Like any relationship, one that is between a discipler and a disciple has several elements that ought to be in place, for it to thrive. I am not trying to define the different stages of discipleship, there are other resources for that. However, I am trying to show the ideal of what this relationship should look like.
In the time of Jesus, it was understood that a disciple of a Rabbi would make that relationship the most important one of all. It even took precedent over family, as the following passage from the Mishnah indicates.
When one is searching for the lost property both of his father and of his teacher, his teacher’s loss takes precedence over that of his father since his father brought him only into the life of this world, whereas his teacher, who taught him wisdom, has brought him into the life of the World to Come. But if his father is no less a scholar than his teacher, then his father’s loss takes precedence….
If his father and his teacher are in captivity, he must first ransom his teacher, and only afterwards his father—unless his father is himself a scholar and then he must first ransom his father. (Bava Metsi’a 2:11)
Some might be shocked by this, but when we decide to follow Jesus, all other relationships must be ordered behind that of the relationship with Jesus, who is our Lord and God. With this goal in mind, we can see that the human-to-human discipleship we do, must have some very strong bonds as well, in order to help others truly be close followers of Jesus.
6 Key Elements of Discipleship
- Intentionality in the relationship. If you don’t have an intentional purpose for why you are both in the relationship, then you will never be able to properly be discipled or disciple anyone. The clear purpose of making disciples of Jesus needs to be at the forefront of every part of the relationship.
- Availability to the other. You can’t exactly grow in a relationship if you are not available to one another. This means making time for one another and prioritizing the time it takes to build such a relationship.
- Authenticity. To grow closer to God together, you will have to be authentic with one another. This means showing that you are trustworthy, reliable, and personable.
- Vulnerability in communication. After you start to build up a relationship, there needs to be an appropriate level of vulnerability. This doesn’t mean bearing your deepest secrets, but rather taking off the masks that we sometimes hide behind and showing the reality of who we are.
- Accountability between one another. Once we are vulnerable, we can start to have real accountability. Accountability isn’t a wagging of the finger when someone messes up, but a holding up of one another to the goals that we each set for ourselves and ask the other to help hold us to.
- Responsibility to the Gospel. To be a disciple means to have a mission. Every Christian disciple should have the Gospel at the core of their mission. This means every disciple needs to take on their own shoulders a part of the reponsibility we have in sharing Good News.
While these aren’t the only elements of discipleship, all of them are oriented toward the following goals.
3 Goals of a Discipleship Relationship:
- Spiritual Conversion/Growth – this is what every Christian needs to aim for. But, we can’t do this in a vaccuum. We need others to help us, support us, challenge us, and be with us on the journey.
- Relationship / friendship with Jesus and others – While being in a relationship with another person is great, if it isn’t centered around growing closer to Jesus, then that friendship isn’t a Christian one.
- Mission-oriented relationship – not about just being ok. but about having a purpose of helping fulfill the mandate of Jesus to evangelize the nations.