An earnest search of the scriptures will reveal that what Jesus taught about discipleship is very different than what is required for discipleship today.
In my quest to understand this amazing subject, there are four things that I concluded very quickly into my study:
- #1. What Jesus taught and required of His disciples is radically different from how discipleship is practiced today.
- #2. Discipleship precedes leadership.
- #3. Most leadership problems that arise in a local church are actually discipleship problems.
- #4. The 21st century church doesn’t need more Christians – it desperately needs disciples.
This brief article is not exhaustive. However, it is an attempt to encourage today’s leaders to take a fresh look at the importance of discipleship at the local level, and why it’s so critical to how effective the church will be in world evangelism.
It’s imperative that today’s decision makers who lead the church understand discipleship from a scriptural perspective and not settle for anything less.
One’s ability to gather and make disciples is the true measurement of a successful apostolic leader.
One thing is certain. True disciples are committed followers. If no one is following, disciples aren’t being developed.
A look at what Jesus taught His disciples is very revealing:
“If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.” (Matthew 16:24)
“If any man come to me, and hate not (love less) his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.”(Luke 14:26)
“So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:33)
“Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed;” (John 8:31)
“Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples.” (John 15:8)
Jesus wasn’t trying to keep people out of heaven. He simply understood what it would take to evangelize a hostile world where traditions and cultures are so strong that they will kill over it. Jesus knew it would require more than an outward confession of an inward faith. He also knew that only those who were truly committed disciples would have the persevering qualities it would take to change their world.
Strong, growing, apostolic churches are not made up of members who try to see how close to the world they can live and still be saved. Just the opposite is true. Because of this, making disciples at the local church level must never be devalued or minimized. It should be our first priority.
Written by Bishop F. Joe Ellis
First of a three-part article