The Necessity of Discipleship for Great Commission Living
- Take part in one-on-one or small group discipleship.
We come now to the last blog post in the Great Commission Living series. We come also to what is perhaps the most important post in the series: the necessity of discipleship for Great Commission living. As necessary as church discipline is, discipleship is needed just as much, if not more, since discipleship precludes church discipline. Recall Jesus’ Great Commission of Matthew 28:19. “Go and make disciples …” The authors of The Trellis and the Vine make it very clear that “to be a disciple is to be a disciple maker.” Discipleship is not an option; it is a command, and central to fulfilling the Great Commission. There are two types of discipleship: one-on-one and small group.
We see one-on-one discipleship in the New Testament in the life of Paul. Particularly, Paul discipled Timothy. Paul discipled other men as well, notably Titus, but Timothy was Paul’s main disciple and Paul’s primary successor. We see the universal application of discipleship in Paul’s charge to Timothy that is recorded in 2 Timothy 2:1-2, “You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” This is the standard for biblical discipleship. Notice the pattern:
- Paul taught
- Timothy, who entrusts what he learned to
- Faithful men, who will be able to teach
From this biblical passage, we see a modern correlation:
- Senior pastor/seminary professor teaches
- Succeeding pastor/seminary student going into pastoral ministry, who preaches to
- The congregation, who then disciple
- Individual congregants one-on-one.
Now, that modern correlation isn’t universal, but that’s one of the main paths of discipleship. The pastor teaches his congregation, and individual congregation members disciple each other. (The pastor, or course, is also involved in individual discipleship. It is important to note that just as a lay person would have someone discipling him along with his discipleship of another, so the pastor has someone holding him accountable even as he disciples another(s). Bethlehem Baptist Church has a PDF outlining their expectations of pastors in a pastoral accountability form.)
Individual discipleship is important for two reasons: every disciple not only makes disciples but is also discipled by another. Being discipled adds accountability. We all sin and have our blind spots—when we are discipled by someone else, we are actively accountable not only to God but also to that person, as well. This helps promote spiritual growth. As Proverbs 27:17 tells us, “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.”
Now, not each individual discipleship will have differing levels of accountability. Perhaps you’d even like to have a completely separate “accountability partner” in addition to the one who disciples you. And indeed, Proverbs 11:14 concurs, “Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety.”
Small Group Discipleship
As helpful as one-on-one discipleship can be, small groups can also be effective in warring against sin and in growing in the faith. As Corby Megorden writes for 9Marks:
Every Christian has predominant sin patterns that affect our lives. For myself, I can be self-sufficient, judgmental, and proud. These sins reside deep in my heart. While these sins may show up in primary areas such as my marriage, they really affect all of my actions. Because "out of the heart, the mouth speaks," our discussions reflect my heart and what I truly believe. Every conversation is then an opportunity for others to see my sin patterns at work. By having others that know me share these observations, I can more effectively mortify the sin that is active in my heart. And what a joy to do this with brothers and sisters who know, believe, trust, and always remind me of the same gospel—that Christ died for our sins, that we might belong to sin no more!
His whole article can be read at 9Marks.org.
As it is, small group discussions increase openness and honesty and humility in their participants.
Discipleship—both individual and small group—is important because it both fights personal sin and promotes personal holiness. We Christians need community; Christianity is not individualistic. As Hebrews 10:23-25 says, “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” As integral as this passage is to church fellowship, it also applies to individual and small group discipleship, both of which are ways we can “stir one another to love and good works.”
“Set your minds on things that are above,” and don’t be so arrogant so as to not seek others’ help in accountability. Nor be so lazy so as to neglect helping others set their minds on things that are above.