In the previous blog post, we explored two passages that teach us the nature, context, and application (in two stages) of discipleship. The goal of this second post is to dive deeper into the second application stage. To meet this goal, we will be exploring four areas of a disciple’s lifethat God has designed for discipleship to continue after conversion. While the overall context is life in the local church, the first two areas primarily take place within the walls of a church building under the oversight of church leaders, and the last two areas primarily happen outside of the walls under the oversight of family leaders and individual conscience. Though this is the case, each area plays a significant part in a disciple’s life, and one cannot flourish without the other(s). *(To encourage further study, there will be verses of Scripture, as well as two charts added at the end of this post.):
- WORSHIP GATHERINGS (FORMAL)
It is here where the whole local church gathers to engage in the corporate worship of God and become equipped for the building up of the church. This is a time of giving and receiving. We give by offering our praise to God and encouragement to one another through the singing of His Word*. We also receive by the reading, preaching, and partaking (Lord’s Supper) of His Word. In this first area, God’s qualified leaders** equip the church with the teachings of Jesus in order for all to go into the other three areas and edify disciples to grow in maturity***.
- FELLOWSHIP GROUPS (INFORMAL)
In this second area everything revolves around the word, “fellowship.” The foundational meaning of this word is “to share.” The early church provides an excellent model of sharing for us to follow*. From prayers, meals, spiritual gifts, and discussions about the Bible, these kinds of informal gatherings are designed for life to be abundantly shared. These groups are designed for disciples to share our spiritual gifts** in order to grow deeperin the teachings of Jesus they have been equipped with in the worship gatherings. It is here that opportunities arise for older, mature disciples to teach younger disciples***and for same-seasoned disciples to mutually edify one another****. Though the early church in Acts 2 “met daily from house to house,” it is the principle they modeled for us of consistent interaction that leads to our modern application. With freedom of diversity in application, modern examples of these kinds of groups include (but are not limited to) Sunday School, community groups, men’s/women’s bible studies, dinner with other church members, etc.
- FAMILY DISCIPLESHIP
Though this third area primarily takes place outside the walls of a church building, it is nonetheless an essential element for making disciples in the local church*. As families grow in discipleship, God’s church grows in maturity, and His kingdom is furthered in this world through the evangelizing of the lost. It is here where the teachings of Jesus are further taught and lived out through godly marriages and parenting. In this third area, disciples take what we are equipped with in the worship gatherings and what we are edified by in the fellowship groups to disciple those within our family unit according to the roles God has designed**. Though this is the call, the reality is that not all families are able or willing to do this. There are many young disciples who need godly “father” and/or “mother” figures and older disciples who need younger “sons/daughters in the faith” to pass on their wisdom to. In cases where the family is lacking, the Church is called to step in and grow disciples in the needed areas***.
- INDIVIDUAL DISCIPLESHIP
When we think of continuing discipleship, we must remember that we, too, are disciples in need of growth. Just like families, as individuals grow, the church grows. This fourth area is where the “rubber hits the road.” When it all comes down to it, we are all individually responsible* to make every effort to grow in our personal devotion to God** as well as our witness of Him to the world***. God has sufficiently gifted every believer to fulfill both callings with His indwelling Spirit who teaches us to know Him and leads us to grow in Him****. In doing this we take what God has equipped and edified us with in the other three areas to grow in the second application stage of discipleship (hearing/living Jesus’ teaching) as well as continuing the first application stage of evangelizing the lost in the public square.
When it comes to understanding discipleship, there are many different theories, strategies, and approaches out there. While there is freedom in applying different methods of discipleship, the danger of having an abundance of options is the temptation to think discipleship is something that is man-powered and man-designed. To avoid this pitfall, we must trust in God’s sufficient Word where He gives us all we need to know about discipleship. Out of this trust, we must humbly and diligently search His Word to learn God’s design for discipleship and follow His Spirit Who guides us in applying what we learn. God is faithful to finish the good work He has started in us! May His Spirit continue to empower us to joyfully fulfill the command to go and make disciples.
Further Study – Worship:
*Further study on Church singing: Colossians 3:16-17; Ephesians 5:18-19
**Further study on identity of Church leadership: 1 Timothy 3:1-13; Titus 1:5-9; see Philippians 1:1 “overseers (Pastors/Elders) and deacons (ministers/servants)”; also see Ephesians 4:11, “Pastors and teachers” is one office (aka Pastors who teach) while Acts 13:1-2; 1 Corinthians 12:28; and James 3:1 refer to “Teachers” who don’t necessarily serve as Pastors
***Further study on function of leadership and membership to build up the church: Ephesians 4:11-16
Further Study – Fellowship:
*Further study on the life of the early Church: Acts 2:42-26
**Further study on spiritual gifts used to build up the church: Ephesians 4:12-13; Romans 12:4-5; 1 Corinthians 12:4-7
***Further study on multigenerational edification: Titus 2; Psalm 145:3-7
****Further study on mutual edification: Galatians 6:1-2; Proverbs 27:17
Further Study – Family Discipleship:
*Further Study on the call of family discipleship: Ephesians 5-6:1; Deuteronomy 6:4-9
**Further study on leadership and roles: Colossians 3:18-21; 1 Peter 3:1-7
***Further study on the call and example: James 1:27; 2 Timothy 1:1-6 “my son in the faith”
Further Study – Individual Discipleship:
*Further study on individual conscience and responsibility: Romans 14; 1 Corinthians 10:23-33
**Further study on personal devotion: Matthew 6:1-18
***Further study on personal witness: Matthew 5:13-16; Colossians 4:5-6
****Further study on God’s provision: 2 Peter 1:3-11; 1 John 2:24-28