Discipleship as Relationship

July 29, 2020
By: Dr. Philip Nation

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

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.

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18 replies on “Discipleship as Relationship”

I needed what was written here concerning relationships. My daughter (adopted) has not contacted me in about 12 years nor have I seen my 2 granddaughters. I sinned & it “set her off” to begin a hate mission on me to my family & best friends. No one will talk to me about her or even relay a message. I KNOW I SINNED, but she has no feeling for me & apparently has not forgiven me. Your messages from July 26 through today have reached the depths of my soul & have given me hope. I talked to my pastor & he told me his message beginning this Sunday was HOPE. GOD IS WTH ME ALWAYS!!!!
I have so much more to say. Satan was trying to pull me down, but at my lowest point, God pulled me up. PRAISE THE LORD!!

Thank you for sharing! This is excellent reminder for life is built by the quality of our relationships. Relationships become love in action. Always create ,develop and water our relationships. So they bloom as the flowers do.

Our worth in Eternity depends on this subject. Our impart against hell and Satan is measured from
How many souls did we rescue them
Thanks for sharing this truth.

I am a pastor and aspire to always look at the way Jesus handled matters and people even disciples. There were contrasting or paradoxical hope my spelling makes sense. So we disciple in love and the word is for teaching admonishing, encouraging etc. All to be done in the Love and attitude of Christ. But the greatest way to approach and live with our fellow brothers and sister in Christ is to keep on loving each other and by the Holy Spirit indwelling in us we are enabled to grow together in unity, harmony and in love. Thanks for the word shared around discipleship. Love one another.

The most vital lesson that we could learn is that we MUST disciple our children! Thanks for that reminder.

Thank you for the good work you doing for christ. God bless you. You have imparted something fresh and new into my system.

Thank you! I am glad to learn about discipleship. Indeed it is more than reaching out to someone. It is a covenant relationship.

The commandment to be fisher of men and then to disciple them to be genuine followers of Christ. It’s the greatest privilege we have as citizens of God’s kingdom. Thank you for the message. God bless you and your ministry.

Lovely to read the way to prayers and discipleship are with us in believing in God and in Jesus, and my beliefs in them are there too.
I have a daily routine in prayers and discipleship in my mobile phone, along with prayers when I wake, and ready to sleep.

i love Lord the Lord and i want take it back
Praise the Lord contiue your email with me because i love Jesus.amen!

I love this focus. It seems obvious but so many of us have at times tried to make disciples in classes and other “non-intimate” and less interactive environments like coffee shops and groups where trust has not yet been built. My favorite Biblical examples from our research on discipleship are Deuteronomy 6 and, of course, watching Jesus make disciples. From those, I would add that discipleship also requires intentionality, intimacy, transparency, and time to walk along the way with those that we disciple. Thanks for the reminder and your passion.

I was just talking to God about making disciples. I had to ask the question ” when was the last time you lead someone to Christ?” I must confess that it’s been a long time, and now I think I realize why. I come into contact with people and I tell them about God but I’ve never built a relationship with them. So thank you for this devotion today. It really she’d some light on things. I know I need to re-evaluate my approach.

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