In Mark 1:16-17, Jesus had just been baptized and tempted by Satan in the wilderness. He is now ready to begin His public ministry:
“As He was going along by the Sea of Galilee, He saw Simon and Andrew, the brother of Simon, casting a net in the sea; for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men.”
Jesus quickly gathered His disciples, and took them with Him wherever He went. They observed Him throughout His ministry, and He taught them until they were ready to go out on their own. Making them His apostles, Jesus ultimately charged them with making disciples of all the nations (Matthew 28:19).
There are many ways Jesus could have chosen to build His church and spread Christianity throughout the world. Of all of the options available to Him, He chose to invest deeply in twelve men. These men also had disciples, and through them the church has been established on every continent, reaching countless millions of people.
Discipleship is still Jesus’s model for continuing and growing His church. Every member of the church should be thinking about discipling others with the goal of reproducing himself (and herself). This behavior should be woven into every activity in the church!
We are all called to be disciples, or followers, of Jesus Christ. As we follow Him, we are constantly learning. However, the Christian’s life is not intended to be a solitary journey. No matter where we are in our walk with Christ, there will always be people who have knowledge and experience that we can benefit from, just as there will be others who can benefit from what we have learned.
Discipling others involves more than teaching a bible study. During Jesus’s ministry, He disciple others by:
- Bringing them along with Him to observe His ministry
- Finding “teachable moments” in everyday events
- Teaching them the meaning of scripture
- Sending them out to minister to others
- Correcting and counseling them when they made mistakes
…and many other things. The point is that discipling involves an intentional investment in the lives of others, building deep relationships for the express purpose of building them up so that they can be more effective in their own lives and ministries.
What It Means to Us
Westbrooke is an incredibly gifted church with many longtime believers. Despite our many gifts, however, we are not broadly intentional about discipling others beyond our own families.
Many people aren’t sure that they are ready to disciple others. Reasons that are sometimes stated include not being able to teach, not being sure what to do, or simply believing that we don’t have anything to offer. However, discipling is something that any mature Christian can, and should, be doing! We aren’t all called to deliver sermons or to teach bible study classes, but we are all called to form meaningful relationships. All Christians have spiritual gifts and valuable life experience, having seen both struggles and triumphs in our Christian walks. We can all benefit others by sharing our lives with them.
Westbrooke isn’t planning to form an official “discipleship program”, but rather see this as something that should become a regular part of our everyday lives. Discipleship is key to our ability to bless others with the gifts and experience God has given us, and is essential to the long-term health of Christ’s church! To meet this important directive, Westbrooke must:
Embed discipleship into our ministries. Each ministry must constantly seek ways both to perform ministry and to bring up others capable of doing so. Every ministry leader should have one to three people who are actively learning how to perform and lead key aspects of the ministry. This will reduce the burden placed on the ministry leader, ensure the long-term health of the ministry, and contribute to a growing number of potential leaders within the church!
Form discipleship relationships. All mature Christians in the church should seek to maintain one to three discipleship relationships at all times. Some relationships may be more formal with regularly scheduled meetings and activities, while others may simply be people in the congregation whom we have chosen to try to help in any way we can.
Embed discipleship into our lives. Beyond formal and informal discipleship relationships, everyone at Westbrooke should constantly be seeking opportunities to help others in the church. Even a random, one-time opportunity to explain a verse to someone or help them complete a task can have a lasting effect on those around us. Imagine how positive and encouraging an environment we would have at Westbrooke if everyone there spent their time looking for ways to help others!