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Cover 41


January 2012

Dare to Disciple


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Free Will Baptist

Discipleship From the Ground Up

Back to the basics of discipleship…

Discipleship From the Ground Up

By Tim Osborn

Any good construction project begins with a solid foundation. The same is true with discipleship. With that in mind, consider three foundational ingredients of discipleship: the task, the tools, and the target.


Task of Discipleship

Matthew 28:18-20 uses the word teach in verses 19a and 20a, translated from two different Greek words. The first, in verse 19, is matheteuo and means, “to make a disciple.” In verse 20, the word didasko means, “to teach.” We get the English word didactic from it. In a real sense, discipleship is both a part of the process and also the whole process. It is more than just a Sunday School class or small group Bible study. It is the whole of the Christian life experience.
From the first day a person is saved, he or she becomes Christ’s pupil, His follower.

Assimilation into the body of Christ is the next logical step of discipleship. However, ongoing training or didactic learning is also essential to producing Christ-like believers who, in turn, reach those around them for the Lord.

We tend to categorize churches into one of two categories—either a good evangelism church or a good discipleship church. The truth is you cannot be truly good at one if you neglect the other. Both are part of the Great Commission. The biblical process of discipleship always involves evangelism, assimilation, and discipleship. And while most churches struggle to be good at all parts of the process, every church should focus on success in all three areas.


Tools of Discipleship

The most foundational tool of discipleship is the Word of God. It is essential to mold us into instruments God can use. We find godly principles and inerrant truth for living the Christian life within its pages. It is essential that every disciple have an intimate relationship with the Lord in which God speaks through His Word and the disciple speaks to God through prayer.

Most people readily recognize this first tool, but they might not realize the Lord can use other tools in addition to the Word. Consider the tool of service, learning through doing. In James 1:22-24 we read: “But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was.”

This passage makes it clear that the man who does not practice what he has learned is not much of a disciple. Ask anyone who has gone on a mission trip. He will tell you it is a life changing experience! God honors and teaches those who are doers of the Word.

The Christian Community is another tool. When we interact with other believers, it serves to deepen our discipleship. The Apostle Paul said that fellow believers “sharpen” one another in their walk with God. Romans 15:14b and Colossians 3:16 encourage Christians to “admonish” one another, and in 1 Thessalonians 5:11 Paul says, “Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do.” The writer of Hebrews is fond of the phrase, “…exhorting one another.” Other believers are great tools in our ongoing journey of discipleship.

One less popular tool of discipleship is adversity. When we go through adversity God uses it to teach us things we could not learn any other way. I have been a pastor for 25 years and have ministered to those with cancer all of those years. Until I got cancer, however, I had no depth of understanding as to what it really feels like to be told you have a deadly disease. God has used my battle with cancer to teach me things I could not learn elsewhere.

I praise God that things are going well with my treatment, but I also praise God that through cancer, I had an opportunity to learn some things and experience a fresh intimacy with my Lord. I am thankful for the opportunities to disciple others suffering with cancer. None of this would have been possible without the tool of adversity.

Honestly, part of me would have rather read about someone experiencing cancer than to experience it myself. That, however, would be like saying I know what it is like to climb Mount Everest because I read about it in a book. Only the climber really knows what it feels like. The next time adversity comes, accept it as a tool for your discipleship. As Paul put it in Romans 8:28, 29, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”


Target of Discipleship

What does discipleship look like when and if it is perfected? Rom 8:28, 29 sheds light on that question. It is the predestined plan of God for all believers that they be conformed to the image of His dear Son. As the Scripture suggests, even the hardships of this life are used by God to work toward that end. Indeed, the Roman Christians were under constant persecution. They certainly needed God’s assurance that man could, in no way, separate them from God’s love and intervention. To the contrary, God used the persecution to mold them into the image of Christ who also suffered at the hands of man for our good.

If we were to sum up Christ’s life, we would have to say He lived for others. He died on the cross for others. He appeared after his resurrection for the faith of others. He saw the potential of others, and by associating with them, gave the Pharisees a reason to level personal attacks on Him. He reached out to others. He had compassion for others. Everything he did was for the benefit of others.

Discipleship looks like Christ. Do we look like Christ? The familiar words of John 13:35 remind us, “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” When a disciple goes from disciple to disciple maker, one who truly lives for the spiritual benefit of others, we can say we are nearing the mark of discipleship.


About the Writer: Tim and Robyn Osborn are partnering with Home Missions and the state of Tennessee to plant a church in Oakland, Tennessee. Learn more at



©2012 ONE Magazine, National Association of Free Will Baptists