Discipleship Looks Different for Everyone

By Denise Kohlmeyer

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Short and Sweet

Apollos is one of my all-time favorite, obscure characters in the Bible. In just four verses (Acts 18:24-28), we get a glimpse of the short and sweet discipling of this eloquently-speaking Alexandrian Jew.

When they encountered Apollos in an Ephesus synagogue, husband-and-wife missionary team Priscilla and Aquila already had a solid platform with which to work. Although he had only known the baptism of John, Apollos was already familiar with "the things concerning Jesus." Yet something was still lacking in his knowledge; so Priscilla and Aquila graciously "took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately."

Scripture is silent as to how long this took. It might have been a one-time conversation, like with Philip and the eunuch. But given the breadth and depth of the "way of God," I have to believe that it happened through several conversations over a short period of time.

Regardless, thanks to Priscilla and Aquila's teaching, Apollos was more fully equipped to preach the cause of Christ in his evangelistic endeavors. He soon left for Achaia, with their blessing, and there was able to "powerfully refute the Jews in public, showing by the Scriptures that the Christ was Jesus."

From this account, we see that discipleship may involve simply filling in or expanding another believer's knowledge of God. Like Apollos, some people are already well-versed in Scripture, but they may be lacking in some essential component that will bring their understanding full circle. In most of these instances, this discipleship directive does not require tons of time, just the ability to recognize those knowledge gaps and then the courage to step forward and take the time to clarify — even to a stranger — "the way of God more accurately."

Lovingly Long Term

This form of discipleship requires a true commitment from both teacher and pupil(s). This is the model which most believers seem to shy away from, given the length of time required. But we see the model for it through the sacrificial service of, first and foremost Jesus with the 12 disciples, but also later in Scripture with the Apostle Paul and his protégé Titus. Each of these men committed long stints to teaching, equipping and strengthening the fledgling flocks scattered throughout the Mediterranean world. Paul spent three years in Ephesus, preaching the gospel, instructing new converts, and establishing local house-churches where the converts could grow and be strengthened in their new-found faith. Titus was left on Crete by Paul with the directive to establish the "government" of the newly-planted churches there, by selecting spiritually-capable men to shepherd the flocks and by also setting forth instructions for individual holy living and community relations among the believers.

Interestingly, Titus' discipling also included admonishment — also a necessary component of "teaching them to obey My commandments." Given that these particular Cretan converts were struggling to put off some of their old behaviors of idleness, gossip, and gluttony. Within this longer duration of discipleship, a teacher has ample time and opportunity to delve deeper into the life of his/her pupil and gently expose areas of sinful, ungodly behavior, then offered loving but firm correction.

From these accounts, we understand that God may require of us a long-term commitment to disciple a new or young believer. This form of discipleship is a calling — a ministry, really — to sacrifice time (possibly years) and energy (for preparation, if it's a structured study).

Discipling someone can seem intimidating. But from these examples, we see that it needn't be. The "making" of disciples, yes, is a command to all born-again believers. When, where and how it happens, however, depends on the situation. We just need to be willing to "go" and be ready to "baptize and teach," trusting that God is "with us always" at the time a discipleship moment presents itself.

So, now, whenever or wherever I hear "Hey, I have a question" — whether it is from my brother or someone else — I now know that a discipleship moment is upon me. Yet, what I don't know is, is if it will be brief, short- or long-term. But it doesn't matter. The length of the moment is irrelevant, as long as it is a teaching moment — the making of a disciple, teaching them about God and His wonderful ways, one question at a time.

Image Credit: Giuseppe Milo; "Chatting at breakfast"; Creative Commons

TagsBiblical-Salvation  | Biblical-Truth  | Christian-Life

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Published 9-26-16