This Sunday we celebrated the one-year anniversary at the church plant Gina, and my wife, and I have been serving. With one year behind us, the congregation has out-grown the space we launched in and to commemorate our first year, we launched a second service. The high point of the services was celebrating baptisms of new Jesus followers as they took this important step on their journey of faith. Two hundred fifty people now call The Refinery their church!
How do we define discipleship?
Reflect on the different ways the term discipleship may be used in your ministry.
- Some might use the term to focus primarily on the spiritual development of new believers.
- Others will apply it in a more general way, to develop people in their specific area of ministry, like “discipling a small group leader”.
- And still others will use it in relation to a curriculum that is designed so that the student graduates from the course as a fully-devoted follower of Jesus.
While all of these might have their place, what observations do you have about these various interpretations?
One observation I have is that the way we use the word “discipleship” blurs the intent behind the term. When Jesus invites Peter and Andrew to “Follow me…”, Jesus is inviting them into an apprenticeship relationship with Him (Matthew 4:18-20).
Later in Matthew 28:18-29 at the commissioning of the disciples, Jesus is launching the disciples into their apostolic mission. After three intensive years of apprenticeship with his disciples, Jesus equipped them to make other disciples, baptizing and teaching them to obey God’s commands – love God, love your neighbor, and make disciples. He desired to shape their hearts to be aligned with the Father’s heart.
What can we learn from the early church?
The emphasis in the early church was to help people understand the commitments new Jesus followers were making to follow Christ. Two activities they would participate in that would mark, remind, and renew their commitment of course, included baptism and the sacraments. Foundational disciplines of a local faith community that they celebrated corporately (small or large groups) that made them distinct from other institutions.
The early church had a period of instruction and preparation for baptism. The goal was so that people would count the cost before taking the step to baptism.
I like the imagery that Colin Noyes provides in his work in Making Disciples – A Journey to Jesus. Notice the 4 transitions below. Each leads to the next stage in the journey of following Jesus.
Stage One – The potential disciple begins to explore what a relationship with Jesus will look like
Stage Two – The Holy Spirit continues to guide the discipler and disciple on the ‘Journey to Jesus’
Stage Three – The disciple is involved in a period of intense preparation for Baptism
Stage Four – The disciple participates in the Lord’s Supper, is welcomed into the Church and continues a lifelong growth in faith and obedience.
If you would like the Coaching Guide that unpacks the process above, CLICK HERE and request the doc: Making Disciples – A Journey to Jesus
How can you help people fully embrace the purpose, place, and power of baptism?
Every pastor and congregation has their unique views on baptism. In an effort to reconstruct what time and trends have deconstructed, here are 5 questions to consider:
- Who is baptism for?
- What should baptism mark?
- What preparation and instruction should disciples experience?
- What place does baptism play in our faith community?
- What areas do we need to address?