What Is Discipling?

Print“Discipling is deliberately doing spiritual good to someone else so that they will be more like Christ.”

So says Mark Dever in “Presenting Them Perfect: What It Means To Disciple Others” (part two in a five-part series on discipling). Below are notes on this sermon from Colossians 1:28-29 which says, “Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.”

1. What does it mean to disciple others?

At its core discipling is teaching. Less like a classroom and more like an apprenticeship at a job. Perhaps even more like what our dads and moms have been to us: teaching both facts, but also teaching how to live.

Very intentional. Means picking this person and not that person. There are more people to spend time with than you have time to spend. So you have to make a decision. Who needs the help? Who wants the help (knowing they need it)? Are you able practically to make it happen?

May not always be clear who is the teachers and who is the student. Discipling relationships are always two-way: from one to the other and back again (Col 3:16 – “admonish one another”).

To disciple is to help someone live each day in light of the final day.

Our role in discipling: Intense involvement combined with humble openhandedness. Intense involvement can make us too concerned about our own input. Humble openhandedness reminds us this is God’s work not ours. For his glory and not for the satisfaction we might get out of it.

2. Who are you deliberately loving like this through discipling?

This is what the church is for. So find someone in the congregation who may benefit from a relationship with you. Intentionally invest in their spiritual good.

3. Objections to discipling

Concern 1: This discipler is not ideal. (I wanted an older woman, not a woman just merely older than meAnswer: Neither are you. The more humble you are, the more surprised you’ll be at the wisdom of others

Concern 2: I’m concerned this will undermine other good authority. Answer: Discipling done well encourages submission

Concern 3: This whole thing seems self-centered and prideful. Answer: This only means to follow someone else as they follow Christ.

Concern 4: Isn’t this pushy and imposing? Answer: No, because this is a relationship voluntary on both sides.

Concern 5: I don’t need this. Answer: That’s lone ranger Christianity. But in contrast Jesus set up the local church. Calling us to make his commands to love very real by loving particular people. Christianity is personal but it is not private. God is the only one who doesn’t need to be taught.

Concern 6: This is just for extroverts. Answer: No. This is for all Christians.

Concern 7: I can’t disciple – I’m too imperfect and make too many mistakes. Answer: Discipling is sharing what you do know with love, not sharing what you don’t know. Begin simply by sharing the gospel. Proceed simply by asking questions, climbing into their lives. Anyone truly following Christ can disciple.


Discipling is part of discipleship, not an optional extra to following Jesus.

Think about your approach to church: do you come just wondering when someone else is going to disciple you, or do you come prepared to contribute the progress of others in faith?

What do you mean by saying that you are following Christ, who laid down his life for other, if you are not helping others to follow Christ? How are you following him?

2 thoughts on “What Is Discipling?

  1. Jennifer Jones

    This is so good. I think it’s particularly important to view discipleship as mutual. When we see our role as the discipler/teacher solely, we can miss gaining wisdom and growth.

    1. niklingle Post author

      agreed. additionally, I think the “mutual encouragement” perspective mitigates the sense that some people have of relationships seeming “pushy, imposing, and prideful” (Concerns 3 and 4). Paul said that he longed to see the church in Rome that he might impart to them some spiritual gift – “that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine” (Romans 1:12). There’s a definite humility in that view of strengthening one another.


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