Christlike Discipleship

My throat constricted, and my fingers started to clinch involuntarily, as I listened to my friend, a former university classmate, tell me he no longer attends an organized, denominational church, but is still living a fruitful Christian life. In fact, he no longer attends any church, because, he said, “they are all designed, ruled, and organized by man, and not God… I can be a better, stronger Christian on my own, doing my own Bible studies and private devotions”.  This person was formerly a fellow pastor and evangelist in the Church of the Nazarene.

Although this was a shock for me,  I was not surprised by his perception and decision, which is becoming increasingly common.  What is the cause? Why are we losing these people? Although I believe there are many contributing causes, one of the greatest is packed into the word “discipleship”.

May I offer an over-simplified perspective on the term “discipleship”? Discipleship is “investment”. Investment in people is the basis, the core, of discipleship. It goes far deeper than “influence”, or seminars, or classroom teaching. It forms the very basic premise behind God’s prevenient grace. It is investment in relationships with people,  a personal, in-depth, sometimes painful, investment. It is Christlike investment to walk as Jesus walked.

God sent His Son to repair a broken relationship with His greatest creation, humanity.  He created us for relationship with Him.  That relationship was broken through Adam’s sin. In Jesus, what an investment He made! The very blood and life of His Son, shed on the cross of Calvary that we might have life, and relationship with Him.

Jesus was the Great Disciple-maker. He invested Himself in relationship with His disciples. He taught them, disciplined them, mentored them, lived with them, and died for them. He showed them what it meant to be Spirit filled, passionate, compassionate, sacrificial, and humble. He showed them how to be disciple-makers.

I want to walk as Jesus walked!

He walked in the complete, overpowering presence of God and His Holy Spirit. He walked in deepest love and compassion. He walked in all the spiritual authority He was given. He walked in holy humility with an indomitable passion for the lost and dying world. Jesus wept over those who were lost, without a shepherd, wandering blindly through life. He invested His tears, His compassion – true compassion – into His disciples, so they could see and feel beyond themselves to others who were in grave spiritual need. He made disciples. Discipleship is every believer’s privilege and responsibility. We all are responsible to be a disciple, and to make disciples.

Discipleship1To be a disciple-maker, we must first be a disciple. That means being personally discipled until our last breath. Secondly, we must disciple others, both formally and informally – being Christlike wherever we are, including intentionally influencing the non-Christian and unsaved toward right relationship with Jesus. Third, we must disciple other Christians toward Christian maturity – intentionally and strategically influencing Christians to know and follow Jesus; to be Christlike, Holy Spirit filled, entirely sanctified Christians. Fourth, we must disciple maturing Christians to become disciple-makers who mentor others. And fifth, we must disciple maturing Christian disciple-makers to intentionally and sacrificially help others in making Christlike disciples.

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