What is Discipleship and why is it important?

As Christians and Ministry Leaders, we talk a lot about discipleship. We say we need to make disciples and quote Matthew 28:18-20 about as often as we stir our coffee. But, what does that really mean?  Do we have any solid information and practical application for us to live out the mandate Jesus has laid out in the Scriptures?
"Ultimately each church will be evaluated by only one thing, its disciples. Your church is only as good as its disciples. It does not matter how good your praise, preaching, programs or property are. If your disciples are passive, needy, consumerist, and not moving in the direction of radical obedience, your church is not good." – Neil Cole
It is thrilling to share in the joy of someone coming to Jesus. It is wonderful to see God bring new life to someone. But what new Christians – and Christians who have been walking with Christ for years – need to realize is that BECOMING a Christian is just the FIRST step.  Being a Christian isn’t something you do one time – and then only give half-hearted allegiance afterwards. Being a Christian is a journey.  It is a lifestyle.  And we must remember that Jesus established some principles of discipleship to help us on that journey.
  • “Discipleship is a mandate for us as Christ-followers. We do not have a choice. His kingdom must be built on solid biblical principles that assure every new believer a solid foundation.” (Rev. Dennis Ray Smith)
  • Discipleship is the primary thrust of the Great Commission.The Greek work for disciple, mathetes - means learner, pupil, someone who learns by following.
Believer or disciple
A Believer – is someone who believes in Jesus. He may or may not attend church regularly. He may or may not study the Bible – pray – give tithes and offerings – and so on. He may or may not have said a prayer asking Jesus to save him.”
A Believer – believes in Jesus – but may or may not have allowed Jesus to transform him. So it’s tricky to determine whether or not a believer is truly saved. After all – Satan believes in Jesus, too.”
A Disciple – is someone who is fully committed to obeying Jesus in every part of his life. (Did you get that?) Jesus is not part of his life – Jesus is his life. “Disciple” means “learner.” And in New Testament days – a disciple gave up everything in order to follow his master.”
A Disciple is what Jesus calls us to become.”
Are you a follower of Jesus or are you a disciple of Jesus?
This is an important question to answer. A follower listens to great teaching but rarely puts that teaching into practice. A follower likes to sit and watch the miraculous but seldom prays for it. A follower is in it for the benefits, a disciple follows even when it hurts.  As disciples we are called not only to follow Jesus; we are called to become like Him.  Jesus has now many lovers of the heavenly kingdom but few bearers of His cross.
William Barclay, The Gospel of Luke: “It is possible to be a follower of Jesus without being a disciple; to be a camp follower without being a soldier of the king; to be a hanger-on in some great work without pulling one’s weight. Once someone was talking to a great scholar about a younger man, He said, “So and so tells me that he was one of your students.” The teacher answered devastatingly, “He may have attended my lectures, but he was not one of my students.” There is a world of difference between attending lectures and being a student. It is one of the supreme handicaps of the Church that in the Church there are so many distant followers of Jesus and so few real disciples. (Chuck Swindoll, Ultimate Book of Illustrations & Quotes, pp. 162)
"God’s primary plan for the Church is for disciples of Jesus to develop other men and women into disciples! There is probably no other more primary matter of negligence in the Church today than our failure to follow the Lord’s command to develop disciples. Because of this gross neglect, many Christians think of themselves as an audience to be entertained rather than an army ready to march...Discipleship must function as the heart of church ministry.” (Bill Hulk, New Century Disciple-Making, pp. 10)
As we engage in our Disciple classes let us remember the mandate that, as disciples of Jesus Christ, we must accept our responsibility to make other disciples of Jesus Christ as well.  Christ wants to use all of His body (the church) in the disciple-making process—realize it takes all types of Christians to reach all types of lost people.