Discipleship | When: Part One

Photo by Aron Visuals on Unsplash

by: Eric Boston @EricBoston3

If we are going to dive into exploring discipleship, we must come to terms on one important item. That being the “When” of discipleship.

When does discipleship actually take place?

To be able to answer this there are two factors, from where I sit, that determine what we will ultimately come to as a logical answer. One involves a definition of Time. The other is an Understanding of the discipleship concept.

Let us first explore the Time aspect of “When”

As we look in Matthew chapter 4, we find the first encounter with men who would become disciples of Christ.

“18) While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. 19) And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” 20) Immediately they left their nets and followed him.”

One of the biggest issues, and I will attempt to keep Time and Understanding as separate as possible, with coming to terms on discipleship is knowing when does it start?

As we notice here in Matthew, Jesus does not tell the men that once they come to him they will immediately be disciples. Instead he tells them that he will MAKE them disciples (fishers of men). The word “make” implies a process. When you create a new song, the process does not end when you have an idea you want to pursue. Instead, that is only the beginning. Peter and Andrew were not ready for Jesus to send them out into the world at this point.

Why don’t we compare this with another field we are all familiar with.

According to ElectriciansCareerGuide.com, “There are many people who are truly excited at the idea of a life-long career as an electrician.” However, you cannot simply wake up one day and say “Today is the day! I’m now an electrician.” There is a process. To become a fully-licensed journeyman electrician it takes an average of four years. Those four years can include an apprenticeship where you get hands-on learning from an experienced, master electrician. You are not sent out to cut a wrong wire and end up dead because of it. Another person invests time in you to make you into someone with the knowledge that will be able to help other people.

That is how discipleship is to be!

The disciples spent three years learning every day side-by-side with Jesus. They doubted. They made stupid choices. Through it all, Jesus was MAKING them into the men he would need to carry on his work when he would return to his Father. Today a major issue is that many Christians think that disciples are made at the altar. I think I know why that is.

In Matthew 28 we find the verse that people quote when talking about disciples, 
“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,” 

Awesome right! Well, yes it is! It is also not complete.

You see the punctuation after “Holy Spirit”? It is not a period, exclamation mark, or even a question mark. It is, in fact, a comma. That means that there is more. Unfortunately, that is where most people stop.

So where does this thought go after that comma?

Matthew 28 “20) teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

This simple verse will guide the rest of our discussion of the Time factor of the When.

The very next word after that infamous comma is “teaching”. As a high school educator myself there is one thing I can tell you about teaching. As they say, it is a marathon and not a sprint.

Teaching someone how to be a disciple involves more than getting them to say a sinner’s prayer. In fact, I would argue that repentance is not even the starting point of becoming a disciple. I would argue that it is AFTER such an event, and the recognition of the need for repentance is vital but does not set one down the path of discipleship, that the actual journey of becoming a disciple begins.

Perhaps this would be a good place to look at how "disciple" is defined from a literary point: noun a follower or student of a teacher, leader, or philosopher.

A follower or a student. One cannot be either of these based off of a single event. It is something that requires a commitment to returning to that teacher, leader, or philosopher. If we go to the very beginning and look at the word “noun” it gives us even more insight.

A noun describes a person, place, thing, or idea. Repentance, which many see as the ultimate goal of making disciples, is a verb...it is an action. If we want to break it down to the most basic of levels, it is not possible for repentance to equal disciple. It is a needed precursor, yes, but to bring someone to the altar and essentially leave them there does not a disciple make. 

That is why I say that discipleship is something that happens after a conversion of faith in Jesus and often is not even immediately afterward either.

As we have discussed prior, there are many who have given their lives to Christ many years ago and have yet to be truly discipled. That leads me to another interesting observation of the Time aspect of When.

Not only does discipleship begin after conversion, but there is no timetable for how long it lasts. 

I would say from the rest of verse 20, we can assume that it is an ongoing thing, “teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Based off of these words, discipleship is continuous. Even when we reach a point of discipling others, we still need that authority over us.

That is why I say that discipleship is a commitment. 

I also say that it is never too late to be discipled.

We have not “missed our window” regardless of if we are still in our infancy in the faith, or have called ourselves His for thirty years. No matter our age and knowledge, the relationship involved with this act is beneficial to not only our spiritual walk but to us as humans as well. 

Do not allow the fact that you have not yet entered into a discipleship relationship convince you that you no longer qualify.

Time greatly impacts the “When” of discipleship, but it does not completely define it. That is why the next step will be to look at the second part of "When", the element of Understanding.

Stay tuned!


What do you think? Hit the comments section and keep the discussion going!

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