It is remarkable to see how Christianity has grown to become the world’s foremost religion considering how it started. Jesus had chosen twelve disciples, and just before He ascended into heaven after His resurrection, he had given instructions to these disciples to go into all the world and tell everyone about Him – what we often refer to as the Great Commission:
“He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. 16 Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.” – Mark 16:15-16
“19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” – Matthew 28:19-20
By the power of the Holy Spirit, the message of Jesus Christ has spread and is still spreading to the entire world. But while there has been a heavy focus on outreaches and missions to unreached nations, there is a lack of effective discipleship, training and mentoring for new converts to equip them with the truth that they may grow first, and then, effectively minister to others. This was the pattern in the early church and we can well attribute the spread of the Gospel to effective discipleship of this kind.
When the Holy Spirit came on the day of Pentecost (40 days after the resurrection of our Lord), Peter preached a clear and direct sermon that led 3000 people to repent and receive salvation. Many think he just “opened his mouth, and God filled it” with words. Of course, the sermon was inspired by the Holy Spirit, but Peter was able to teach his sermon because he had also been taught. When Jesus appeared to the disciples after His resurrection, He had full sessions with the disciples, going over all the Old Testament to explain to the disciples what the scriptures had said about Him.
25 He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself. – Luke 24:25-27
This, coupled with all the experiences and teachings the disciples had received through their time with Jesus, prepared Peter up until that point. Peter’s sermon was inspired by the Holy Spirit, but it was driven by knowledge he had received from Jesus through discipleship! As a result, 3000 people repented and were baptized.
Afterwards, the 3000 new believers were not just sent home and told to come to church on Sundays. They were not just left to find their way as it probably is nowadays. Rather, they were brought in and effectively groomed in the apostle’s doctrine, which of course they had gotten direct from Jesus!
Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day. They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. – Acts 2:41-47
The Bible records that they met in the temple EVERYDAY to pray together, and they were discipled in the apostle’s doctrine! Peter and the other disciples had been taught/discipled by Jesus and they were fully equipped to teach others through discipleship!
Furthermore, when persecution came upon the church in Jerusalem, the believers had to flee for safety to other villages and towns in and around Judea and Samaria. Though fleeing for safety, it became a perfect avenue to fulfill the commandment of Jesus – to witness about Jesus, starting in Jerusalem and then to Judea and Samaria.
On that day a great persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. – Acts 8:1
As the believers fled to other cities for safety, they took the Gospel with them and ensured its growth. This would have only been possible because they were taught and discipled effectively. The “regular” new believer was thoroughly knowledgeable of the tenets of the faith because they had been properly discipled, so much so they could confidently and effectively teach the message wherever they went. This has been the strategy that ensured the spread of the Gospel over the years – “to preach the Gospel clearly and boldly, thoroughly disciple and mentor those who repent and accept the message, and once they are mature in the faith, send them out to do the same.” This strategy has brought about the great missionary success the Gospel has enjoyed to date, all glory to God!
Discipleship is extremely important in the life of a believer and must not be neglected! Just as in the military, if new recruits are not trained and discipled properly, they would not effectively replace the experienced soldiers at their retirement. Missions will fail, wars will be lost. Many are caught up in the rigors and busyness of everyday life and are unable to engage in the discipleship process. The obvious result of this is Christians with a poor understanding of their faith who are unable to teach others or even defend the faith if the need arises. We must therefore constantly apply ourselves to proper discipleship! We must create the time!
Through discipleship, we grow in the knowledge of God and His word. A proper understanding of our faith improves our relationship with God in every way! You cannot have a sound relationship with someone you do not know. Paul knew this, so he constantly prayed that the church would grow in knowledge that the believer would experience a better relationship with God. You might also say, “Well, I can study myself, I do not need people…” This is not true. Don’t deceive yourself! The reason fellowship and communion (togetherness) is encouraged in the Bible is because Christians never grow in isolation.
We are a part of a body and must work together as one, growing together and being accountable to one another. And discipleship is a big part of this! And when we “come of age”, we become thoroughly furnished and equipped for the work of the Gospel, our main priority. Discipleship makes us better witnesses of the Gospel – we can effectively evangelize, teach and defend what we believe as ought. Through discipleship, we will be able to give answers
Now that you know how important discipleship is, prayerfully find yourself a teacher and get discipled!
I trust you enjoyed this post, your comments are welcome. Feel free to share this with friends. You might also want to peruse lifewords.org for other posts. Kindly subscribe to our mailing list below and get notified via email once there’s a new post. Thanks for taking out time to read this.