Discipleship: God’s Call to Every Believer

What is discipleship? The term discipleship never appears in Scripture. As a noun, “disciple” and the verb “make disciples” only occur in the Gospels and the Book of Acts. Ask your fellow believers what the word means, and you will find multiple definitions and variations. Discipleship also has both personal and corporate applications.

As we consider God’s call to discipleship, we must be cautious not to focus on the terminology. Instead, we should focus on the invitation the Father gives us to know Him intimately and follow Him purposefully.

In Mark 3: 13-21, we witness the appointment of the twelve disciples. While multitudes were following Jesus, these twelve were chosen and set apart for the ministry. They were ordinary and average, coming from diverse backgrounds, experiences, with unique personalities; yet, they were chosen to follow Him as a disciple.

In Mark 3:14, we find the purpose behind Jesus’ initial calling to these disciples. Scripture tells us that, “He appointed twelve that they might be with him . . .” (Mark 3:14a, NIV). For the first disciples, Jesus understood that he would not be with them long. He had much to teach them in a short amount of time. Jesus would draw these men closer to Him so that they would know Him, and He could instruct them, and prepare them for service.

The call of the first disciples is our call as well. We are called to “be with Him.” It’s an invitation to spend time with Him, walk in close fellowship with Him, know His voice, and serve Him more effectively.

The call continued in Mark 3:14b, “that he might send them out to preach and to have authority to drive out demons.” These early disciples were entrusted with an important task—sharing the Gospel to those who had not yet believed. To provide greater power for service, the Lord enabled them to heal the sick and cast out devils. They would be able to bear witness to the saving grace and power of the Lord.

This same discipleship call and power are extended to believers today. We are to proclaim the Gospel by sharing our faith with unbelievers. We have been given authority so that we may reveal His power and presence to those in desperate need of Him.

Therefore, our call to discipleship is two-fold. First, is our personal discipleship. This pursuit is found in developing a rhythm of “being with Him” through the spiritual disciplines, such as prayer, fasting, meditation, and reading of His Word. This is a primary and crucial responsibility of the disciple, developing an intimate relationship with the Father. Through personal discipleship, we learn to live the victorious Christian life, are equipped in sound doctrine, and exhibit a life of surrender and worship.

Our call to personal discipleship is an ongoing process, one of continual learning and growth. This call includes:

  • Self-denial, repentance, and prioritizing the things of God (Mark 8:34-38)
  • Studying the Word of God and living a life of commitment to its precepts (John 8:31-32)
  • Loving and serving others (1 John 3:11-16)
  • Abiding in Him and remaining fruitful in service and ministry (John 15:5, 5:22-23)
  • Living righteously (John 15:7-10)
  • Staying accountable to Godly authority (Hebrews 13:17)

Secondly, we are called to “make disciples,” reaching and helping others learn and grow in their relationship with Him (Acts 14:21, Matthew 28:19-20). Our personal discipleship “training” should look beyond our own needs, seeking to develop relationships that encourage others toward Christlikeness in their everyday lives. We should be quick to tell others what Christ has done for us personally so that they might strive toward transformation in their own lives.

Matthew 28:18-20 reveals that this call is not optional for believers but a command, “Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.’”

Yes, we are called to pursue an intimate relationship with the Father, as well as to equip and grow disciples who will do the same. Even if our church, our friends, and our family will not answer this call, we must commit to doing so personally. Luke 12:48 reminds us, “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.”

Pursuing the call of discipleship requires a cost. It demands commitment, sacrifice, and time. However, it is in our pursuit of this holy calling that we fulfill the mandate and purpose given to us by our Savior.

We should all be striving to spend time in close, intimate fellowship with Jesus. That is discipleship. We should also help other believers come to know, grow, and mature in Him. That, too, is discipleship.

—Printed in the May 2020 issue of the White Wing Messenger.

Avatar for Shaun McKinley

Dr. Shaun McKinley serves as the international director of Children’s Ministries, administrative liaison to the general overseer, and public relations coordinator for the Church of God of Prophecy International Offices in Cleveland, Tennessee.