What does modern day discipleship look like to you? The word itself–disciple– can seem outdated in our world. And even when we read the Bible it can feel hard to relate to fishermen who left their jobs to follow Jesus and a new way of life. But it’s been on my heart lately because I know we’re all called to it.
Last year I took a class at church called, “Woven: The Art of Making Disciples” and just when I was gearing up to go and live it out Covid hit and I felt my game plan no longer worked. But that’s a poor excuse. While our world has been turned upside down this year there are still plenty of opportunities to disciple others (albeit more creatively), let someone else disciple us, or just walk alongside our friends and family as we draw closer to the Lord.
To further help this take root in my life, here are 5 things I’m learning about modern day discipleship.
Modern Day Discipleship
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1.] We are ALL called to make disciples.
Ugh. Even me? Yup! Even you!
Jesus called us all to make disciples. This was not a commandment just for the 12 men who walked alongside Him until his death, or the hundreds of followers thereafter. This is a commandment for all Christians.
Matthew 4:19 “Jesus said to them, “follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”
Matthew 28:18-19, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and 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.”
It’s easy to think that missionary work or discipleship-making is only for pastors and missionaries while we go about our merry way. If pastors and missionaries were the ONLY ones to share the love of Jesus Christ our world a lot fewer people would know Him.
Wherever we are placed in life, we are given a unique opportunity to share Christ with a unique set of people. Really think about that this week. That brings me to my next point.
2.] We are called regardless of our personalities, financial situation, age, or skills.
I’m an introvert, a homebody, and someone who generally has fewer but deeper relationships. No one has ever described me as the life of the party. Knowing my personality, it can feel daunting to put myself out there to share my faith or even mentor someone else. But thank God He doesn’t depend on our personalities! In fact, 2 Corinthians 12:9 reminds me that, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”
Whew. God’s work is not hindered y our inability – the opposite in fact. So if you’re introverted, shy, quiet, a homebody, or a hermit – take heart. God can and will use you to make disciples in spite of your “weaknesses.”
And if you’re the opposite: you’re outgoing and love bringing people together thank God for how you were made too. He also has a special and specific plan to use you, just as you are, to bring others to Him.
But what about our sphere of influence? you might wonder.
I’m currently in my mid-30s, and former Capitol Hill Communications Director turned-stay-at-home mom. These days, my circle of influence feels pretty small. But I still have a circle of influence and so do you.
The key is not to think in terms of numbers (as in more are better) but who is in our immediate, or on the peripheral of our circle of influence that we can walk alongside as we grow in our faith. Quality over quantity.
But do not your personality or how popular you are stress you out. Because…
3.] Modern day discipleship is not meant to be an extra burden, but something we incorporate into the lives we’re already living.
Whew. This was a huge relief for me. When I first started learning about discipleship I thought I’d have to turn my life upside down if I wanted to be successful. I’d have to force myself to become an extrovert, go on mommy play-dates every day (except in 2020!), or take on extra burdens to see it through. But none of that is true. Discipleship is meant to fit seamlessly into the lives we’re already living.
Begin with who is already in your life. Think about the people you see every day. I KNOW this year looks different but you likely still have people in your life or maybe about time you’re reading this we’re well past this terrible virus.
Family members. Coworkers. Longtime friends. Neighbors. Church members. Your high school friend you keep in touch with on Facebook. The cashier you see at the gas station every week. Even acquaintances.
This is where you start. It doesn’t have to be overwhelming.
If you need help coming up with people think about what phase of life you’re in. Single? Are there other single groups you’re apart of? Are you a mom? Maybe there are mom groups in your town. Physically…where do you live? Where do you work? Who is around you? What are your interests? Could you be a disciple-maker at your kid’s soccer game, the golf course, or book club?
Start small but start strengthening some of these relationships. Pray for them. Ask about their lives. Make meals for people in a time of need. If you’re going to Target, take a friend with you.
People need to know you care about them and their lives before they will start listening to you about your faith.
4.] There are four pillars of modern day discipleship.
OK, you might be thinking. This is all good but you haven’t offered any practical ways to be a disciple-making.
Well, here we go. This is straight from the Woven class I took at my church but according to it, there are four pillars of discipleship: initiative, starting something, faithfulness through the middle, and results.
Let’s break these down.
I touched upon this already but to be a disciple-maker we have to start somewhere. Invite an acquaintance for coffee. Reach out to a younger woman at church to ask her about her life. Invite a friend to go to HomeGoods with you. Invite a co-worker to grab lunch.
These are small ways to get the ball rolling. Of course, there are still obstacles to initiating. We don’t want to look weird or desperate to the person we barely know. We might feel we’re too busy to add another thing to our plate. We might be a new mom and exhausted. We might feel shy about asking someone.
But think about a time when someone initiated a relationship with you and it ended up being a huge blessing. Maybe it was a new friend, a professional who helped mentor you in your career, or a spiritual mentor who helped grow your faith. Their boldness blessed you. Let that thought give you courage as you reach out to someone new.
Also, be prepared to hear, “no” or “no, thank you” and be OK with it. It’s bound to happen. You can pray about it and try again. If it’s a continual no it’s ok to keep praying but all right to move on.
2.) Start something.
Now that the initial reaching out is past it’s time to start building upon it. It could be something as small as checking in on this person once a month through email. It could also look like asking a few friends to start a Zoom Bible study with you. There is no need to make things weird or too formal by putting a label on it.
Here are more ideas to get you started:
- invite couples over for dinner
- ask people to come to make DIYs at your house
- invite neighbors to go on walks
- meet with people with similar interests
Just keep reaching out, keep being available, and keep investing in their lives. Slowly, open up more about your faith and how it’s impacted your life and allowing them to reach out and ask questions whenever.
In an ideal world, this type of relationship would naturally turn into a type of mentorship or relationship where you helped each other grow in your faith if they were already a Christian.
But it shouldn’t feel forced and again, doesn’t need a label.
I just discovered this book, “The Gentle Art of Discipling Women” that I’m going to pick up. Here is a brief description and it sounds amazing!
“Discipleship is the responsibility of every believer, yet many of us avoid doing it because we don’t know where to start. The Gentle Art of Discipling Women provides a framework for discipleship from the mentoring voice of a seasoned discipler. Dana Yeakley walks with you through the foundational principles of who you are in Christ and how you are uniquely equipped to pass along what He has taught you.”
Also, here is exactly how to start an inductive Bible Study if that interests you too!
3. Faithfulness through the middle.
This is where things can get hard. Comparatively, initiating, and starting something might look easy against seeing something through for the long haul. Remember, the middle can look different for each relationship though. Maybe God will bring someone into your life for a short period of time or maybe it will last for years.
The key is faithfulness and continuing to show up in their lives and invite them into yours. God will close doors when it’s time and we are to be faithful until then.
Again, in an ideal world, you would walk along with somebody until they came to know Jesus Christ in a personal way or helped them grow deeper in their faith. But we don’t always get that “feel good” moment. If we do – we need to rejoice because it’s such a gift! But, we might not ever see the fruit. Maybe God brings us into people’s lives to plant seeds or to water and someone else will see their faith come to fruition.
We are called to go and make disciples but in the end, God brings the increase in His own time. That can be both discouraging to not see results from our spiritual investment, but also encouraging that it is not up to us and our imperfect ways.
This also might be a good time to think of all the people who invested in your life and faith that didn’t get to see results. Take some time to reach out and share where you are today and how their encouragement or guidance helped you get there!
5.] Follow the example of the Titus 2 Woman
When I was younger I was eager to become the ever-admired Proverbs 31 woman. Now that I am getting older though, I am also focused on modeling my life after the Titus 2 woman.
A warning though: at first read, she might ruffle your feathers. See for yourself.
Titus 2:3-5, “3 Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. 4 Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, 5 to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.”
Some of you might think, “Oh great. This is setting women back! She wants me to be a slave to my husband and prim and proper and stay at home.”
The real key here is that the Titus 2 woman is older and much, much wiser. She has lived a full-life and is to take her knowledge of God and life and share it with younger women. Why?
So that they can grow in their faith and experience the joy that comes from living a pure and surrendered life to God. Perhaps she can even share her failures along the way so that other women can avoid them!
(Enjoy this? You might also like, “Are you living more like Mary or Martha?)
Find Your “Why”
We must find our “why” before we start trying to disciple others. Otherwise, it will feel like a burden. For me, discipleship is important because I want to show others what God has taught me, specifically in my career, relationships, and learning how to be content.
Through my testimony, maybe I can comfort someone else, show them mistakes to avoid, but most importantly, show them the love of Christ.
It’s another reason I want to be a writer. Besides my mom’s faith, books were a huge part of my own spiritual growth. Authors like Elisabeth Elliot, C.S. Lewis, and A.W. Tozer shaped my faith and pointed me to Christ with their personal stories and words.
That’s my why. What’s yours?
Here are some further questions to reflect on this week as you dive into this world of modern-day discipleship.
- In what ways is discipleship important to you?
- How have others mentored you? Who has been an example to you that might not even know it?
- How can you invite others into your life THIS WEEK?
- What keeps you from initiating with others?
- Are there women in your life God may be leading you to disciple?
- What does the practical side of discipleship look like to you?
- What does the spiritual side of discipleship look like to you?
- What is ONE way you can love and serve someone around you this week?