A Comprehensive Course in Biblical Discipleship
Welcome to the growing number of God’s people around the world who desire to learn how to follow Jesus’ strategy and methods for evangelizing, nurturing, influencing, training, and developing people to know God and live under His sovereign rule and reign. What is causing them to reconsider Jesus and the way He trained and shaped the lives of the Twelve to follow Him without reservation and to take the gospel to every nation? Perhaps it is something they heard, read, or experienced about the church’s ineffectiveness and superficiality in the modern world.1 Another possibility is that some have tired of the many creative, attractive, and expensive programs designed to attract new people to church to hear paid professionals. They have not seen these efforts produce lasting fruit nor a leadership commitment to help new believers progressively grow in conformity to Jesus Christ. Whatever the reason, many are now longing to be passionately engaged in a relational ministry of spiritual multiplication rather than sitting on the sidelines watching from afar. They have been called to serve and are interested in personally spending time with a few people who need their love, encouragement, leadership, guidance, instruction, and accountability until they become spiritually mature in Christ and are able, in time, to begin investing in others who can also reach and disciple others.
About this Course
This course of study is designed to help you better understand and obey the Great Commission of Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit (Mt. 28:18-20; Acts 1:8) and to prepare you to become a mature, reproducing disciple by the grace of God and according to the Word of God. It is a great privilege, as well as our collective duty, to be involved in building Christ’s church by following His example and the principles, patterns, and methods He employed when He trained the Twelve. “Our responsibility,” says Dr. Howard Hendricks, “is to do the best we can to bring our own lives under Christ’s lordship and then influence the handful of people God brings our way to do the same.”2 This should be a life-long endeavor, as Hendricks reminds us: “You will never retire from the Christian life, which means that until the day you die, someone somewhere ought to have the benefit of gleaning from your life.”3
The Means of Penetrating the World
Jesus reminded His disciples, “You did not choose Me, but I chose you, and appointed you, that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain” (Jn. 15:16a). Becoming an effective and fruitful disciplemaker involves a process in which we recognize that we have been justified by grace alone through Christ alone, are being sanctified by the work of God’s free grace, and are unreservedly committed to kingdom service in His name. Like John the Baptist, we are called to “bear witness of the light, that all might believe through him” (Jn. 1:7). “The calling of the kingdom,” Dr. Edmund Clowney noted, “is the power of God that brings us from darkness into light and sets us as lights in the darkness.”4 “Freely you received, freely give,” Jesus instructed His disciples (Mt. 10:8). We must not “remain insulated and isolated from the world” when we are “commanded to penetrate it. How can we be the salt of the earth if we never get out of the salt-shaker?”5
From the beginning, the mission of Jesus involved sending His disciples to those who were living in spiritual darkness without hope (Eph. 2:12; Mt. 10). Jesus prayed to His Father, “As Thou didst send Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world” (Jn. 15:18). Jesus’ strategy for spreading the gospel to every nation was costly to Him (I Cor. 6:20) and requires all of His followers to make whatever sacrifices are necessary to accomplish His colossal mission. C.T. Studd renounced all of his inherited wealth and popularity as a Cambridge cricket player to serve Christ in China, India, and Africa. At the age of 52, he wrote these words: “If Jesus Christ be God and died for me, then no sacrifice can be too great for me to make for Him.”6 The German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote powerfully about the cost of discipleship: “The only man who has the right to say that he is justified by grace alone is the man who has left all to follow Christ.”7 Our obedience and unconditional surrender to His will demonstrates our love for Jesus (Jn. 14:21). We must align our purpose in life with God’s eternal purpose. In other words, as Dr. Clowney says, “The purpose of your life must be the purpose of Christ’s death.”8 We are called by Him to proclaim the good news of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ to a lost world, submit to His lordship in every area of our lives by His grace, and faithfully walk alongside others so that they, too, may know, love, and follow Him. This is biblical discipleship.