The idea of discipleship can be rather confusing. Sometimes we think it means listening to more messages, being plugged into a particular kind of church, reading certain books, listening to certain music or being part of a Bible study group.
In the Bible, Jesus called His disciples to be with Him. They followed Him for three and a half years learning and gleaning from His character. There was no textbook, classroom or type of methodology. Jesus Himself was the classroom, the subject and the textbook. Everything they needed to learn could be found in being with Him.
Because of technology, we have become more disconnected from each other than ever before. There aren’t as many natural opportunities to disciple and be discipled. For example, you can sit at home and not go to church and, therefore, not see anyone. You can connect with the best podcast, best Bible teaching and the best worship from around the world—all while you sit at home, completely disconnected from people. Yet you can deceive yourself into thinking you are being discipled because you are listening to better messages and worship than what you would get locally.
Every book on discipleship and character development is meant to be lived out in the context of community, with others being discipled by those older in the faith. Community that works together in unity and focuses on Christ is the place where discipleship works.
Discipleship never takes place by accident. It is a deliberate choice to be part of community—whether it be a church, a small group, a family, a ministry or any other group of believers that genuinely wants to love one another and do something for the Lord. It is a group of people who keep Christ at the center of all they do, resulting in holiness and being a witness for Christ. This takes a lot more work than what most people are willing to commit to. It cost us our time, our patience, our resources and our lives. But in the end, discipleship and investing our lives in others will result in holy living, unity within the body of Christ and the genuine love found in 1 Corinthians 13.
Daniel Punnose, vice president of Gospel for Asia, talks about the importance of community in discipleship.