What is Discipleship?

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What is Discipleship?

By Jourdan Fichter

Discipleship. We throw this word out a lot in the church or in ministries, and if we are honest, it all may be a little confusing. In Matthew 28:19 it says, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” SO, we know the call to make disciples is there but if you’re anything like me sometimes that call is a bit daunting. I want to try and explain discipleship through 3 ideas: what is discipleship, what discipleship looks like, and why discipleship matters.

What is Discipleship?

So, first what is discipleship? A disciple is defined as “a follower or student of a teacher, leader, or philosopher”. I think about back in college when I went to student teach. I followed and learned from my supervising teacher by observing what she did first and then trying it myself. I became a disciple of my supervising teacher.

Discipleship is the act of being a disciple, the act of being a follower or student of Jesus

Look at Matthew 4:18-22. It says that Peter and Andrew “left their nets” and “followed him.” Then again, with James and John, they “left the boat and their father and followed him”.  These four men became disciples by following Jesus, not by knowing all the right answers, praying in public in the most, or going to the temple everyday, but by simply laying down their lives to follow Jesus. Discipleship is the act of being a disciple, the act of being a follower or student of Jesus.

What Does Discipleship Look Like?

Now, what does discipleship look like? Well, read on in Matthew 4:23-25. I think it’s a safe assumption that Jesus was going to heal diseases and cast out demons regardless of if his new disciples followed him or not. He was put on Earth with a mission and purpose, and in this text, he was beginning his ministry to fulfill that. Notice how he didn’t change what he was going to do when the disciples decided to follow him. Jesus simply invited them into what he was already doing and, if we continue to read in Matthew, he taught them along the way.

Jesus simply invited [the disciples] into what he was already doing...

Another one of my favorite models for discipleship in the Bible is the relationship between the apostle Paul and Timothy. Paul had such a close relationship with Timothy that Timothy was alongside Paul in so many different parts of his life, both good and bad. Paul imparted wisdom and truth on Timothy, and he did that through his words AND his life. I imagine Timothy learned more from being in a close relationship with Paul, learning from his example, than he would have just sitting in an audience listening to Paul’s teachings.

It reminds me of when I first learned to dribble a basketball. I was probably about 4 years old. My mom and I were in our basement; it was unfinished at the time and had cement flooring. She handed me a basketball and said “dribble”. I looked at her with complete confusion on my face and said, “What?”

She said “Go on, dribble!”

I was still so confused. “Right here?” I asked.

“Yeah, right on the floor.”

So, I proceeded to drool all the spit I had been collecting in my mouth all over my chin and onto the floor.

My mom freaked out! “What are you doing?” She screamed.

“I’m dribbling on the floor like you told me to do.” I had never seen someone model for me what it looked like to dribble a basketball. So, when I was being taught to dribble simply by my mom’s words, I went off of what I thought dribbling meant and ended up wiping up my own saliva off the floor. It wasn’t until after my mom showed and modeled for me what it looked like to dribble a basketball that I understood how to do it.

The same is true in discipleship. It’s going beyond telling someone to live a godly life and actually being a disciple of Jesus ourselves, modeling in our day-to-day lives and inviting people in to see and learn along the way.

Discipleship goes beyond sitting down for coffee with someone and telling him or her everything you know about Jesus. Yes, it probably should include coffee but it should also involve everyday life. It can look like having someone over for dinner, going on a walk, running errands with someone, serving alongside each other at church and so much more. It’s inviting people into our normal routines or activities with the intentions to push him or her closer towards Jesus and spur him or her on in their faith. I don’t want you to miss this! The key component of discipleship is intentionality. In the midst of doing these regular everyday things, be thinking: how can I encourage this person in their faith? Where do I need to speak truth into their life? Is there an area of their life I can be praying for? What spiritual questions can I help answer?

The key component of discipleship is intentionality

At Providence our main avenue of discipleship occurs through “Huddles”. Huddles are groups of 3-5 gender-specific people regularly meeting up to encourage one another, confess to one another, and pray. I don’t want to tell you exactly what to do in your Huddles, because those rhythms should happen naturally. During the school year I meet with about four or five women regularly each week. My times with each of them all look different. Sarah and I like getting Juice Stop, Rachel and I go to Roast coffee shop, Sammy Jo and I do laundry and cook dinner, and Maddie and I like trying somewhere new every time. During each of those meetings we’re doing normal, everyday things, but we’re intentionally talking about what we’re reading in our quiet times, what ways we aren’t believing the gospel, what sin patterns we’ve been falling back into, and how we can pray for one another. Huddles are an intentional time to encourage, confess, and pray. Whatever you’re doing or wherever you are is totally up to you but including those three components (encourage, confess, and pray) will result in disciples of Jesus being challenged and encouraged in their relationship with Jesus.

I want y’all to see that discipleship isn’t an intimating or daunting task where you’re responsible for other’s growth and understanding of Jesus. That’s on the Holy Spirit. It’s natural relationships that form between disciples of Jesus pushing each other on in their faith. It’s being intentional with your brothers or sisters in Christ and truly caring about them enough to ask the hard questions, call out that sin pattern, or being open enough to let them see the mess of your life. You aren’t perfect, so be vulnerable and model what it looks like to rely on Jesus’s perfection instead of your own. I learn from and am encouraged by the women I disciple every time I meet with them. Discipleship is a two way street.

Why Does Discipleship Matter?

Lastly, why does discipleship matter? My junior year of college I was at one of our monthly student ministry leadership meetings. The leaders started the meeting by having all of the staff stand; it was about 5 or 6 people. Then, our director said, “If any of you have been discipled by one of these leaders, please stand up.” About 12 people stood up. Then he said, “Again, if you have been discipled by one of the people standing up, please stand up.” Another 25 or so people stood up. “One last time, if you have been discipled by one of the people standing, stand up.” Probably 50 people stood up. By this time, almost the entire room was standing! It all started with the 5 or 6 staff that said yes to intentionally making disciples, who then make more disciples, who make even more disciples.

What would Omaha look like if Providence had such a discipleship culture?

Do you see the effect that discipleship can have? What would Omaha look like if Providence had such a discipleship culture that Christians began to mature in their faith, invest in others, and ultimately see people go from death to life? Discipleship matters because we long to see people have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. When more mature Christians are on mission around Omaha, the more the love of Jesus is going to be seen and experienced. Ultimately discipleship matters because this is the avenue by which Jesus grows his church, both in numbers and maturity. 

What is discipleship? Discipleship is the way Jesus lived out his ministry and taught his disciples along the way. It’s not some method we came up with. Jesus did it, it worked, and so we want to do it too.

What does discipleship look like? It looks like inviting others into our everyday life with the intention of pushing them towards Jesus through encouragement, vulnerability, love, and prayer.

Lastly, why does discipleship matter? Discipleship matters because it’s the avenue by which Jesus grows his church.

Discipleship has a trickle effect. We long to see disciples who make disciples who make disciples. It starts with us each discipling one person, who then disciples another person, who then disciples another person and so on. That is our vision, our mission, and our passion for discipleship!


Jourdan Fichter