A Biblical Theology of Discipleship: Methods (Pt. 1)

23 Mar

What are the methods of discipleship?  How did the New Testament church seek to make disciples, and how does this translate into making disciples today in the context of our own local church?

Discipleship takes place in the context of relationships.  Oftentimes, when we think of discipleship, we imagine two men (or women) sitting down together to study the Bible and pray.  Is this discipleship?  Yes, and no. Biblical discipleship is so much more than merely sitting down with another person to study the Bible and pray.  In the New Testament, discipleship is holistic, encompassing one’s convictions (knowledge of God/understanding of the Bible), character (Godly life that accords with sound doctrine), and competency (abilities to serve the church and world according to the gifts God has given each individual).[1]  And the methods by which each of these things is refined are teaching, modeling, and practice.

With this view of discipleship, we see that it inevitably takes place in multiple ways.  Thus, discipleship happens both personally and communally.  Paul discipled Timothy.[2]  The believers in Jerusalem gathered together to grow in their knowledge of God and His Word, to pray, and walk in the good works prepared for them by God.[3] It happens across the world’s dividing lines (age, race, occupation, education level, marital status, etc.), and in a variety of locations (church building, homes, workplace, coffee shop, etc.).  We will explore these ideas later, but for now, we will focus on the methods.


Discipleship necessarily requires teaching.  A follower of someone must have a knowledge and understanding of the one whom he or she follows.  Jesus taught the twelve disciples.  The disciples were sent out to proclaim the Gospel, and teach those who became disciples to observe all that Christ had commanded them.  Paul traveled the Mediterranean preaching and teaching the Word of God, and instructed both Timothy and Titus to do likewise.

What we must teach other believers is the sound doctrine of Scripture.   God’s Word, rightly taught, renews and reshapes our hearts and minds  (convictions), and is the fount from which godly living (character) and ministry (competency) flow.  In his book, The Christian Life, Sinclair Ferguson writes, “Practical Christian living is based on understanding and knowledge…how we think is one of the great determining factors in how we live!”[4]  As we see in his letter to Timothy, Paul’s training of this young leader involved imparting “the words of the faith and good doctrine.”[5]  Likewise, Paul commands Titus to teach the people of Crete that which “accords with sound doctrine.”[6]

Our next post will continue to look at the second method of discipleship: Modeling.

[1]Taken from Colin Marshall and Tony Payne, The Trellis and the Vine (Kingsford NSW, Australia: Matthias Media, 2009), p. 78.

[2] 2 Timothy 3:10-11

[3] Acts 2:42-47

[4] Sinclair Ferguson, The Christian Life (Edinburgh, UK: Banner of Truth Trust, 1981).

[5] 1 Timothy 4:6

[6] Titus 2:1


One Response to “A Biblical Theology of Discipleship: Methods (Pt. 1)”


  1. End of the Year: Top 7 Posts of 2013 | Brevity & Clarity - December 30, 2013

    […] A Biblical Theology of Discipleship […]

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