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Discipleship: Then and Now
Discipleship: Then and Now

by | Aug 20, 2022 | Staff

There was once a young man in old Vienna named Rudolph. He determined one day to write a symphony; he set to work and labored hard; he wrote it and rewrote it. Then he called in some friends and went over it with them; they were loud in their praises. They said: “It’s great, Rudolph; it will make you a great name.” But he wasn’t satisfied with it. He went over it again and again until at last he had finished it. Then he set the orchestra to work upon it.

Finally the night came when it was to be given to the public. The great hall was literally packed with people, and as the beauties of the harmony floated out over them it touched a responsive chord in their lives, it melted their hearts and they caught the inspiration of the composer. When the last strain had died out there was a moment’s silence, then the great throng went almost wild in the demonstration of their enthusiasm, and hundreds flocked to the stage to congratulate the young musician.

But he stood there unmoved. After the crowd had passed away somewhat, there came down the aisle an old white-haired man. Going up to the young man, he placed both his hands on his shoulders and said, “It was well done. Rudolph, it was well done.” Then it was that a smile of satisfaction stole over the face of the young musician. That was his master. Rudolph was his disciple, and it was his master’s approval that he was waiting for. A disciple always seeks the approval of the master.

 Let’s talk about discipleship…Specifically,  what did the discipleship model used by Jesus and the first century church look like? How are those components manifest in the lives of disciples today?

  1. There is always first a call. One became a disciple when called by Jesus himself (e.g., Mark 1:16-18; 2:13,14). The initiative lay with Jesus alone. There was always a call, an invitation. In Acts Peter follows his message at Pentecost with an invitation. Those that responded became disciples, for in verse 42 we read that they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching. And so it is today- there is always a call to discipleship. What are some ways we receive that call today?
    1. There is a call by the Holy Spirit Himself- Romans 8:29,30. “Those He pre-destined, He also called”. That may be the still small voice that prompts me to attend a church service, or to approach a friend that we know to be a Christian. It may be the prayer of desperation we finally cry out, and the prompting we receive as a result.
    1. There is an invitation issued by Christ’s disciples themselves- Matthew 28:18-20. We are to make disciples… How can we do that other than by invitation?? This aspect of the Christian life is so important it is called the Great Commission. Christ’s disciples share an invitation with others- often times one-on-one.
    1. The invitation may appear to us through the Bible, a book, or a social media post.
    1. The invitation can be found in a preached message. That was the case in Peter’s message in Acts 2. Paul spoke about how important this is in Romans 10: 12-15. This actually involves two invitations. First, an invitation to come hear the preacher. And second, the invitation issued by the preacher themselves.
  2. Disciples learned and grew by spending time- lots of time- with Jesus or with the apostles. The Gospels are full of references to “Jesus and His disciples”, traveling together, eating together, attending celebrations together. His disciples were nearly always present when Jesus preached to the crowds or performed miracles. Their apprenticeship lasted three years. Side bar- one business theory today states that it takes 10,000 hours of practice or sustained study to master a given talent or craft. Just for fun, if we say that the disciples spent three years doing ministry with Jesus, for nine hours a day, that comes to almost exactly 10,000 hours…They learned by doing life with their master. In Acts 2 the new disciples did life together with the apostles- Acts 2:42-47. Was this a good strategy? Read verse 47 again…
  3.  How can we learn from these examples?
    1. Learning by doing life together. A church congregation functions properly when it functions as a family. To the degree that we spend time together not just for an hour on Sunday morning, we learn from each other, are inspired and encouraged by each other, and develop true Christ-centered love for each other. Church events are more than “just another thing we are supposed to do”. They all serve to build community, foster relationships, and allow all of us to grow in our discipleship walk. They provide opportunities to learn from each other in interactive settings.
    1. Discipleship by serving– Jesus served His disciples, and from that they learned to serve each other. As we do life together, we naturally step into various ways of serving each other. We learn that a major component of being a disciple is service- to each other, to our Master, and to other prospective disciples.
  4. Disciples grew by imitating their master. The master’s Godly qualities were learned and copied into the lifestyle of the disciples. Jesus makes this clear in Matthew 10 when He sends out the disciples. He is encouraging them to do and say the things He has modeled for them.  

Paul also stressed this repeatedly- 1Cor. 11:1; Hebrews 13:7. What can we learn from these examples?

  1. As we desire to progress in our discipleship journey, it is critical that we find exemplary models to follow- someone(s) who have lived or are living a faithful, spirit-led Christian life. Those are lives worth studying, and are worth modeling our lives after. Where might we find such models for ourselves? Consider these:
    1. Jesus Himself – The Gospels give us a rich history of His character, wisdom, and ministry.
    1. Inspiring Bible characters- Joshua, Noah, Nehemiah, Paul, David, Job, and many more. Which accounts especially inspire you?
    1. Church fathers over the past 2000 years- Augustine, John Wesley, Martin Luther, Charles Spurgeon. Again, which inspire you? Study a biography for qualities to imitate.
    1. Our parents- are yours examples of integrity and faith? How could you imitate them?
    1. An “older person” (spiritually speaking) in your church or circle of relationships, whose faithful life inspires you. What can you imitate?
    1. Finding a mentor, being a mentor- Let us remember that we each play a role in the discipleship circle. At times in our Christian walk, we will mostly need a mentor to disciple us. At times, we will be in a position where we can mentor and disciple someone else. It is entirely possible that both things can be happening at the same time. So while we are looking for a mentor we can model, we may also be serving as a mentor and a model for someone else- and so it goes….

The discipleship process- points to remember:

  1. There is always a call, or invitation. If we are already believers, it may be our privilege to be the one extending the invitation. Let’s not miss those opportunities.
  2. Discipleship happens when we do life together. Let’s not think about church as somewhere we go, but as an organism whereby God’s people worship while doing life together.
  3. Disciples need mentors, and then need to become mentors. Have both of those happened in your life?

Want to step up your discipleship game? Here are some personal challenges to consider, along with their scriptural basis:

     1.     Take a greater interest in our spiritual brothers and sisters, Gal. 6:1–2.

     2.     Take a greater interest in the unsaved, 1 Cor. 9:22–27.

     3.     Demonstrate greater loyalty to public worship, Heb. 10:25.

     4.     Foster a fervent approach to God in prayer, Heb. 4:16.

     5.     Develop a greater interest in Bible study, 2 Tim. 3:16

May it be said of us, when this church year draws to a close, that “And every day the Lord added to them those who were being saved.”


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