Directory: Churches and People

What is Discipleship?

Definitions

It has been said that “we are all disciples of something”. The question is of what; perhaps it's money, power, the latest musician, footballer or another celebrity? As a Christian disciple we are followers of Jesus. This is discipleship in its simplest terms.

Disciple

"disciple" is derived from the Koine Greek word mathetes, which means a pupil (of a teacher) or an apprentice (to a master craftsman).

The Latin discipulus meaning a learner while the more common English word is student.

A disciple is one who learns from a teacher.

Discipleship

Discipleship is learning to follow Jesus Christ.

Ship added to the end of disciple means “the state of” or “contained in”. So discipleship means the state of being a disciple. In fact, the term discipleship has a nice ongoing feel – a sense of journey, the idea of becoming a disciple rather than having been made a disciple.
The Complete Book of Discipleship: On Being and Making Followers of Christ, Bill Hull, 2007

The term 'discipleship' designates the whole life response of Christians to Jesus Christ. Everything a Christian believes and does is an aspect of discipleship; the goal of discipleship is to grow ever more Christ-like in every aspect of life.
Time to Talk of God, a report of the Methodist Conference, The Methodist Church, 2005, p19

Discipleship is a popular word, often used vaguely and ambiguously. It’s actually quite simple. Discipleship is the relationship between a teacher (discipler) and student (disciple).

Discipleship is a journey, not a course.

Discipleship is about having your character formed by the Spirit. It involves responding to God, living in fellowship with other Christians and having your entire personality - your instincts and everything - shaped by Jesus.

Disciple-making

Comes from the verb matheteusate, which means to make disciples.

The Commissioning of the Disciples (Matthew 28)

16 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted.18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”[d]

Spiritual formation

Paul speaks of being formed, shaped or transformed in the epistles (e.g. Galatians 4:19, Romans 12:2). Spiritual formation is the transformation or shaping of a disciple. 

Apprentice (Taken from dictionary.com)

a person who works for another in order to learn a trade:

an apprentice to a plumber.
a person legally bound through indenture to master craftsman in order to learn a trade.

a learner; novice; tyro.

Apprenticeship

To learn by example is to submit to authority. You follow your master because you trust his manner of doing things even when you cannot analyze and account in detail for its effectiveness. By watching the master and emulating his efforts in the presence of his example, the apprentice unconsciously picks up the rules of the art, including those which are not explicitly known to the master himself. These hidden rules can be assimilated only by a person who surrenders himself totally and uncritically to the imitation of the master.  (Michael Polyani)