Discipling and Discipline: The Difference a Letter Makes

“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. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20

A dear friend of mine recently drew to my attention the lack of discipleship going on in my friend-group — a group of which both he and I belong. I say this not to be accusatory, but simply to state the fact… for I myself have been sadly lacking in the fulfillment of this calling.

And that brings me to the question: what is discipleship? In my mind, I have always considered it to be the act of reaching out to non-Christians, building up relationships, and sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ… and as much as it pains me to say so, I don’t actively seek out those relationships as often as I should. That needs to change.

Still, is this the only definition of discipleship?

One thing I consider discipleship happened during middle school. I didn’t always feel welcomed by my youth group (they were always nice… they just went to school together so I felt out-of-place), but there was a girl named Kathryn who helped out with the middle school group and took me under her wing. She was a senior in high school and therefore was older and very cool — and it’s funny that the few times we hung out made such an impact, but I specifically remember two different times when we went to dinner and the park to spend time together. I loved her.

Strangely enough, when I was a senior in high school I had decided to do just as Kathryn had done and pour into the younger girls in my youth group (I had since changed churches and was involved with a youth group in Lenoir City). The knowledge that Kathryn had impacted me so much by simply pouring into me and building an intentional relationship made me want to do the same for other girls. I would say that I became their mentor, but I feel that places too much emphasis on my position within the relationship — so instead I will say that I acted as a big sister, and they as little sisters. We built up a family.

Four years later, one of these young woman is 16 years old and a junior at Lenoir City. She is also one of my best friends, and we still get together to catch up and talk Jesus-talk every month or so. I couldn’t ask for a greater blessing than my Kara.* In my mind, the act of holding others accountable and striving towards Christ with them is a type of discipleship. It does not replace the act of reaching out to those who don’t know Christ yet… but it has its own intrinsic value.

But now, another point. It has recently come to mind that discipling is in itself a type of spiritual discipline. It takes dedication, prayer, effort, growth, a desire to learn, an awareness of self, an awareness of God, the knowledge of our own fallibility, and an acceptance that it will never be easy. Discipleship is often pushed aside because it is seen as more difficult than many of the other things we are called to do as Christians — so we go for the easy stuff and add discipling to our to-do lists.

But if we are following Christ the way we are called to do… shouldn’t we be striving to fulfill all that has been asked of us? And if we are not doing that, are we truly following Christ the way we should be?

I present to you the spiritual discipline of discipling. The knowledge that it is not easy, was not made to be easy, and never will be easy. The knowledge that it takes guts, and faith, and a willingness to look foolish. The knowledge that we are called to make disciples of all nations. If we aren’t actively doing this… what are we doing?

The greatest thing is that after Christ calls his disciples to do this, he says, ” And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (vs. 20). If we follow him, he is with us. Period. So the fact that we might look foolish? It has no relevance. He’s with us. That is all that matters.

What are your thoughts, friends? What does discipleship look like to you?

*This is my Kara. Taken a year or so ago (K, we need a new picture! This is so sad!), and this precious young lady has such a big place in my life. Blessed by her.


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