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Discipleship in the Local Church

When we hear the word “discipleship” we can tend to think of the Great Commission in Matthew 28 where Jesus tells His disciples to go into the world and make disciples of all nations. While it is vitally important that we go into the world to preach the good news and make disciples, there is danger in viewing discipleship as only something that missionaries, evangelists, and extroverted “go-get-‘em Christians” go out in the world to do.

The kind of discipleship I’m addressing here can only happen among believers; it’s what John Piper calls “training in godliness”. This is how we grow in spiritual maturity. Discipleship is essentially becoming more like Christ

Every believer is called to discipleship: to be discipled and make disciples. Our church should marked by this.

Every believer is called to discipleship: to be discipled and make disciples

The Bible gives us a clear picture of what this is supposed to look like, specifically in the Church. As we learned in our community group study of Titus, inter-generational discipleship in the church is how we grow in godliness and adorn the gospel for the onlookers of the world. Here are three simple reminders why we need to be passionate for discipleship in the church:

1. Discipleship is a Command

Plain and simple, the inspired, authoritative, perfect Word of God tells us we need to be seeking discipleship from older godly men and women, and need be discipling those younger in the faith than us.

But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine. 2 Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness. 3 Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, 4 and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, 5 to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled. 6 Likewise, urge the younger men to be self-controlled. 7 Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, 8 and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us…so that in everything they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior. (Titus 2:1-10)

Don’t miss this: discipleship is a command for every believer from God, both introverts and extroverts. Even though the Apostle Paul wrote this letter to Titus and the churches under his care, it has been given to all believers. No matter how long or little you’ve been in the faith, Paul is talking to you.

2. You’re a Citizen of Heaven

As Christians who battle self-centeredness, we have the tendency to love, even idolize, our independence and privacy. But if you have been born again, you are now a citizen of Heaven, your true home (Eph. 2:19; Phil 3:20-21). If we are to live as kingdom citizens while sojourning through this world, we need discipleship; we cannot run this race on our own.

This is why church membership is so important. Being a member of the local church reminds us that we are not rogue agents; we are a part of a Body. Yes, we are a part of the universal Church, but we can not disciple every Christian in the world, submit to every single pastor, or even bear all the burdens of multiple churches. Church membership gives us a clear focus, direction and definition, of those we are to help run this race with.

Discipleship is the natural outflow of a committed church member

I encourage you to go read our church covenant and be reminded of the commitment you have made (or should make) to the family of God around you. Discipleship is the natural outflow of a committed church member

Why should you care about discipleship? Because you’re a citizen of heaven.

Who should you be discipling? The family God has given you in the local church.

3. Discipleship is Worship

One of the most beautiful parts of Titus 2 to me is the ending of verse 10: “so that in everything they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior.” Paul is saying that through inter-generational discipleship in the local church, we reflect God’s glory.

We know that our salvation is not by our works but by the finished work of Christ alone. Hallelujah! We know that when we came to God, we came empty handed, and it is He who gives us perfect righteousness and eternal beauty in His sight. Praise God! But what a stunning and exciting thing it is to be invited to be a co-laborer with God in making the gospel even more beautiful to the world! How is this possible?

Through our obedience and submission to God and to one another. In doing this, we honor God. We point the spotlight on Him. We make His glory and His holiness the focus.

As we are discipled by godly men and women, we begin to look more like our Savior, making His beauty more visible to the world, so that when we go out and make disciples, there is no question who had sent us. What beautiful worship to give our God, spending our lives reflecting and making more reflections of His glory!

When an unbelieving world sees a church marked by discipleship, they see our King’s beauty and the fruit of redemption.

This is how communities are changed.

May we be a church passionate for discipleship, adorning the doctrine of God to those who need Him.

Brianna is wife to Matt and mother to Lorien. She is a committed member of her church, Elmira Christian Center, in Upstate NY. She is passionate about helping cultivate healthy, gospel-centered marriages and families.

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