Tuesday, December 11

Discipleship questions worth pondering

Fellow missionary Miguel Labrador on his thought-provoking blog God Directed Deviations asks some very pertinent questions related to evangelism and discipleship.  If we are going to seriously engage in making disciples of the nations, each of Miguel's questions deserves attention.
Which of the following challenges you? Are there any you would like to comment upon? Which questions are you going to spend some time with praying about?  I'll share my list, if you'll share yours! 
1. Can a person be a disciple and not yet a believer in Jesus, a “Christian.”
2. Can you disciple an unbeliever?
3. When someone becomes a believer or Christian, can we consider them as a “disciple made?”
4. Are we supposed to be determining when others believe?
5. If we focused on Making Disciples instead of conversions, would that make any practical difference?
6. How did biblical messengers of God’s Gospel determine when others believed.
7. Someone asks you, “How can I follow this Jesus that you follow?” What do you say, and what will you do?
8. Is Making Disciples, “The” Mission of The Church?
9. Are we to obey the teaching component of the Great Commission, or are we to step out of the way and let Jesus (or the Spirit) teach others directly?
10. When does programing or bringing structure to discipleship get in the way of God’s desire to disciple others directly? Examples?
11. If the making of disciples, or discipleship requires that we teach others to observe/obey ALL that Jesus commanded, then wouldn’t that take a considerable amount of time? Are we relieved of our responsibility to teach when we have taught all of those commandments?


Anonymous said...

All of these are very good and pertinent questions. Perhaps later today I will have time to respond to each and every one. In Dr. “Chuck’s” PREACH &HEAL he says: “When you get real disciples, you get it all.” Esteban

Bob Cleveland said...

The answers all depend on how you define "disciple", both as a noun and as a verb. The only one I see in scripture is a "learner", or "pupil". So yes, you could disciple someone who was not a believer. But not the way the church seems to use the term today.

I'm not sure the discipleship process ever ends, but I'd be comfortable calling it complete when a person becomes sufficiently zealous in his faith that he's pursuing the faith directly and doesn't need to be "ridden herd on", so to speak.

J. Guy Muse said...


For us, a disciple "graduates" when they themselves start making disciples.

I like what Dallas Willard says, A disciple is a person who has decided that the most important thing in their life is to learn how to do what Jesus said to do.

Cody Smith said...

All good questions, where to start?
I believe that making disciples is the mission of the church #8 and that focusing on making disciples rather than conversions would make a huge difference in every imaginable way #5.
Here is another question posed by Dallas Willard (he does not provide an answer, nor do I for the time being). Is a Christian who is not a disciple actually saved?

J. Guy Muse said...


The Dallas Willard question you bring out is certainly worthy of being added to the list.

While our salvation is God's doing through what Christ did on the cross, if we merely believe it in our heads, but do nothing to obey those things He commanded, did we ever truly believe in the first place?

Tim A said...

10. When does programing or bringing structure to discipleship get in the way of God’s desire to disciple others directly? Examples?

When some one with a title such as Reverend or Pastor is programmed to deliver a weekly Bible lecture every week of a believers life with zero intention than any believer will ever be "fully trained" to "be like him". Luke 6:40 Now perpetual dependency has been systematized rather than reproduction. Now the teaching of Jesus on what it means to teach is being nullified by the traditions of men and also consumes 75 - 86% of the giving (per normal American churches). Now "preaching" is defined as a Bible lecture by a hired expert with zero interaction, zero participation, zero questions, zero reproduction, zero anything that demonstrates God designed relationship.

J. Guy Muse said...


Thanks for stopping by, and for the comments.

Do you think one of the reasons we have gravitated toward the teaching/discipling model you refer to is that WE want to be the ones doing something? I have found it hard to let others do things, I myself believe I could do better.

We are for the most part a performance society. We measure ourselves by what we can do, vs. what others are doing. The better a person is at something seems to mean they should be the ones up front doing the doing.

One of the hardest lessons of the NT are John the Baptists words, "He must increase; I must decrease." Nobody wants to decrease!

Cody Smith said...

I think some programed teaching can be very effective when it is in concert with, for example, a small group interface where disciples can become real and intimate with one another. Life experience is where the rubber meets the road, application is everything...

Here is an example that I am working with. www.walk-this-way.com/pdf_downloads.htm

Aussie John said...


How can any member of a congregation make disciples when the pastor clearly intimates that it is HIS job, and it is to be done once per month at an evening service?

The evening service is only attended by members of the congregation.

I love your words,"For us, a disciple "graduates" when they themselves start making disciples."

J. Guy Muse said...


We also use something very similar in our discipleship. We call them "Grupos de Tres" (Groups of Three) and use a modified form of the LTG's. One of the biggest obstacles we have encountered here in Ecuador with the small discipleship groups is how hard it is to get them to read Scripture. They are not a reading society, so to even get them to read a chapter a week is a challenge. They respond a lot better to the countability questions and praying for one another.

J. Guy Muse said...


I agree. A common inquiry we make to one another is, "how are your disciples?" or "who are you discipling these days?" The truth is, most of us cannot name a single person in the past three years that we are attempting to disciple. So, that is why I say, one IS a disciple when they HAVE disciples.

Jailer said...

RE: discipleship of non-believers

This is a semantic question, which is not to say it's unimportant. I don't think the Bible ever tells us explicitly to "disciple one another" but rather to "make disciples" of Christ. In fact, as far as I can tell, "disciple" is used exclusively as a noun referring to the followers of Christ.

Over the years, we have made it a verb to apply to the Paul/Timothy kind of relationship, and as such it is a helpful term of art. Moreover, the concept from Titus 2 lends support to the model.

So we're back to the question, which is largely one of semantics. I'd have to say in the common, modern usage, we generally apply "evangelism" for non-believers and "discipleship" for believers. The two are closely related and might be said to exist along a continuum, as there is teaching/modeling/etc. occurring in both. Moreover, because we can't see the heart of any person, sometimes it's best not to assume we have passed from evangelism to discipleship at a given point, but to just keep laboring to see the person move closer to Christ.

J. Guy Muse said...


Thanks for stopping by and for the insightful comment.

You write, it's best not to assume we have passed from evangelism to discipleship at a given point, but to just keep laboring to see the person move closer to Christ.

I am reminded of J.B. Phillips translation of I Jn. 2 where he states, It is only when we obey God's laws that we an be quite sure that we really know Him. The man who claims to know God but does not obey His laws is not only a liar, he lives in self-delusion...

So, how do we know when a disciple is a disciple? When he/we are obeying God's laws.

Cody Smith said...

We are having the same problem with LTG in Mexico. Many people here seem to struggle with reading comprehension. Do you have any further insight or alternative approaches?

J. Guy Muse said...


In our LTG (Grupos de Tres-GDT) card we have selected 52 chapters of the Bible. The idea we try to get across is that they read at least ONE chapter per week. If more than once, great. If they can only manage reading it once, great. Then, on our accountability questions the first has to do with their whether or not they read the chapter. The second questions is what did they learn from the chapter.