How Does Discipleship Happen?

discipleship process

I’m often asked how to define discipleship. Discipleship is a process. The Apostle Paul says that every believer should be “conformed to the image of his Son” (Rom. 8:29). At the very least, then, discipleship is the process through which we become like Christ. And we do this in community with other believers where we help one another grow. We meet people where they are and help them grow as God wants them to grow. Discipleship is becoming more like Christ and pointing each other towards that same goal.

But how does this happen? What are some key components to the process of being conformed into the image of Christ? What should we do to help others become more like Jesus? As we see the process of discipleship in the Bible we can see at least three components that we should seek to cultivate here at CHBC, remembering all the while that it is ‘God who gives the growth’ (1 Cor. 3:7).

Luke 11:1-13 is a good example of the holistic way in which Jesus creates an environment that forms the disciples into his image. To set the scene, in Luke 11 Jesus is going to teach the disciples how to pray in response to a question by one of his disciples. So the disciple’s desire to grow and learn about prayer, actually comes in response to seeing Jesus pray. 

I. Model

The first thing that we see Jesus do in this passage is model a life of prayer. The disciples have seen him pray many times, because Jesus purposely allows them to observe him live a prayerful life. And for us, one of the best things we can do to help others is to model a Christlike life – giving others the opportunity to see us live our lives for Christ. Paul says it this way, “Be Imitators of me, as I am of Christ” (1 For. 11:1). The first component is modeling for others what it looks like to be a follower of Christ.

II. Instruct

Secondly, Jesus instructs the disciples. In Luke 11, Jesus teaches his disciples at least five things about prayer. They are to ask: 1) for God’s name to be glorified, 2) for God’s kingdom to come, 3) for God to provide our daily necessities, 4) for God to forgive us our sins, and 5) for God to protect us from the attacks of the enemy. Formal instruction is an essential part of the discipleship process, where we deliver the truth to others. It doesn’t have to be from behind a pulpit or podium. It could be one-to-one or within a small group, but we must consistently present God’s word to others to help them grow. Again, Paul is a good example when he says to Timothy, “Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me” (2 Tim. 1:13). The second component of discipleship is instruction.

III. Conversation

Jesus doesn’t just leave the disciples with these five prayer points and move on to the next thing. He helps them to apply the teaching to their lives through the use of conversation. Jesus tells a parable that helps them to see how to apply these truths in their own context. He helps the disciples answer the question, “What does this look like to me?” And he does this by using stories and illustrations – one about a persistent neighbor asking for bread and one about a loving father who gives good gifts to his son. 

Both of these stories help the disciples apply what he has been teaching them, that God the Father is approachable, generous, and ready to hear our requests and that we must approach him with respect, but boldly and persistently, depending on him to meet our every need. 

As we teach and model the truth for others, we must also enter into a conversation with them, we must discourse with them, providing coaching and mentoring, to help people apply the truth of God to their own lives. And often the best way to do that is to ask questions and then to share our own stories and experiences. The third component of disciples is conversation.

Discipleship is the process through which we become like Christ. It involves modeling, instruction, and discourse, living out the gospel, teaching others the truth, and entering into conversation with others to help them grow as God wants them to go. My prayer is that each of us at CHBC is continually being conformed to the image of Christ and that we’re helping others to do the same.