Discipleship isn’t something I thought very much about until I was in college and even then, I was confused as to what it really meant. In a video produced by The Gospel Coalition, Tim Keller and Don Carson really hit on several things that helped me think more deeply about discipleship.
Two points, in particular, deepened my understanding of discipleship. First, discipleship today often fails to take into account who is being discipled. Don Carson points out that we can’t assume any common knowledge of God in the people we are discipling. Discipleship in many churches has focused on private personal piety, one-on-one mentoring but this misses the fact that discipling needs to be holistic, including teaching on who God is as well as a godly life. Tim Keller says, “It does mean longer processes. It does mean more patience. It does mean being way more deliberate.”
Second is related to the first. Done properly, discipleship is more than a few one-on-one meetings. As Tim Keller points out, “You have to think of every single thing you do at the church as formative.” If everything at church is formative, the preaching, the teaching, the fellowship, the liturgy, etc. then it all must have the goal of “making disciples of all nations” (Matt. 28:19-20).
As I read the Great Commission passage again, it struck me how Jesus gives us an explanation of discipleship right in the passage. Jesus commands the apostles to make disciples and then all the rest of what he says unpacks how they are to fulfill this command: baptize in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit and teach all that Jesus’ commanded.
The first part involving baptism includes the right knowledge of the Triune God. The doctrine of who God is, as Tim Keller and Don Carson point out, is essential to making disciples Jesus Christ must know who they are following. The second part, teaching the baptized all that Jesus’ commanded, encompasses both doctrine and practice. Jesus taught his disciples not only about who God is but how the love of God saves us from our sin and brings us new life, enabling us to love God and love others.
The church needs to rediscover this holistic view of discipleship.
Watch the whole discussion below!