What is the Role of the Church in Discipleship?
A good friend of my mother’s gave me the best opportunity of my life; which was a job working at an Elementary school. During my tenure working with children, it has been my experience in most cases, that children didn’t have a difficult time making friends on the playground. However, there are rare instances where students did not get along with each other, but oddly enough the following day you would find the same children playing and getting along with one another.
From my observation in the art of making friends, it is my belief that the church could learn from children and their behaviors. Why is it that children appear to make friends so easily but the Church has such a difficult time? The answer is simple; the Church needs to rediscover the importance of friendships.
The Bible stresses the significance of friendship. In fact God uses this to illustrate the relationship between Christ and the believer, so it is very important. “I think a healthy discipleship relationship should be a Christ-centered friendship.”
Mark it down: discipleship is about much more than signing your name on a membership covenant letter. It is a community of Christ-centered friends who loves Jesus and is in a Cross-centered covenant relationship to see others live out the Gospel-centered message. Ultimately, there is no discipleship where there is no community, relationship, or friendship. [quote]Ultimately, there is no discipleship where there is no community, relationship, or friendship.[/quote]
Okay, so picture this: “They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles. And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need. Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved” (Acts 2:42-47 NASB).
Let’s take a look at some of the things we need to live out in the gospel. If we want to experience the role of the ongoing life of the Church in discipleship this happens in the book of Acts.
Discipleship Is About Community
Thousands of years ago a community was born in a place called the Upper Room, a 120 seekers came together with common values and common purpose because they were commanded by Jesus. These brothers and sisters prayed “with one accord” in unity of the spirit. These band of believers were filled with the Holy Spirit. The first Christian community church in Acts was empowered from above with the Spirit of God that released a radical commitment, unrestrained generosity and solid unity of fellowship. But when you look at the church discipleship today, some of us might see things very differently. Some believers today might find discipleship is life-giving, others are life-draining. Whatever happened to the wonder of Christian community? Why are there so much inconsistencies in the church when it comes to discipleship? When the church is at the command of the Spirit, it draws people from all multi-racial backgrounds into the community of the Spirit and into fellowship with the Triune God. Acts 1:8 states, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” These disciples were supernaturally empowered by the Holy Spirit to complete an ongoing mission for the church. A culture of spirit filled disciples in the church would spark an ongoing supernatural empowerment in the body that will multiply discipline communities.
Acts 2:42-44 affirm the ongoing priorities of Community Discipleship through three steps: First “Persistent Fellowship"is the continued steadfast teachings of the word of God and the second is the fellowship with the disciples by modeling the word of God. Discipleship community’s depend on the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit. Finally the community prayed for the power and the will of God. Discipleship community is formed in Acts 2. Here you see the Church is filled with anointed teachings, is crowded with Christ-centered fellowship, is filled up with contagious prayer, and the Church is stuffed up with Christ communion and a common meal. Then the scripture tells us that they “had all things in common.”
Discipleship Is About Relationships
Verse 45 reports, “And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.” This is the way it should be. The presence of the Holy Spirit should release this type of radical given within the church. Unfortunately, the church often skips this verse when it comes to discipleship or give little attention to it. This supernatural yard sale or flea market help the needs of the disciples. Relationships are deepened when the needs are met by other disciples in the church. Almost three out of every four churchgoers say they have significant relationships with people at their church. However, according to a study by LifeWay Research, less than half of the churchgoers are intentionally helping other believers grow in their faith. A disciple maker submits to the leading of the Holy Spirit and commits his resources plus time to building relationships with other disciples in an effort to live a Christ-centered life.
Discipleship Is About Friendship
John 15 records, the conversation Jesus had with his disciples, “Greater love has no one than this that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you.” Jesus commanded his disciples and the church to have mutual love towards one another. In verses 13-14, Jesus explains what real discipleship is and is not about. Jesus demonstrated what real love was by dying for His friends, those who obeyed Him. Discipleship is about friendship, and ongoing willingness to sacrifice one’s life for the gospel. Notice the results of sacrificial fellowship, in Acts 2:46-47, “And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.” These disciples “ate together at one another's houses in great love and friendship” with a senses of gladness and generous hearts among each other and favor with all the people. This is an ongoing community, relationship, and friendship celebration and the Spirit of God added to their community day by day.
Steve Murrell says it best when he states: “In fact, it seems like the only people who weren’t Jesus friends were the self-righteous, judgmental hypocrites. The Pharisees and Sadducees. The religious critics who were professionals at tearing people down rather than building them up. If Jesus treated his disciples – the ones who were following him and the ones who were running from him – like friends, then don’t you think we should do the same?”
Given below are some final list to consider as your church seeks to develop an ongoing strategy in discipleship.
- Discipler is filled with the Holy Spirit
- Discipler teaches the Apostle’s teachings
- Discipler lives in community with others
- Discipler looks like his teacher
- Discipler makes other Discipler(s)
- Discipler delights fellowship with others
- Discipler shares his meal with others
- Discipler honors the Lord’s Supper
- Discipler worship God in prayer
- Discipler reverence God in their lives
- Discipler unite with other disciples
- Discipler helps others who are in need
- Discipler service at the church
- Discipler initiates one-on-one discipleship
- Discipler lives on mission for God
- Discipler celebrates God’s favor
- Discipler witness souls turn to Jesus
- Discipler teaches other disciples to depend on the word of God
- Discipler understands discipleship will never replace soul winning
- Discipler preaches the importance of discipleship to everyone