Discipleship of the Believer

Discipleship is a basic aspect of the Christian faith.

A disciple is a person who has accepted Jesus Christ and is committed to sharing His message with others. The first disciples were the men whom Jesus Christ called to walk with and assist Him during His ministry on Earth. A disciple is a follower of Christ, and discipleship is following Him. Jesus told His disciples in Luke 9:23 that following Him is dying to our old ways of living and resting in our new life in Christ.

This may be a figurative expression, but it is a fact that many people have died so that we may have the opportunity to accept Christ. Most of the apostles died because of their faith, and even today there are stories of believers who have died because they would not renounce their faith. We, too, should strive to have that kind of faith in our Savior. We may not physically die for our faith, but as disciples of Jesus, we die to our passions and desires and begin to live a life with a purpose bigger than ourselves. We begin to live for Him. One of the reasons why I felt led to write this guide is that over my course of ministry, we have baptized hundreds of people and discipled very few. If that is true for my own ministry, maybe it is true for other churches and church leaders. May we get back to the basics of what God asked us to do: make disciples.

My prayer is that this guide will help you and your disciple-makers have gospel conversations that help you grow in your faith. At the end of your time together, we are going to ask you to return the favor your discipleship partner showed to you and disciple someone else. Maybe right now, you can start praying for that person. Maybe you already know them by name, or possibly your church can help connect you with them after your study. Discipleship is not just about following Jesus but also about leading others to Him. As we see in Matthew 28:19-20, we are called to make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Discipleship is not just a personal relationship with Christ but a shared one. We are called to share the message of Christ with others and help them to become disciples as well. 

Giving and Stewardship
You may have heard the term “tithe” and wondered what it means. The word “tithe” comes f rom Greek and Hebrew words that mean “ten percent.”

In the Old Testament, giving ten percent of one’s income was a requirement for believers. However, in the New Testament, we are called to live by a new standard of grace. When churches talk about money, sometimes we close our ears, and our bitter hearts begin to grumble.

Let me assure you, your financial giving to your church is an indication of your spiritual health. If you have seen the grace of God, you should be led by the Holy Spirit to join His work through the ministry of your local church. That chair that you sit on week after week? It costs money. Running the A/C, turning on the lights, and painting the walls every so often cost money. Do we want to reach out to our community with events, send our youth to summer camps, host VBS for the kids? It costs money. Do we want to support other mission organizations and plant more churches? I think you get my point. Ministry costs money. By giving to the local church and its ministries, you are a partner in gospel work! I pastored a church that had a plaque in the lobby with a beloved church member’s name on it.

When I asked why it was on the wall, a church member said to me, “If you give the church two million dollars, we will get you a plaque, too.” What a kind gesture, but here is the problem. God does not recognize the size of your gift; he sees the size of your heart. Our giving should be a sacrifice. In the Old Testament, we see that farmers would give their first-born, strongest animal to be slaughtered as an offering to God. In Mark 12:41-42, we see a story of a woman who gave very little in value, but God saw her gift and valued it. Often the most generous don’t give the most considerable amount - but they have made the most significant sacrifice in their budgets.
Ask Yourself These Questions About Your Giving Habbits
Ask yourself these questions about your giving habits: • Do you support the church’s efforts of making disciples? • Are you giving God your leftovers or the first fruits of what He has given to you? • Is your giving a sacrifice to your family out of reverence and dependence on God? While we are not required to give ten percent to the church, it is a good starting point for those who want to sacrifice for the Gospel’s furtherance through their local church (2 Corinthians 9:6-7).
Remember, everything we own is God’s, and we are simply returning to Him a portion of what He has given us. I understand that for some of us this may mean re-working our family budgets. You have to ask yourself a simple question: are you willing to partner with your local church in Kingdom efforts? But giving goes beyond just tithing. Offerings are another way we can support the work of the church and other important ministries. Offerings are any monies given to support other church ministries or groups the church supports. This could include youth or children’s programs, homeless shelters, food pantries, pregnancy centers, or other organizations doing Kingdom work.
In Matthew 25:31-46, Jesus spoke of the importance of helping the poor and needy. When we give to these types of ministries, we are following in Jesus’ footsteps and making a difference in the lives of those in need. So how can we give and serve beyond our tithe? Pray and ask God to reveal to you ways you can use your resources to support the work of the church and other ministries. Look for opportunities to serve in these ministries as well. When we give and serve with a cheerful heart, we are storing up treasures in Heaven and making a difference in the lives of others (Matthew 6:19-21).

Why Serve The Church?

You may wonder how to get involved in your church community and make a difference. One of the best ways to do this is by using your spiritual gifts to serve the church!

What are spiritual gifts? They are special abilities that God gives to His followers to use for His glory and for the benefit of others (1 Corinthians 12:7). Each of us has at least one spiritual gift, and it’s important to discover what ours are so that we can use them to serve others. I have the privilege of talking with many pastors across many contexts. I remember one pastor venting about the struggles he was having getting the church to use their spiritual gifts to serve the church.

The Bible talks about us being the body of Christ and the body working together to do the work God has called us to. Somehow the conversation headed south, and he said, “I don’t have hands and feet in my church, I have a body of Christ that has three butts and no hands.” Yes, the pastor was calling his church members “butts.” Let me tell you, even if you are a butthead, there is a place for you to use your gifts in the body of Christ. Another pastor couldn’t get anyone to volunteer in the nursery, so one week his sermon was preached via a baby monitor as he served in the nursery.

Why is using our spiritual gifts to serve the church so important? First of all, it helps to make the church stronger. Just like a physically healthy body needs all its parts to work together, the church needs all its members to use their spiritual gifts to contribute to its growth and health (Ephesians 4:16). Using our spiritual gifts to serve the church is also a way to glorify God. When we use the gifts He has given us to help others, we are honoring Him and showing our love for Him (1 Peter 4:10-11). Using our spiritual gifts to serve the church helps us to grow in our faith.
As we step out in faith and use our gifts, we learn to trust God more and develop a deeper relationship with Him. So how can you discover and use your spiritual gifts to serve the church? Start by praying and asking God to reveal your gifts to you. You can also take a spiritual gifts assessment, talk to your pastor or church leaders, and try out different areas of ministry to see where you feel most fulfilled and effective. Maybe ask your disciple-maker if you can serve with them in their area of ministry this next week. Remember, God has given you unique spiritual gifts for a reason - to use them for His glory and for the benefit of others. Don’t be afraid to step out in faith and try new things! When you use your gifts to serve the church, you are making a Kingdom impact that will last for eternity.