Mike Breen, a pastor and writer that talks a lot about mission and discipleship and what this should look like in the church says this: “If you make disciples, you always get the church. But if you make a church, you rarely get disciples.”

So, our focus as a church should be on making disciples. 

Jesus builds His church. And the main purpose of the church is to produce disciples. 

What is discipleship?

So, what is discipleship really? 

Well, first of all, a disciple is not a convert. 

Conversion – and baptism by the way – is the beginning of a journey of discipleship. Putting your faith in Jesus, making Him the Lord of your life and receiving His grace and forgiveness is the start of that journey. Walking in the new life that you have in Jesus, that is discipleship!

Jesus the Rabbi

To understand what discipleship is, we need to first learn a bit more about what discipleship meant in the time of Jesus.

When Jesus lived and ministered on earth, He lived as a Rabbi. A Rabbi was a teacher. They were experts in the Jewish Scriptures – what we now know as the Old Testament – and traveled around teaching the people about God’s words. 

Knowing, studying and interpreting Scripture was a big deal in first century Judaism. 

Every Jewish boy spent a couple of years in Torah school with the goal to memorize the entire first five books of the Bible. 

The best students would then go on studying and aim to memorize the entire Old Testament and study the Talmud – the writings of rabbi’s explaining the Scriptures. 

The best of these students would then find a Rabbi and study under them for a couple of years. And the best of these students then would become a Rabbi themselves. 

The students of these Rabbi’s were called ‘disciples’. 

Jesus also had a group of disciples: the Twelve. 

But Jesus was very different in the way He selected His disciples. This is how He called some of them. 

Matthew 4:18-22 (NIV)

As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” At once they left their nets and followed him. Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them, and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.

Understanding the context of how Rabbi’s would normally select their students, Jesus makes very odd choices here. 

Instead of calling the best and the brightest students, He calls simple fishermen. In fact, Jesus makes the worst selection you could think of. 

Instead of choosing the PhD’ers and the post-docs, Jesus chose some guys who had barely finished primary school. 

Honestly, this is great news for me. Here I am, with my bachelor in theology, shaking hands with some of you guys doing a PhD in something I can’t even spell. 

I’m happy Jesus chose simpletons like me. 

But the oddness of Jesus’ selection goes much further. 

Jesus chose hot heads like James and John – sons of thunder they were called. Peter was a wild card – rebuking Jesus, chopping ears off, denying Jesus – stuff like that. Nathaneal was arrogant, almost racist – “can anything good come out of Galilee?” And then Jesus also chose a doubter, a terrorist freedom fighter, someone who collected the taxes for the Roman oppressors and He put a traitor in charge of the money. 

Isn’t this great news for all of us? Instead of the best of the best – Jesus chose the worst of the worst! 

You don’t have to have it all together when you start out on this journey of discipleship. In fact, you don’t have to have it all together while you are on this journey of discipleship.
As long as you trust in the Rabbi, He has got something to work with, and He won’t snuff out that little flame. 

What does discipleship look like?

In the remainder of this message, I will look with you at three the three key-elemets of the training of a disciple under a Rabbi. They frame discipleship in a beautiful way. 

  • Being with Jesus
  • Becoming like Jesus
  • Doing what Jesus did

Now, I’m going walk you through each part. However, I should mention, that this is all very brief. This is just a taster, a quick overview. There is much more I can say and will say about it, but another day. 

Being with Jesus

So, the first part of discipleship is being with Jesus. Now, this is something that many of us are tempted to make a shortcut on. We quickly focus our discipleship efforts on what you know about the Bible, and what you do and don’t do. 

But whatever you do for Jesus has to flow from being with Jesus. Otherwise you are just going to run on empty. Remember, we are human-beings, not human-doings. 

There was an old saying in the Jewish world in the time of Jesus, something people would say to the disciples of a Rabbi: “May you be covered in the dust of your Rabbi”. 

The idea of this saying is, may you be so close to Him, that when he walks around and kicks up dust, that dust will fall on you. In this same way, our priority as disciples should be to live close to Jesus. To spend time with Jesus. To choose proximity over activity – the same way Maria made the right choice by sitting at Jesus feet while Martha was cleaning the house. 

But this is hard! Yes, I know. Living in close proximity takes time and commitment. 

And my being with Jesus flourishes best when I have a rhythm with certain built-in habits like prayer, silence & solitude, worship, Scripture reading and Sabbath. 

Becoming like Jesus

So, from a place of being close to Jesus and living in constant relationship with Him, we go on a journey of becoming like Jesus. 

2 Corinthians 3:18 talks about how we, as we contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image. 

In other words, our becoming like Him naturally flows from our relationship with Him. 

Becoming like Jesus always means that there’s a good degree of change that needs to happen. And in this process of growing to become more like Jesus, we really do need other people to help us make good choices and sticking with them. We need others to help us, inspire us, teach us, cheer us on, point out some of the blind-spots and hold us accountable – to really see growth. 

Doing what Jesus did

So, from our being with Jesus flows a becoming like Jesus. Intimacy with Him shapes our character and the way that we live. Then, the next step is to do the things that Jesus did. 

We are called to continue the ministry of Jesus. 

The twelve disciples had spent three years with Jesus, being with Him, listening to Him, questioning Him – adopting a whole new way of living and thinking. 

Then one day, Jesus sends them out on a short internship program. 

Luke 9:1-2 (NLT)

One day Jesus called together his twelve disciples and gave them power and authority to cast out all demons and to heal all diseases. Then he sent them out to tell everyone about the Kingdom of God and to heal the sick.

What is happening here? Jesus delegates His power and His authority to His disciples to do the things that He did. 

Then, after His Resurrection and Ascension, the disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit – and they continued the ministry of Jesus. And just as in the Gospels, we see healings and miracles being mentioned matter-of-factly. Like it isn’t even something special. 

This delegation of Jesus’ power and authority didn’t stop with the Twelve. It is a calling on every disciple.