In today’s contemporary churches, discipleship programs have taken many forms and have assumed many understandings due to different views from different churches. Every church handles discipleship programs due to how relevance they consider it and the goals they want to achieve from it. In contemporary churches today, the term discipleship have assumed different names such as life group, cell group, bible study group, believers group, Christ guide group, and many others. This thesis will begin by viewing the root of disciple, discipleship, and the primary purpose of it. This study will further view the ways to make disciples, difficulties and solutions in discipleship, and it’s relevance to the contemporary Christian faith. One of the major goals of this article is to revive and renew the commitment of the churches in growing genuine discipleship and to change lukewarmness, in our discipleship system.
Then the church today can shift back to the original intent of discipleship as taught by Jesus Christ. Who is disciple. A disciple literally means a learner, a student, a follower, or an apprentice, that submit to another person with higher knowledge in a particular field, with an intention to acquire knowledge and skills in order to become like the teacher and most at times to teach and disciple others. The term disciple originated from the Greek word – paideia, which means to instruct, and it’s Hebrew origin is muwcar (moo-sawr’) which means to guide properly, to chastise, figuratively to reproof, to warn or to instruct and also to restrain someone or group to people to achieve a particular purpose. The word disciple can be found up to 259 times in the Bible. The followers of John the Baptist and Jesus were all called disciples. (1) Throughout history, many forms of intensive disciples took place such as Elijah and Elisha, Plato and Socrates, Paul and Timothy, Moses and Joshua and studying Greco Roman history, one can see the ancient philosophers with their different disciples who intensively soaked their wisdom and life style. From these origins and definitions one can deduct that the priority of a disciple is to learn, to become, to practice and to teach. John the Baptist and Jesus took time to teach their disciples and today Jesus’ disciples are called apostles which christians are part of them.
The term discipleship is not in the Bible, but literally it means a process and state of disciplining someone. It simply means, the act and process of making a discipline. It also means conditions of making someone a disciple. All the calls of Jesus in the new testament is an example of discipleship, for instance, Jesus said “follow me and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19), “imitate me as I imitate Christ” (1Corinthians 11:1), Apostle Paul said. This process of following, imitation and learning is called discipleship. (2) From the term discipleship, one sees a leader, a follower, a process, a state of making and learning in the theme. Anyone who follows another person’s believes and submit under the persons authority to learn and become what the person believes is going through discipleship. Therefore, everyone who professes the christian faith as a follower of Jesus Christ and submit under Him as Lord and personal saviour through the Christian body, is a disciple of Jesus Christ under christian faith. By implications the person have taken an oath of life time decision to be taught, learn, grow, and to be transformed into the body of Christ, becoming His image and likeness to the fullness. Thus, this is a life time journey of total submission, learning and meeting with other belivers and using christian materials to receive guidance on spiritual formation and discipline in the spirit and in the body, till the purpose of Christ is seen and fulfilled in us.
Jesus Christ, occasionally sent His disciples out to teach and to do the things He taught them, He told the disciples that He does what the father taught Him and normally reminded them to as well do what he taught them to do. The major goal of a disciple is to be like the master, Jesus focused His goals on making His disciples to become like Him and even after His resurrection, He spent forty days alone with them before ascension, this clears how important discipleship is to christianity. The same way the church should be committed in making discipleship with the hope to shape minds and attitudes of the church into christ form, aiming to have committed followers of Jesus Christ conformed to His will(. 4)
Discipleship group can be formed and done in different ways such as in peoples homes, schools, cells, life groups, inform of picnics, film shows, church fellowships, life groups, and many other forms. The members always get together to be familiar with each other, knowing one another’s names, homes, jobs, businesses, hobbies, families, best food, sports likes, and many others. The members share things in common, they eat and commune together as Jesus did with His disciples, (Luke 22:19) they share the word of God, intensively asking questions in their different areas of concerns, they share their views and arrive to common understanding of the true word of God. They share their needs as the early apostles did and pray for each others.
There’s always a leader who must have attended a good heights of spiritual maturity in the word of God and who is matured enough not to compromise the truth. The leader always assures that everything done in the discipleship class confines within the word of God. Serious prayers are regularly practiced in the discipleship classes and spiritual gifts are always recognized by their manifestations. Genuine love, unity, and respect is a normal bond in discipleship. Some of the challenges which the contemporary christian faith face in this modern system of discipleship is inability to handle their busy work schedule with that of the discipleship meetings. People struggle with their private life and not willing to confined in others. People are security consciouse and doesn’t trust others, people don’t leave their homes open for fellowship for fear of insecurity. Many find it hard to share food at homes with others because of poison. Some are carried away with the activities that they rarely share the word of God nor spend times on prayers. Most people don’t care for others needs at all, and sometimes, ceremony here and there distracts the church a lot. Lack of dedication, purpose, zeal, clarity, lack of good information management system, lack of tolerance, inability to know the next right step to take to discipline one another, inability of setting priority right with focus and sacrifice to the cross. Ineffective spiritual formation practices. Rivalry and wrong use of diplomacy which averts the truth of the Gospel lack the ability to transform( 7)It must take thorough and true discipline for the contemporary christians to get back to the basic roots of discipleship laid out for us by Jesus Christ and the early disciples. It’s possible. We need to go back to the root and make some necessary corrections, some churches don’t even know what discipleship is all about. Lukewarmness must be curtailed for discipleship which is the way spiritual formations can only take place and prevail.
Discipleship is all about living like Christ, loving one another, worship, evangelism, spiritual formations, labouring for the kingdom, building others, fellowship, teaching the word of God, prayers, multiplication, sharing, family bonds, personal relationships, modelling, and others. If we must get it right, we must do it Jesus and apostles ways. FootnotesHull, Disciple Making Church, 64. Authentic spiritual formation, according to Hull, depends on consistently practicing the spirit of the functions outlined in Acts 2:42–47. He presents these practices in the form of five “commitments”: commitment to Scripture, one another, prayer, praise/worship, and outreach.
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