Introduction to Discipleship
by Colonel Janet Munn
discipleship? How did Jesus make disciples?
How can I become a disciple? How can I be a
Why should I prioritise discipleship? How can I be discipled
in The Salvation Army?
If you are asking
these questions, you are not the only one. In fact, I think
you would find many, who are asking the exact same questions.
This three-part series of articles contains some insights into
without discipleship is always Christianity without Christ.” —
defines discipleship as; ‘the process of transformation that
changes us to be increasingly more like Christ through the
Word, the Spirit and circumstance.’
(Rick Warren, Purpose-Driven Church)
What we learn from
Rick Warren is that discipleship means to be in a constant
transformation process. We are always developing and striving
to become more like Christ. Discipleship involves a
relationship with God, where we do our part to maintain that
relationship and God does his part.
If you want to dig
deeper, these are the Bible verses that Rick Warren based his
definitions on: John 17:17, 2 Cor. 3:18, Rom. 8:28-29, 1 Cor.
3:7, Eph. 4:22-23, Rom. 12:1-2.
The Salvation Army
In Salvation Army
we express the need for discipleship in our articles of faith.
Doctrines 9 and 10 say:
‘We believe that
continuance in a state of salvation depends upon continued
obedient faith in Christ’
‘We believe it is
the privilege of all believers to be wholly sanctified and
that their whole spirit and soul and body may be preserved
blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ’.
Discipleship is a
means of continued obedient faith.
It is something we actively have to work on. We have to
do our part:
Work hard to show
the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence
and fear. For God is
working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what
In Paul’s letter
to the Thessalonians, we read about God’s part and receive the
promise that he will do his part:
May God himself,
the God of peace, sanctify you through and through.
May your whole
spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our
Lord Jesus Christ.
The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.
God WILL sanctify
us, but we still have to work hard to continue in obedient
We can’t do God’s
part and he won’t do ours.
‘Jesus did not
say, “Go and get decisions’. He said, ‘Go and make disciples’.
Too much evangelism has concentrated on bringing the
unbeliever to a point of decision only’ wrote General John
How can we in The
Salvation Army help those within our influence become
‘increasingly more like Christ’?
Not necessarily enrolments but apprenticeship with
First of all Jesus
says it directly to his disciples in what we know as The Great
Jesus came and
told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven
and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the
nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son
and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the
commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you
always, even to the end of the age. (Matthew 28: 18-20)
and Gallup Research polls indicate that rates of premarital
sex, adultery, divorce, bigotry, and domestic violence among
Christians are the same as that of the general population.
Even in nations where church attendance is large and
enrolments are many, we have yet to see a transforming effect
on those societies.
Is this the best
we can hope for disciples of Jesus Christ to live? Is this
holiness and societal transformation?
There is an obvious
Great Disparity between, on the one hand, the hope for life
expressed in Jesus – found real in the Bible and in many
shining examples from among his followers – and on the other
hand, the actual day-to-day behaviour, inner life, and social
presence of most of those who now profess adherence to him.
If the new birth
and the power of the Holy Spirit do not result in transformed
living by transformed people there are basically 2 possible
God’s provision is inadequate – including perhaps the
possibility that what God promised and commanded is completely
unrealistic and even impossible, thereby making the Lord out
to be a cosmic despot.
We (most Christians) do not give ourselves to [our walk
with Christ] in a way that allows our lives to be taken over
by it. (Dallas Willard, The Great Omission, 2006)
William Booth also
saw a need for discipleship and he had a similar view to
“I have been
thinking much that some of our Officers need to give more
attention to the development of the work of the Divine Spirit
in their Soldiers. Many of our people, I fear, have not
progressed very far beyond the A B C of spiritual experience.
I do not mean that some of these do not enjoy a Full
Salvation. I believe they do. . . But, then, as you know,
Holiness is something more than an act – of surrender on their
part and of cleansing on the part of the Holy Spirit – it is
life. It is true that it begins in an act, but it necessitates
also a continual progress. Purity should lead to maturity…”
Officers – The General, 1921)
[In the next
two articles we will explore the four essential components of
discipleship and how discipleship is unfolded in The Salvation
Army.] Colonel Janet Munn