Christ in Discipleship

Jesus gave several commandments. The one that has stood out the most to this student, to help advance the Gospel, was to take the Gospel to Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the utmost parts of the earth (Acts 1:8). Disciples are to preach the Gospel to everyone, (Matthew 28:19-20), thus teaching the new followers of Jesus Christ to make disciples who make disciples. Without Jesus, then there would be no discipleship. Without Christ, there would only be God and people would still be lost without hope.

According to Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Jesus is the reason for the call to follow Him. Bonhoeffer wrote, “…there is only one good reason for the proximity of call and deed: Jesus Christ himself.  It is he who calls.”[1] It is Jesus who calls people to follow Him. Bonhoeffer wrote about Jesus calling Levi, the tax collector, to follow Him. Bonhoeffer writes, “This encounter gives witness to Jesus’ unconditional, immediate, and inexplicable authority. Nothing precedes it, and nothing follows except obedience of the called. Because Jesus is the Christ, he has the authority to call and to demand obedience to his word. Jesus calls to discipleship, not as a teacher and a role model, but as the Christ, Son of God.”[2]  Jesus is the center of discipleship. He is the sole reason that followers are called to become disciples, who then teach others to become disciples. Bonhoeffer continues to write, “Discipleship without Jesus Christ is choosing one’s own path. It could be an ideal path or a martyr’s path, but it is without the promise. Jesus will reject it.”[3]

Followers are called to discipleship. Robert Coleman wrote, “Conversion is the first step in the discipleship process. … Conversion is the beginning of a journey, whereas discipleship is ongoing. In true conversion, a person must commit to following Jesus. The person becomes a lifelong learner, a disciple. Being a disciple is a learning process that never ends.”[4] Putman, et al states that the definition of a disciple is found in Matthew 4:19.[5] There are three attributes in which Putman et al emphases. They are “Follow Me, And I Will Make You, Fishers of Men.”[6] This Scripture is about Jesus calling Peter and Andrew, who were fisherman by trade, to leave their nets and to follow Him. Jesus promises them that he will make the “Fishers of Men,” meaning that he will teach them how to harvest for men and women’s souls. Putman et al describes that the authority of Christ comes when He said to the brothers, “Follow me.” In their obedience to Jesus, they dropped everything and literally followed him. Putman et al wrote, “Though the notion of obeying Jesus is connected to our hearts at some level, this first attribute of a disciple is primarily a mental acceptance of Jesus, understanding that he is now the one in charge of our lives.”[7] There must be a mental acknowledgement, but also a heart change to become a follower of Jesus Christ. This is a requirement that one must believe and then repent from their sins, meaning to change and move away from sin.

Jesus said in the second part of the verse, “and I will make you….” It is this transformation of the heart in which one then becomes a disciple of Christ. It is at this point that the person should be hungry for what Jesus wants to teach him or her. It is through the power of the Holy Spirit that this will occur, through transformation. Putman et al quotes Romans 8:29, “…we are being conformed into the image of Christ.”[8] This is done through the Holy Spirit. Putman et al wrote, “But discipleship, at heart, involves transformation at the deepest levels of our understanding, affection, and will by the Holy Spirit, through the Word of God and in relationship with the people of God.”[9]

The third part of the verse, “fishers of men” means that the disciple will be sent on mission overseas as well as in their own towns and cities. This part is the missionary work. Dave Earley quotes Charles Spurgeon as saying, “Every Christian is either a missionary or an imposter.”[10] A true disciple is a follower of Jesus Christ who has had a heart transformation and is willing to allow the Holy Spirit to lead him to where ever God opens the doors. This means that the work of God is at hand and that every Christian convert in the Church are called to be a disciple, who will teach others to become disciples. This is what all true Christians are called to be.

This leads into the final discussion, the three stages of discipleship according to Dave Earley and Rod Dempsey. The three stages of discipleship are Believer, Disciple, and Disciple Maker. Earley and Dempsey expounds on each of these and lists Stage One as a Declaration. It is the conversion of the Believer, which leads him or her to repentance and faith in Jesus.[11] Earley states that there are five steps for Stage One which are that one must make a declaration of faith, that he must repent from his sins and have faith, that he must become a committed believer, he must lay aside all his doubts, and by coming to Jesus, he is saved.[12]

Stage Two is Development. It is the immersion, abandonment, and apprenticeship into ministry.[13] To be a disciple of Christ, one must immerse themselves into a deep relationship with Jesus. This is done by studying of the Word of God as well as through daily prayer. One will also become involved in community and will become engaged with others through Christ. Earley writes, “….it is universally relevant that all disciples of Jesus must immerse themselves into a relationship with Him. He needs to become their premier relationship. As God is to be loved with all their ‘passion and prayer and intelligence.’”[14] Disciples must learn and be teachable. Once they learn what Christ wants to teach them, then they are ready to be sent.

The Third Stage is Deployment, intentional global commissioning. The disciple must be willing to go where Jesus leads him to go. Robert Garrett states, “The greatest missionary in history was Jesus Christ.”[15] Disciples are sent; therefore, disciples must go. David Platt wrote, “Wherever you and I live, we are commanded to go and make disciples there. In light of Jesus’ example, our primary impact on the nations will occur in the disciple-making we do right around us.”[16] But even if the disciple does not go abroad, they are called to take the Gospel to the world within their own towns and cities. Christians can no longer sit on the sidelines and assume that missionary work is not what they were called to do. On the contrary, all Christians are called to be disciples, who make disciples, who make disciples.

The most effective way to accomplish the Great Commission is to multiply. Earley and Wheeler wrote, “When we lead people to Christ, we must stay with them to help them get established in their faith. Then they can be carriers of the good news, and the message of the gospel will multiply through their consistent witness.”[17]


[1] Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works, Volume 4 (Minneapolis: First Fortress Press, 2003), 57.

[2] Ibid., 57

[3] Ibid., 59

[4] Jim Putman, Bobby Harrington, and Robert E. Coleman, DiscipleShift: Five Steps That Help Your Church to Make Disciples Who Make Disciples (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2013) 44-45.

[5] Putman, DiscipleShift, 45.

[6] Putman, DiscipleShift, 46.

[7] Putman, DiscipleShift, 47.

[8] Putman, DiscipleShift, 48.

[9] Putman, DiscipleShift, 49

[10] Dave Earley and Rod Dempsey, Disciple Making Is…: How to Live the Great Commission with Passion and Confidence (Nashville: B&H Publishing Group, 2013) 77.

[11] Earley and Dempsey, Disciple Making Is, 62.

[12] Earley and Dempsey, Disciple Making Is, 61.

[13] Earley and Dempsey, Disciple Making Is, 68.

[14] Earley and Dempsey, Disciple Making Is, 69.

[15]Robert Garrett, “The Gospels and Acts: Jesus the Missionary and His Missionary Followers,” in Missiology (Nashville: B&H Publishing, 1998), 63.

[16] David Platt, Radical (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2010), 198.

[17] Dave Earley and David Wheeler, Evangelism Is…:How to Share Jesus with Passion and Confidence (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2010), 134.


Bonhoeffer, Dietrich. Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works, Volume 4. Minneapolis, MN: First Fortress Press, 2003.

Earley, Dave, and David Wheeler. Evangelism Is…: How to Share Jesus with Passion and Confidence. Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2010.

Earley, Dave, and Rod Dempsey. Disciple Making Is… How to Live the Great Commission with Passion and Confidence. Nashville, TN: B&H Academic, 2013.

Garrett, Robert. The Gospels and Acts: Jesus the Missionary and His Missionary Followers, in Missiology. Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 1998.

Platt, David. Radical. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2010.

Putman, Jim, Bobby Harrington, and Robert E Coleman. Disciple Shift: Five Steps That Help Your Church to Make Disciples Who Make Disciples. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2013.

This material is protected and may not be republished. Paper submitted to Dr. Morris Baker, Liberty University, in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the completion of DSMN500-D03, Discipleship Ministries, April 8, 2018 by Joseph T. Lee.

Joseph T. Lee Copyright © April 8, 2018, The Lantern & Shield Times LLC. All Rights Reserved. 

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