What is discipleship? Discipleship is learning to become more like Jesus by getting closer and closer to Him. It is a journey on which we choose to embark. In the church in which I grew up, when someone went up to the altar to give their life to Christ, the congregation would enthusiastically applaud. The pastor, elder or whomever was speaking that day would always encourage them that this was the best decision they were making in their entire lives. They chose to become a part of God’s family! You simply say a short prayer then boom! You’ve started the journey of being a disciple of Christ! Just like that? Just like that!
I think back to when I first said that prayer. I was thirteen and to be honest, I don’t think I fully understood at the time the depth to what I was saying. Of course I knew in my heart that I believed in this man named Jesus and I desperately needed Him in my life. But did I really understand the price I paid to be adopted into God’s family? At the time, no. When Jesus was on earth and He called people to be His disciples He told them the exact requirements for the position. Take for example Luke 13:26-27 where Jesus said “if anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters-yes, even their own life-such person cannot be my disciple. And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple”. If the preacher on the day I said the salvation prayer mentioned this in his altar call, I think I would have been much more afraid to take that step. Even reading this verse for the hundredth time, I remember thinking “Wow, that was harsh Lord”. I actually thought of that and some of Jesus’ other calls to discipleship as harsh until I understood what He was really saying. The verse above is actually no different to Matthew 22: 36-39 which most of us are familiar with- “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbour as yourself.” You see, what Jesus was saying is simply, “I am to be the most important person in your life. You have to put me first”. It’s not that people, or anything else in life isn’t important. They are important and they have their place but in comparison to God they mean nothing. So to become a disciple of Christ you must see everything you deem as something as nothing in comparison to Him. In exchange, we get the glorious gifts of relationship with Him and eternal life.
Once you are a disciple, the party begins. When Jesus left earth he charged His followers with this: “Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19). There’s one thing I’ve noticed from being a part of the church for seven years. Many times, we as Christians can focus so much on evangelism that we forget that Jesus said to go make disciples. What do I mean? Evangelism focuses a lot on just going out and telling people about Jesus, while discipleship deals with not only telling but also engaging with them in their journey to know God. It is walking alongside them, showing them the ropes. Practically speaking it’s doing Bible studies and praying with younger or less mature believers.
For me personally, being a part of IVCF opened my eyes to what discipleship is all about. When you grow up in church I think those around you just assume you know what you are supposed to. But actively doing Bible studies and really learning from the word of God with other young people is completely different to merely going to church every Sunday. I remember finally understanding certain concepts from God’s Word and thinking, “How could I have never been taught this? It’s so important and so simple!”
And that’s the thing. Christianity is a journey, a climb that lasts our entire lives. Being a Christian and a disciple of Christ isn’t a onetime decision followed by half-hearted commitment. As Jesus said, you have to be all in to really be in. The climb is diverse. There are valleys, plateaus, mountain tops and altering seasons. Like any adventure, it’s always better when done with others, to challenge you when things go uphill and most importantly, to support you when you think you can’t take another step forward.