Christ Centered Discipleship

The Centrality of Christ in Discipleship

A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher (Luke 6:40, ESV).

What is discipleship? According to Jesus, a fully trained disciple becomes like his teacher. Does this mean that the one being discipled should become like the one discipling? Yes, with the exception that, within the Christian faith, it is important to know that, though a man may disciple another man, it is truly the Holy Spirit within him that does the discipling. Therefore, the disciple is not becoming more like the man, but more like the Spirit of Christ within the man. We are not called to make our own disciples, but disciples of Christ. This means that Christ must remain at the center of all discipleship, and every disciple must be obedient to Christ. For it is Christ that they are becoming like. “[T]he Twelve became disciples by following Christ’s example.” [1]

Obedience to Christ in Discipleship

In Christ’s commission He states that those that are discipling others should be “teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:20). According to Jesus, observing, or obeying is central to being His disciple. “Jesus expected the men he was with to obey him. They were not required to be smart, but they had to be loyal. This became the distinguishing mark by which they were known.” [2] No one can be a disciple unless called, and no one can be a disciple unless they are obedient to that call and come to Jesus; “only the believers obey, and only the obedient believe.” [3] Further evidence of the need to obey can be found in Scripture, “If you love Me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15). As Dave Earley puts it, “The Great Commission and the commands of Jesus are, indeed, ‘battle cries’ to be obeyed.” [4]

The Three Steps of Discipleship

There are many methods for discipleship, just make sure the one chosen is after the model of Christ and is led by His Spirit. David Early and Rod Dempsey have categorized discipleship into three steps: Declaration, Development, and Deployment. These steps will be covered in this section, as well as how one can be “obedient.”

This step is fairly straightforward, it is the time when a person investigates Jesus, and through the conviction of the Holy Spirit comes to terms with the fact that they are a sinner and in need of Christ’s redemption. “While salvation often begins with curiosity, it takes more than curiosity in Jesus to experience true conversion. It takes experiencing the conviction of the Holy Spirit as He convinces us of our sin, our lack of true righteousness, and the resulting judgment (John 16:8).” [5] Jesus teaches people to repent of their sin by turning away from it and towards Him. Then He commands that they believe. What are they to believe? They are to believe in who He is.

Step two is captured in the statement, “Follow Me.” By following Jesus, and spending time with Him, disciples are immersed in Him. Jesus’ call is to committed followership in which the disciple spends his days in fellowship with Christ, learning to be like Him. It is not a following of convenience, but an immersion into the Christian community and the words of Jesus, and His mission and ministry. In the Nestle-Aland Greek Testament, Mark uses the verb ἀκολουθέω and its imperative form ἀκολουθείτω in chapter eight verse thirty-four. This word means follow or go along behind. The imperative form means that the word is a direct command, and the double use of it in one sentence is a method used by New Testament writers to add emphasis. “[T]he repetition emphasizes the fact that discipleship means following in the same path, and being ready to share in the same fate, as the one who leads: those who want to follow Jesus must follow him even when he is carrying a cross.”

The final stage of discipleship is the final stage of any workup – deployment. Deployment in discipleship terms means replication. To replicate followers of Christ, new disciples must be found for Him. Therefore, each disciple must be deployed on mission with Christ. In other words, a disciple must “go.” In going he is to “make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and teaching them all that I [Christ] commanded [them]” (Matthew 28:19-20). This is the pinnacle of the discipleship process, the purpose for which one is discipled, and is the mission of the church here on earth.

Christian disciples are sent men and women—sent out in the same work of world evangelism to which the Lord was sent, and for which he gave his life. Evangelism is not an optional accessory to our life. It is the heartbeat of all that we are called to be and do. It is the commission of the church that gives meaning to all else that is undertaken in the name of Christ. [6]

Therefore, it is imperative that disciples of Jesus remain obedient in all phases of this process. By design, the Lord’s methods were intended to produce more disciples for Him. His mission is to save out of the world a people for Himself and to build a church of the Spirit which will never perish.


Discipleship requires a focus on Jesus as the center. For it is Christ whom is discipling, and Christ whom the disciple hopes to replicate in the world. Obedience to His call and His commands is the mark of true discipleship. The disciple must declare his faith in Christ, follow Him, and go as His witness. This is a continual process. A disciple remains that way for the rest of life, while he brings others and teaches them to follow the commands of Christ so that they may also be His witnesses to the ends of the earth.

[1] James G. Samra, “A Biblical View of Discipleship,” Bibliotheca Sacra 160 (2003): 222.

[2] Robert E. Coleman, The Master Plan of Evangelism (Grand Rapids: Revell, 2006), 43.

[3] Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Discipleship, ed. Martin Kuske et al., trans. Barbara Green and Reinhard Krauss, vol. 4, Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2003), 63.

[4] David Earley and Rod Dempsey, Disciple Making Is . . . How to Live the Great Commission with Passion and Confidence, Kindle version, (Nashville: B & H Publishing Group, 2013), 918.

[5] Bonhoeffer, Discipleship, 63.

[6] Coleman, Master Plan of Evangelism, 79.

[5] Bonhoeffer, Discipleship, 63.

[6] Coleman, Master Plan of Evangelism, 79.

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