Everyone is a disciple. The only qualifier to discover is to whom or what are you a disciple.
As Jesus concluded His time upon the earth, He left us with numerous commands. But the one we consider as “great” is, “Therefore, go and make disciples…” (Matthew 28:19). It is the work of every Christian individually and collectively as the church. As we travel through the entirety of the Bible, examples are everywhere of discipleship. If you take a trip through history, the same shows up. When the church is at its best, we are making disciples.
There are numerous biblical examples of how we can lead one another to be spiritually healthy and reproducing disciples. Let me show you a few from the New Testament.
The women of Timothy’s family
Paul wrote two letters to Timothy on how to serve as a pastor. In one letter, the great Apostle highlighted the impact of our family in discipleship. He wrote, “I recall your sincere faith that was alive first in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice, and I am sure is in you” (2 Timothy 1:5, NET). The first place we can look for discipleship to occur is in the home.
The values that you have will be passed on to your children; and to your grandchildren. It is not too much to highlight the critical work of discipling our children according to the Scriptures. Parents are first and foremost disciple-makers for Christ. It is our one great work in all of life that we can joyfully apply to our homes.
Priscilla and Aquila with Apollos
Apollos was a powerful spokesman for the gospel but he was not infallible. In Acts 18, we see the story of Apollos preaching. He was a powerful preacher and seemingly fearless to stand up for the message of Christ in a culture not readily accepting of it. But Apollos had an incomplete understanding of baptism. He needed discipleship.
Two local believers, Priscilla and Aquilla, “took him aside and explained the way of God to him ore accurately” (Acts 18:26, NET). They did not publicly ridicule, rebuke, or embarrass him. Rather, it was something done in private and among friends. It resulted in Apollos continuing his ministry with power and effectiveness. Sometimes discipleship is an in-the-moment opportunity with long-ranging effects. Other times it is a long and slow process. Whether it’s Timothy’s family raising him or friends helping Apollos, discipleship is done on the personal level for the good of the one receiving truth.
Paul and Titus
In his letter, Paul wrote, “To Titus, my genuine son in a common faith” (Titus 1:4a) to express the closeness of their relationship. Discipleship is more than transferring spiritual knowledge. It involves the entanglement of our lives with one another. The impact that Paul had upon Titus was because of his deep love for a fellow disciple.
This kind of attitude shows up frequently in Paul’s life. He used family metaphors often. It reveals that discipleship requires fondness. It requires closeness. We are not to be the ones who yell from the proverbial “cheap seats” about directions, what someone did wrong, or just be generally surly about others’ lives.
Discipleship requires relationship.
It is a prime lesson we discover throughout the New Testament. As we deliver the truth of living out the faith, we do it in community with people we love. Our relationships are the context for discipleship and discipleship builds our relationships. Our Lord invited us into a covenant relationship with Him through salvation. Our disciple-making work with others should reflect that same core value of deep soul care for others.
Dr. Philip Nation is the VP/Publisher of Thomas Nelson Bibles. He is the author of many works including Habits for Our Holiness and Compelled: Living the Mission of God. You can follow his serious thoughts and silliness on Twitter @philipnation.