by Zwai Zulu
“Discipleship leads to maturity.” Jesus gave us a great and useful model for discipleship by showing us that at the core of discipleship is “being with” the people that you are discipling. Mark writes,
“And he appointed twelve so that they might be with him and he might send them out to preach” (Mark 3:14).
Jesus did not start by sending them out to preach (which is vastly practiced by many pastors and leaders), but he called them to be with him. Through being with him, they were taught by Jesus various essential disciplines, for instance, he taught them how to pray, taught about the Kingdom of God, and how to live as one belonging in God’s kingdom, and then he sent them out to make disciples.
Jesus’ primary concern was for those who were lost. Mark reminds us that he came to seek and save the lost. He did that through the twelve. However, they had to develop spiritually before they were sent out. Discipleship essentially is a spiritual formation that leads to the seeking of those that are lost “teaching them to obey all that he had commanded” (Matthew 28:19).
‘Baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey all that he had commanded,’ is the “how” of the Great Commission. Whatever our context, the command is to make disciples by teaching them to obey all that Jesus has commanded us.
So, then we ought to ask the question, “how did Jesus teach his followers?”
This question is concerned with the context through which Jesus taught his disciples. It was through the road trips they were on, while he travelled from city to city, he taught his disciples. It was through the ordinary day to day activities that the Lord used to equip his disciples for the mission he was to call them to later. As Jesus shared the Gospel with the crowds or individuals, the disciples were there to observe him in action. He intentionally taught them by calling them to be with him.
So we can see that discipleship is primarily being with our disciples, intentionally teaching them to obey all that Jesus has commanded. Sounds simple, right? If we are honest, we have deviated from this model of discipleship. Let us take Paul’s example of discipleship. He himself had spent some time with the Apostles.
Paul spent extensive time with Barnabas after his conversion (Acts 9). In 1 Thessalonians 2, he writes that they were delighted to share with the Thessalonians not only the Gospel by their lives as well (1 Thess. 2:8).
The Thessalonian believers did not only get preached to by Paul and his companions, but there was a life together ‘sharing their lives’ observed by the Thessalonians.
Paul again, writes to Timothy, his son in the faith, to prioritize discipleship in his ministry as a Pastor. He writes,
“And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others.”
In these short verses we see the challenge for Timothy to prioritize disciple-making in his ministry. What was entrusted to Paul had to be passed on to someone else, Timothy, in this case. Timothy is to entrust it to others who will be qualified to teach others as well.
The Gospel message must be entrusted to others, and our priority as Pastors and lay leaders should be the discipleship of God’s flock so that we can present people fully mature in Christ (Colossians 1:28).
Zwai, is an Associate Pastor of Discipleship & Leadership Development at Rosebank Union Church. Prior to joining RUC, he served on staff with Campus Outreach Gauteng for 8 years. He qualified as a Software Developer and also has a Postgraduate degree in Business Administration both at UJ. He is currently pursuing a BTh at the Baptist Theological College.