Discipleship isn’t just a niche focus Montana Bible College has chosen; it’s the very core of all Christian ministry! It’s the way Jesus approached ministry. It’s the way the apostles approached ministry. Indeed, it is the lasting command of Jesus to His church.
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore, go and MAKE DISCIPLES of all nations . . .” (Matthew 28:18-19)
But, what is discipleship? How does the local church do discipleship? Where can you go to find disciple-making resources?
MBC has crafted this portion of its website to help answer these crucial questions.
The Model of Jesus
Jesus intentionally began a world-wide movement of multiplication. “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and MAKE DISCIPLES of all nations . . .” (Matthew 28:19). Might we safely assume that the One who gave the command knew how to carry it out? Did Jesus practice what He preached? Did He know how to make a disciple? Might we find in Jesus a good model for how we might make disciples?
At MBC, we believe that Jesus modeled to His apostles what He expected them to do personally and pass on to others. And we believe that a good study of the ministry of Jesus in the gospels sheds light on His methods for making disciples.
The Heart of Church Ministry
The task of every disciple is to make disciples! Disciples are followers of Jesus. The church is entrusted with the ministry of making disciples – beginning with those who have never heard the good news of Jesus and continuing right through until the believers in Jesus have become mature disciple-makers themselves. Therefore, discipleship should be the pulse of every local church on the planet!
Is discipleship in the core or on the periphery of your church’s ministry? Is discipleship a program at your church, or is it the pervasive aroma of everything you do? Do you understand how the various ministries of your church fit together as a cohesive whole? Do you understand how discipleship is the organizing principle allowing you to make wise ministry decisions? Do you know how discipleship works when life gets messy? When people have big problems? When relationships break? When hearts begin to harden?
A Discipleship Framework
Discipleship is directed relationship. Did we at MBC make up that definition? We don’t believe so. We believe Jesus gives us those two components in His commission to make disciples.
Having direction implies a purpose, a destination, a goal. This is what we find in Matthew 28:19-20. Making disciples involves initiation into Jesus’ family (baptism) and teaching that involves life-change into the pattern Jesus desires. “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” Jesus has a goal in mind. He knows what He wants His disciples to look like! This is direction.
But we also find relationship in Jesus’ command. Why? Because discipleship is always done person to person. The command to make disciples is given to people for people! Jesus was commanding people to make disciples of people. Missionaries are people sent to people. Pastors are people who shepherd people. Spiritual gifts are given to people for people (1 Corinthians 12:7; 1 Peter 4:10-11). Parents are people raising people. In fact, discipleship is even viewed as spiritual parenting! (See 1 Thessalonians 2:6-8,11-12; 1 Corinthians 4:15; 1 Timothy 1:2; Titus 1:4)
The Apostles made the connection. Consider directed relationship in Colossians 1:28-29. “We proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ. To this end I labor, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me.” Paul and his co-workers (people) are ministering to people. There’s relationship. And the ministry has clear purpose – presenting each one perfect/mature in Christ. That’s direction.
Therefore, Scripture compels us to believe that good discipleship needs BOTH direction and relationship. Direction without relationship is the kind of “discipleship” that says, “Read this book.” “Take this class.” “Listen to these sermons.” “Memorize these answers.” “Follow these steps.” It’s a program approach to discipleship. Perhaps this describes your church? But on the other side of the coin, relationship without direction is the kind of “discipleship” that says, “Let’s just hang out.” “Let’s meet every week for coffee.” “How about getting a softball team together?” A good time may be had by all, but becoming more like Jesus is left to osmosis.
So, how do you go about discipleship in a way that balances both relationship AND direction? We don’t believe there is any one “divinely-authorized” program out there. Jesus gave ministry principles which apply across cultures and generations. However, there are helpful resources that provide patterns for disciple-making, are consistent with Jesus’ principles and transferable to many situations. Montana Bible College has utilized and customized one such framework for discipleship, and we are happy to suggest it to you. It’s the R-CAPS Grid, developed and copyrighted by the Worldwide Discipleship Association.