Discipleship, Is it important?
Discipleship. You hear that word used quite often in churches and in evangelicalism in general. If you were to survey one hundred churches or pastors you might get at least 50 different motivations, definitions and goals to discipleship. Discipleship is most certainly important to the life and health of both the church and the believer and must be developed with biblical instruction and care.
The leadership of Cascades Bible Church is committed to discipleship as an essential part of our philosophy of ministry and seek to integrate discipleship into the fabric of our church body. Why are we committed to discipleship?
The Case for Discipleship
Discipleship is in a sense the essence and experience of living the Christian life. Jesus stated this when he taught his disciples to “take up their cross daily and follow me (Mark 8:34; Luke 9:23).” Jesus describes the Christian life as following him. When we follow him by coming under his teachings and living as he lived we live out the Christian life by being his followers or disciples.
Jesus transferred this discipleship philosophy to all who would follow him. In the great commission given by Jesus he directly instructs us to “make disciples (Matt. 28:19-20).” The demand and command given by Jesus to make disciples was embraced by the Apostles and became the very core of their ministry.
In Colossians 1:28 the Apostle Paul, as he lays out his goal as a minister of the gospel, states the following, “We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ.” As Paul picked up the baton of discipleship, he defined discipleship as the pursuit of Christ-likeness.
Every believer is at some stage of this pursuit in dying to himself and his old sinful ways and becoming more like Jesus Christ. Thus, at the heart of Christian discipleship is the goal of producing Christ-likeness in another believer. This is the essence and heart of our discipleship ministry at Cascades.
Our Method of Discipleship
There are many ways that a church can structure discipleship ministry that use biblical principles and meet the goal of discipleship as identified by Jesus and by the Apostle Paul. Currently, our church is approaching discipleship in three different environments.
First, discipleship occurs on the corporate level as the fruit of corporate worship. As the church gathers to exalt God, to fellowship and pray together and to be edified by the teaching of the Word, the entire church body grows together in Christian maturity (Eph. 4:14-16). The Holy Spirit takes the sword of the Word of God and the fellowship of the saints and uses it to transform the entire body at once into greater Christ-likeness.
Second, discipleship at Cascades Bible occurs in gender-specific small groups. Our church seeks to grow both men and women into Christ-likeness through our Men’s and Women’s Ministry. Each of these ministries have specific meeting times that seek to grow one another in godliness, Christian maturity and Christ-likeness while addressing biblical roles given to both men and women respectively. For more information about these ministries you can click on their own specific web page. There you will find goals and current studies.
Third, discipleship at Cascades Bible happens one-on-one. As an outgrowth of both corporate and small group discipleship we encourage believers to seek out other believers within the body of Christ for the purposes of drawing each other into Christ-likeness. We strive to create an environment of ministry, service, worship and fellowship that foster these one on one relationships as a natural working of the body of Christ.
Our Principles for Discipleship
Principles for discipleship are found throughout the New Testament. The Apostle Paul not only gave us the goal of discipleship, he also instructs us in principles of discipleship through his letter to the Thessalonians. In First Thessalonians, Paul wrote to strengthen the faith of the Thessalonian believers and also to call them to pursue their sanctification with greater effort.
As one studies Paul’s letter to them, each chapter contains a broad but important principle concerning how and what takes place in a discipleship setting. Listed below are five principles that guide our efforts at discipleship that flow right out of the ministry of the Apostle Paul himself as he engages in further discipleship of the Thessalonians.
- Discipleship is gospel-centered. In chapter 1, the Apostle Paul further disciples the Thessalonian believers by reminding them of the gospel and their new faith. All discipleship must include a focus on the gospel, reminding one of its glorious truths and calling one to live in greater Christ-likeness in light of its truth.
- Discipleship is powered by integrity. In Chapter 2, the Apostle reminds the Thessalonians of his authenticity as a spiritual leader and a minister of the gospel. His authenticity was part of the foundation of the power of his ministry that God used to change their lives. Any believer who is engaged in discipling another believer must do so as he or she walks with integrity in his or her Christian life.
- Discipleship is fueled by a heart of love. In chapter 3, the Apostle models his great love for the Thessalonian believers. His love for them fueled his ministry to them and fostered their embracing of him and his teaching. This principles is true for discipleship. Any discipleship relationship must be built on a foundation of love. Believers must not be looked upon as mere projects.
- Discipleship is filled with instruction. In chapters 4-5, the Apostle Paul instructs and exhorts the Thessalonians in how they are to conduct their lives in light of the faith in Christ. Every discipleship relationship, if it is to meet the goal of Christ-likeness, must include biblical instruction and calls to obedience.
These are the principles that we believe in a broad sense govern discipleship in the local church. As our church ministry expands by God’s grace we continue to develop both our discipleship ministry and principles to effectively produce more Christ-likeness in every member of our church body.
Ongoing Discipleship Ministries
For more information about discipleship at Cascades Bible Church, email us at: [email protected]