fights over money!
Should never be. All of us should tithe where the Lord directs, and I honestly believe if the Holy Spirit is fully in charge of the finances of His people, there will be no lack in God’s work being fully supported…
I was speaking about this today with Richard Lyons, who pastors the church we are helping pioneer.
I asked him: ‘Richard, here, in 2015, what does a true disciple of Jesus look like?’
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.
By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
So we see the fruit of a true disciple of Jesus, is true love exhibited in the earth, unconditional love shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit!
If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.
I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears muchfruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.
So, as we deliberately seek to receive the love of Jesus, we find ourselves thrust out into this war-torn, sin-sick, broken world, with one great weapon, His love beating in our hearts.
This is the mark of a true disciple, loving people, with no strings attached, simply because He first loved us.
Love Loud Today Leader!
All the evangelism, miracles, works of the ministry mean nothing without love…and love never fails!
Neither will you or I, as we deliberately love…
Now the end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned:
Come on disciple, let’s pray:
Father, I come to You today, knowing my needs! I need Your love, Your direction, Your strength and power to serve You in this, my generation. Flow through me to love loud today, those You have placed in my path today. I ask this, knowing I am loved and heard, for I ask in Your name Lord Jesus! AMEN!