The Basics of Discipleship

What are the basics of Christian discipleship? Well, let’s start at the very beginning. First, you must accept Jesus Christ as your personal Savior. You cannot be a Christian disciple unless, first, you are a Christian. You cannot follow Jesus as His disciple unless you have a personal relationship with Him.

How can you begin to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ? You must accept Jesus Christ into your heart as your Savior.

If you never accepted Jesus Christ as your Savior, then pay attention to the outline in the column on the right.

  • Admit to God that you are a sinner.
  • Believe in Lord Jesus Christ
  • Confess the Lord Jesus

Accept Jesus Christ as your Savior and you have taken the first step toward Christian discipleship.

The Basics of Discipleship

What’s next? Well, the Bible gives us five basic disciplines that help us form a strong foundation for discipleship. They are abiding in Christ, prayer, Bible study, fellowship, and witnessing. Let’s learn a bit more about each of these disciplines.

  • Abiding in Christ — you cannot have a living, personal relationship with Jesus unless you abide in Him. “Abiding” means staying close to Jesus at all times. Jesus uses the example of a grape vine and its branches to describe the importance of abiding. Jesus said, “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. . . . My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples.” (John 15: 4-5, 8 ESV)
  • Prayer — prayer is having a conversation with God. You cannot be a Christian disciple apart from prayer. Jesus knew the importance of prayer. He taught His disciples how to pray (see Matthew 6: 9-13 and Luke 11: 1-4). The apostle Paul also knew the importance of prayer. He wrote the following exhortation to the Ephesians, “Praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me.” Ephesians 6: 18-19 (ESV)
  • Bible Study — the Bible is the foundation and the authority for Christian discipleship. Yes, the Holy Spirit and prayer provide the power for Christian living but the Bible tells us where to find that power and how to become powerful ourselves through Jesus Christ. The Bible says this in II Timothy 3: 16-17, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. (ESV)
  • Witnessing — witnessing (sharing the gospel with the lost) is essential for the growth of the Kingdom of God. Jesus taught His disciples how to witness. Witnessing is that important. In addition, Jesus’ final words on earth commanded His followers to make disciples. According to Matthew 28: 18-20, “Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  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, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’ (ESV)
  • Fellowship — What is fellowship? Is it just parties or coffee between church services or potluck dinners? No, Christian fellowship consists of much more than that. Christians are required to care for each other. Galatians 6: 2 tells us, “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” (ESV) God intended the church to be a body of believers that is defined by love and caring for each other.

And there you have it. But before we move on, let’s examine the most important strength and weakness of these basics of discipleship.

Strength and Weakness

I started discipleship using a program that centered on these five basic areas of discipleship. The program implied that these five areas were the beginning, the middle, and the end of Christian discipleship. What’s wrong with that approach to discipleship? Well, I think I can answer that question by naming the strength and weakness of these five basics of discipleship.

Strength — These five basic areas of discipleship provide an excellent program for the person who is beginning to walk as a disciple. They are concise and concrete. These five areas are easy to explain and follow. So, they serve as a good place to start a life of discipleship. By maintaining discipline in these five areas a novice disciple remains in an excellent position to establish a relationship with God, learn more about Jesus, and become established in a local church. Using these basic disciplines will provide the disciple with a solid foundation for Christian growth.

Weakness — But there is a huge problem when a person considers these basics as the totality of discipleship. Although these five disciplines are important — even essential — for Christian growth, they are not even the center, that is, the most important part of discipleship. When Jesus called the first disciples in Matthew 4: 19 and Mark 1: 17, He did not say “read the Bible.” Jesus said, “Follow Me.” The center of discipleship is Jesus Christ. And to be a Christian disciple we must follow Him.

Jesus explained this further in Luke 9: 23-24. And [Jesus] said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.  For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.” (ESV) Following Jesus requires self-denial and giving control of your life to Jesus.

Being a disciple of Jesus requires you to place Jesus ahead of all other relationships — including self. Jesus said in Luke 14: 26, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.” (ESV)

[Jesus said,] “If a man come to me and hate not . . . he cannot be my disciple,” not, he cannot be good and upright, but, he cannot be one over whom Jesus writes the word “Mine.”

Oswald Chambers

After Jesus was crucified and rose from the dead, the first disciples began to understand that the command “follow Me” included following Jesus unto death. The apostle Peter wrote in I Peter 2: 21, For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. (ESV)

The apostle Paul summed this up in Galatians 2: 20: I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (ESV)

And to Summarize

The basics of discipleship are essential tools for building your relationship with God. Prayer and abiding in Christ are central to building a relationship with God. The Bible teaches you about God and Jesus Christ and Christian living. Fellowship and evangelism demonstrate the interaction between the disciple, the church, and the world.

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