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Jesus’ Model of Discipleship


Applying Jesus’ Discipleship Methods in the Contemporary Church

Jesus’ discipleship style and methods were effective in the first century. How can the contemporary church implement Jesus’ model for discipleship?

It is apparent that Jesus’ discipleship style and methods were effective in the first century. The beginning of the church age was birthed from the twelve disciples who Jesus spent his entire ministry teaching, mentoring, and ultimately commissioning them to “go” and do the same things that he did while he was on earth. The questions emerge as to how the contemporary church can glean from and implement Jesus’ discipleship model?

First, every Christian is a disciple and once born of the Spirit is to submit to Jesus’ discipleship (Jn 15:7). Romans 10:9-10 reads, “…if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.” One needs to do more than agree with the values Jesus teaches. Belief is more than a confession made in the believer’s heart. It is an affirming action of following Christ as a disciple and then obeying the Great Commission.

Second, the Great Commission provides the example for how all believers as disciples are to make disciples. The twelve disciples were called to go and establish the kingdom and develop disciples through relationships. Similarly, all contemporary believers are to go and preach the Gospel and establish strong discipleship relationships. Carolyn Arends explains the importance of creating these strong relationships in disciples: “While programs give us ideas, successful spiritual friendships are built upon adaptive, responsive, trusting relationships as unique as the people who inhabit them.”[32]  Relationships require focusing on the people themselves instead of categorizing them by age, gender, or interests. Jesus chose people of all socio-economic backgrounds. Although the twelve were men, Jesus also had woman followers. Some of these included Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Susanna (Luke 8:1-3). Bernard Spooner debates that popular discipleship methods today tend to categorize people: “Much of what has been recently written for Christian educators has been focused on one age group or one aspect of educational ministry.”[33] Jesus did not place his followers in different categories. David Freedman contends that, “Jesus approaches human beings in order to get them to approach others. Jesus ‘sees’ human beings [and] one becomes a disciple not through certain conditions of life but because of the unexpected call of Jesus….”[34] From this perspective, believers cannot effectively build relationships when they categorize people based on their differences.[35] Like Jesus, contemporary believers are to go and make disciples of all people groups whether it is their next-door neighbor, a co-worker, or an unreached people group in a foreign country.

Though few are called to corporate leadership in the body, all are to be part of the discipleship process.

Third, the Great Commission states that the twelve were given authority through the anointing of the Spirit. Likewise, contemporary disciples have the same authority, ability, and responsibility that the biblical disciples possessed. Hull argues, “Because we have the same ability and responsibility as the original disciples, every contemporary disciple is no less capable of this calling than the twelve.”[36] Therefore all disciples in this age have the same call to go out and make disciples of the nations. Though few are called to corporate leadership in the body, all are to be part of the discipleship process. Believers are called to continue making disciples until Christ returns.

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Category: Biblical Studies

About the Author: Alyssa Lillo is a student at Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Oklahoma, majoring in Ministry and Leadership with Local Church Pastor as well as Evangelism and Outreach concentrations. After graduation she plans to work with a Christian non-profit (church or organization) to bring the light of God through outreach and discipleship to all she encounters.

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