How the Church has Gotten Discipleship Wrong

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The One Degree Podcast



Digital library of theological trainings with guided notes

Exegetical Bible reading plans and studies with daily videos going deeper

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In this episode, we’re starting a two-part series on discipleship. To start, we’re going to talk about how we’ve gotten discipleship wrong. We’ll also lay the foundation for how to do discipleship well. In the next episode, we’ll talk about practicals and how to actually do discipleship.

Let’s dive in!

Modern-day Discipleship

Let’s talk about modern-day discipleship. Typically, we view discipleship as meeting with someone for an hour a week at the coffee shop, sitting and studying the Bible together, and praying. An older person and a younger person meeting for accountability, etc…

While there is certainly nothing wrong with this if this is all we view discipleship as, we are missing out. We’re missing out on true, biblical discipleship.

One book we really like about this topic is Rediscovering Discipleship by Robby Gallaty. (Caveat: although Gallaty has some interesting views and I certainly don’t recommend his stuff on instantaneous baptism, this book is really solid). Maybe how we view discipleship in the West isn’t really all that it’s cracked up to be.

A Definition

So what does the word disciple mean?

“Discipleship meant much more than just the transfer of information . . . it referred to imitating the teacher’s life, inculcating his values, and reproducing his teachings.”

Greg Herrick 

The root of the word in Latin is “student.” It’s not just a transfer of information, it requires knowing your teacher, imitating them, and reproducing their teachings. Think of the idea of a protege.

Ultimately for Christians, it is rooted in imitating Christ and proclaiming his gospel to others. In 1 Corinthians 11:1, Paul says “Imitate me as I imitate Christ.” Christ is the source of our example- someone imitates Christ and someone else imitates them. Christ is the foundation of our discipleship. 

Discipleship takes time, sacrifice, and vulnerability from both the recipient and the mentor. 

Discipleship in the Bible

How do we see discipleship played out in the Bible?

Jesus had crowds, women who ministered to him, 12 disciples, and 3 core inner disciples (Peter, James, and John). It has been estimated that around 90% of Jesus’ time was spent with his 12 disciples. They traveled together, taught together, and genuinely did life together. (Side note: if anyone says they don’t have time for this, Peter was married) .

Look at Paul with Timothy. He acted as a spiritual father and taught Timothy. They also traveled and ministered together.

Eventually, all these people got sent out on their own

Jesus used a four-fold model: the disciples watched as he ministered, the disciples helped as he ministered, Jesus helped as his disciples ministered, Jesus watched as his disciples ministered, and finally, Jesus sends them out.

If the goal of discipleship is reproduction, then discipleship should be about raising others up (kind of to become peers) and starting all over again with others.

Active vs. Passive Discipleship

Active Discipleship: studying God’s word together, teaching, praying together, accountability, etc… Active discipleship is when we are explicitly and purposefully pursuing spiritual objectives. 

Passive Discipleship: how you go about living your day-to-day life. How do you respond to difficult situations? For example: when you lose on the basketball court, when your child throws a temper tantrum, or when your car breaks down… This type of discipleship occurs when you are genuinely living and doing life together. 

True discipleship includes both! It is not one or the other, both are necessary and equally important components. If no one is around you, if no one is invited into your life, you are not discipling others. Believers should be both receiving and giving both active and passive discipleship.

What about my time?

You might say that this kind of discipleship requires a lot of time- well, it does and it doesn’t.

Really, discipleship requires a lot of intentionality.

It means inviting people into your lives, into your home, and into your rhythms. This means going grocery shopping together, it means watching sports together, it means hanging out together.

We often don’t do this because we live in such an individualistic society. 

When we do have people over, it feels like an event. It feels like we’re hosting. In reality, it should feel like we are inviting them into our everyday lives. When you view it as hosting, it feels burdensome, exhausting, and draining. But when we view it as our regular life, just with more people involved, it feels doable. This can be more vulnerable, but it is possible!

This doesn’t mean we can’t take time for ourselves and refresh with God!

Jesus got alone time with God, he napped, etc…

We have the time to do this (refresh ourselves, get alone time with God, etc..) but we often waste it on other things. If we replaced the time we spend scrolling on social media or phones or watching TV, with things that actually rejuvenated us, we would be much better people. 

I (Nathaniel) remember watching football literally all day one time, from 11 am to 11 pm. I felt absolutely drained and wiped afterward. If I had used this time to hike, read, pray, or use part of it to have someone watch football with me, it would have been a different story! 

Discipleship Requires Sacrifice

All encompassing discipleship takes time, sacrifice, and vulnerability.

Consider this eye-opening thought experiment:

Let’s say you were a crazy effective evangelist and reached 1,000 people a day. Every day, because of your teaching, 1,000 people are giving their lives for Christ. How long would it take to reach the entire world? Over 21,000 years! This could never happen in any of our lifetimes.

Okay, now let’s say that you faithfully discipled three people for a year (we could all do that!). Then, the next year, you all discipled three people for a year, and so on and so forth. How long would it take to reach the entire world? 21 years! 

It’s kind of mind-blowing to think that if every Christian committed to discipling three people faithfully for a year, then you all discipled three more and if it kept going, the entire world would be reached in our lifetimes!

Even if you say a year is too short if you disicpled three people faithfully for three years, then you all did three other people for three years, and so on and so forth… It would be 63 years… still within our lifetimes! 

So why don’t we do this?

It’s not flashy, it doesn’t make us popular, it is somewhat difficult, and it certainly does take time, sacrifice, and vulnerability. You will have to choose to sacrifice something because it’s important and it is literally part of the Great Commission.

One Degree Shift

 Tune in next week to hear us practically flesh out what discipleship should/could look like!

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