Design of discipleship

What Christ Followers Have to Offer a Weary World


“Come to me all you who are weary and burdened,” Jesus said, “and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matt. 11:28-29). No doubt our world is just as weary now as it was when Jesus first offered this invitation some two thousand years ago. It was intended for all of us, which is why Christ followers have something to offer this world. 

“The world can get on very well without you and me,” D. L. Moody said, “but the world can not get on without Christ, and therefore we must testify of him.” Jesus’ first disciples did just that, declaring, “We cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:20). 

This, as it turns out, is Christ’s will for all his followers. Shortly before his ascension to heaven, Jesus solemnly charged his disciples with these words: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matt. 28:18-20). 

This final charge of Jesus is often referred to as “The Great Commission”--and for good reason. Notice that it’s backed by all authority. It extends to all nations. It encompasses everything Jesus commanded. And it remains in effect until the very end of the age. It’s a great commission. It’s our commission.

It means that to follow Christ is not just to know him but to make him known as well. Disciples of Jesus make disciples of Jesus. As Paul told Timothy, “The things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others” (2 Tim. 2:2).

Writing during the nineteenth century, Charles Spurgeon shared a timeless word about the joy of pursuing this commission: 

Even if I were utterly selfish, and had no care for anything but my own happiness, I would choose, if I might, under God, to be a soul-winner, for never did I know perfect, overflowing, unutterable happiness of the purest and most ennobling order till I first heard of one who had sought and found a Savior through my means. I recollect the thrill of joy which went through me! No young mother ever rejoiced so much over her first-born child, no warrior was so exultant over a hard-won victory. Oh! the joy of knowing that a sinner once at enmity has been reconciled to God by the Holy Spirit, through the words spoken by our feeble lips.

If you’re a follower of Christ, you have something significant to offer a weary world. Introduce them to the one who offers rest for our souls. 

Data, Dogma, and Drama: Three Things We Confuse with Discipleship


You’ve probably noticed, if you’ve spent much time reading the Gospels, that Jesus doesn’t like phony spirituality. And he seems to have this innate “counterfeit detector.”

Here’s what it sounds like when Christ’s phoniness meter is pegged: “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness” (Matt. 23:27-28). And this is just an excerpt from an entire chapter of this kind of language!

It turns out that exposing the counterfeits was a prominent feature of Christ’s teaching on discipleship. Unfortunately, these same counterfeits persist today.

Here are three such forgeries that we often confuse with discipleship.

1.  Data

How could we possibly confuse data with discipleship? We do it every time we pat ourselves on the back for being able to recite the books of the Bible in order, quote a section of Scripture from memory, or identify which of the kings of ancient Israel were good and which were bad, as if knowing this information makes us better disciples.  

Don’t get me wrong. These are all worthwhile pursuits that can build our biblical understanding and fuel our spiritual growth. (I’ve done these things myself.) But there’s a subtle danger of confusing our expanding knowledge of biblical facts with spiritual maturity. Mastering the biblical data doesn’t necessarily mean we’re becoming more obedient to Jesus.

The teachers of the law and the Pharisees of Jesus’ day were like walking Bible encyclopedias. Here’s what Jesus said about them: “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat.  So you must be careful to do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach” (Matt. 23:2-3). Evidently, it’s possible to be a Bible scholar and not even be a disciple of Jesus.

We must not confuse mastery of the biblical data with a growing discipleship to Jesus.  

2.  Dogma

A growing understanding of theology is vital to a maturing discipleship to Jesus. But dogma, if viewed as blind adherence to a particular doctrinal system, can actually hinder discipleship. Elevating our denominational traditions over our allegiance to Christ is not discipleship. It’s hypocrisy.

To those who were more concerned about keeping their religious traditions than obeying the teachings of Scripture, Jesus said, “You nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition. You hypocrites!” (Matt. 15:6-7).

We must not confuse loyalty to our particular dogma with a growing discipleship to Jesus.   

3.  Drama

Acting spiritually minded isn’t the same as being spiritually-minded. Jesus said, “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven” (Matt. 6:1). Whether it’s giving (vv. 2-4), praying (vv. 5-8), or fasting (vv. 16-18), if we’re doing it to impress people, then we’re practicing something other than discipleship. Jesus is not impressed by showy displays of pseudo-spirituality.

We must not confuse dramatic displays of religiosity with a growing discipleship to Jesus. 

Discipleship is not about assimilating more biblical data, defending our dogma, or acting out our good deeds for the accolades of others. These are cheap substitutes for authentic discipleship, by which we open our hearts to the transforming power of Christ.