Christian Discipleship

Part One

Part One
Part Two
Part Three
Part Four
Part Five


As Christians entering into a study in Christian discipleship we must first realize that producing disciples is a mandate given to us by Jesus Christ Himself. It is not an option for Christians to participate in. It is not a mandate for just the leaders in the Christian community of faith. It is a firm commission that Jesus requires each one of His followers to take very seriously. In the last words spoken to His disciples in Matthew 28 just before His ascension, Jesus renders what we now call the “Great Commission”; "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." (Matthew 28:19 & 20)

Within this brief dissertation Jesus commissions all of those who gathered at what would become His ascension up to heaven, to accomplish three specific tasks. It was the last message Jesus communicated to His disciples before He was taken up into heaven. Therefore these three tasks are vitally important. The “Great Commission” as we now know it, is not only something we recognize in the Scriptures, but also something we as Christians participate in and live out in our lives.

The first thing we do is to “Go therefore and make disciples”. The more accurate English translation of the text would probably read something like this, “as you are going, produce or raise up more disciples”. Regardless of how a Christian ends up reading this text, the issue at hand is obviously to “make disciples”. In the actual context of this verse the process of “making disciples” refers to the practical application of evangelism in each individual Christian’s life.      

Evangelism is really very a simple and fundamental part of our Christian journey. It is the perpetuation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in our actions, in our words and in our lifestyle. Styles and tactics in evangelistic efforts have changed over the decades and centuries just as do other social and cultural processes in our environments. The North American evangelistic crusades that we all experienced in the 1940s through the 1980s with evangelists such as Billy Graham and Oral Roberts holding huge metropolitan revival style meetings are not nearly as effective in our time as they were back in those decades. For the most part these massive city wide  evangelistic events are now extinct.

Today, we see a high dependence on technology and mass communication through the internet and even more specific social media groups. The resources for evangelism have never been more readily available to the entire population of the world as they are currently in our day. Unfortunately, some of these resources are becoming very tainted by the culture of our age and thus the effectiveness of the disciples that may be produced is not as powerful in spiritual terms as it could be or has been in the past.

The ultimate goal of evangelism is to produce the opportunity for a non-Christian to experience spiritual conversion to the Christian faith and initiate the act of becoming a disciple of Jesus Christ. This is often referred to as the “crisis point” in the non believer’s life. It is when that cognitive choice to be a follower of Jesus Christ is made. It is then that a potential disciple is initiated.  

Secondly, Jesus says that we should be “baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.” This is an outward or public way for these new Christian disciples to identify first with Jesus Christ, and then also with His Church as they initiate their new decision to be a follower and believer in Jesus Christ as savior. Jesus said in the Gospel of Matthew;  "Therefore everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 10:32)

The Apostle Paul accents this mentality even further when he writes to the church at Rome about how they position themselves publically as Christians and how they identify with Jesus Christ on a daily basis. “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.” (Romans 1:16)

There are no precise techniques for baptism given to us in the New Testament. Baptism is clearly not a requirement for the completion of salvation, even though many churches and denominations throughout the last 2000 years have vigorously attempted to make it such a requirement. The only precedent set in New Testament Scripture is that baptism be an event where witnesses are present. In other words, one cannot baptize one’s self, regardless of the good intentions of such. This is because of what the reality of baptism actually is. It is the Christian’s identification with Jesus Christ, and also with His Church.

There is no prescribed age. Some congregations baptize infants and then later bring them to the acceptance of the salvation Jesus Christ has provided for them, thus confirming their previous baptism at a younger age.   

The third and final aspect of the “Great Commission” is that of “teaching them to observe all that I commanded you”. This is the processing act of making and developing new Christian disciples. Unfortunately, it is the only aspect of Christian discipleship most other Christians and congregations rarely engage in with much depth. In the segments further on in this lesson we will further develop what this third objective in the great Commission truly mean.

It is a very fulfilling part of our Christian lifestyle to lead others around us into the transaction (the crisis point) of becoming a new person because of the acceptance of what Jesus Christ has done for us through His atoning act at Calvary. This is how the new disciple is born into the Christian community of Faith.

This cognitive decision is acknowledged with great joy in the public identification of that new Christian disciple either in the initiating waters of baptism or in the adult confirmation of their faith as signified in their earlier childhood baptism.

But then what? Some congregations or even the close Christian friends of these newly baptized disciples simply hand them a brand new Bible and say “Here, read this at your leisure.” That generally does very little good at inspiring the further discipleship processes of that new Christian.

Even in the situations of a weekly Sunday School class at church or a Bible study group at someone’s home, those new disciples are often not encouraged to a large extent to study the actual Bible or learn and apply the deeper truths of Jesus Christ in the Scriptures. They often become involved in reading somewhat mechanical devotions, commentaries and doctrinally based messages instead of diving deeply into the Scriptures.

Because of this, most Christians do not lead a rewarding life of Christian discipleship. Discipleship is a process and responsibility that must be not only launched but continually nurtured for all of our mortal lives. Discipleship is not about learning a particular group’s belief systems, but rather growing in faith to follow Jesus more closely during our mortal journey.    

Central Institute for Theological Studies
P.O. Box 750491
Dayton, Ohio    45475