Discipleship in the Local Church

What does discipleship look like in the local church?

The word translated "disciple" is mathetes, which means a learner or apprentice. Although Christians are ultimately Christ's disciples, it is clear that Christ works through other Christians in this process, because he commissioned the church to "make disciples" (Mt. 28:19). Discipleship is taking personal responsibility to help other Christians grow to maturity by working with them in the context of a personal relationship.

Xenos has historically prioritized discipleship as a key ministry of the church, and has emphasized that all Christians are responsible for discipling others. The issue in our church today is not whether we will continue to prioritize discipleship, but rather how we will go about it.

Over the last few years, the leadership of Xenos has undergone a change in our understanding of discipleship that affects the way that we go about it. This change is that discipleship is primarily a corporate rather than an individual task. Let's contrast these two models:

Robert Coleman's classic, The Master Plan of Evangelism, is one of many books which teaches that we should look to Jesus' discipleship as recorded in the gospels as our primary resource on how to disciple others. There we see Jesus as an individual assuming a comprehensive responsibility for the training of the individual disciple. Discipleship therefore, it is argued, is one individual training another individual (or a group of individuals) in how to live the Christian life and serve God.

Coleman and others have borne much fruit through their propagation of this view. It has encouraged non-professional Christians to take responsibility for the follow-up of new Christians. It has motivated older Christians to take the initiative to work with younger Christians ...

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