Discipleship Tips: Starting with our own hearts first

Go and make disciples of all nations…
- Matthew 28:19

One of the highest callings in the Christian life is to discipleship. In this article, we are focusing on what this call to be a disciple-making disciple means and how we can do it well. First, let’s start with a definition.

What is discipleship?

There are certainly many ways to define “discipleship”, and even more applications of the word in our everyday lives. Let’s take a look at how Barry Cooper defines the term in Discipleship Explored. He shares the following story:

“My pastor, Larry Kirk, tells the story of two dancers. The first puts her earbuds in, hits ‘play’, and, because she hears the music she loves best in all the world, she starts to dance with rhythm and energy and grace and joy. She’s captivated and enthralled by the music.

“The second dancer looks at the first, doesn’t see the earbuds, and thinks, “That looks fun!” And though she can’t hear any music herself, she tries to copy the moves anyway.

It works for a time, sort of. But because she can’t hear the music, her movement is clunky, hesitant, and self-conscious. She doesn’t seem to enjoy dancing the way the first dancer does. And before too long, she’s running out of energy.
- Barry Cooper,
Discipleship Explored Leader's Guide

This story outlines an important distinction for us as we think about discipleship. Becoming a disciple of Christ isn’t just about learning the “moves” of Christianity and performing them correctly. Rather, true discipleship is about learning how to “turn up the music” of the Gospel in our everyday lives. What is this music of the Gospel? Quite simply, it is the love of Christ and his surpassing power and worth in our lives. This is rhythm and melody that drives everything we do as Christians. Without this, our faith grows tired and weak.

As we think about the process of discipling those around us, we must first take a moment to examine our own hearts. Can we hear the soundtrack of the Gospel clearly in our lives? Is it the force and fuel of our faith? Or has it faded behind the repetitive emptiness of “right” actions? How can we re-focus ourselves on Jesus so that our actions are not simply a response to an impending sense of duty, but are a joyful overflow of Christ’s love in our hearts?

Take a moment to tune in

Before you get started with your next discipleship group, take some time to do one or more of the following:

Read through the book of Philippians. This book has been called the New Testament letter of joy because the word “joy” appears sixteen times throughout the book. Soak in this message of joy, the backbone of Paul’s encouragement to the church in Philippi.

Share your testimony. When’s the last time you’ve talked about what God has done in your life? If you are struggling to hear the Gospel soundtrack right now, take a moment to remember when you last did. How has God shown up for you this year? What did your salvation story look like? How would you be different without Christ? Whether with a friend or in your journal, share what God has done in your life and meditate on the memory of his power and presence in your life.

Surround yourself with community. Philippians is also the book of koinonia, the Greek word for partnership or oneness. Paul emphasises koinonia, or Christian community, as absolutely essential in our discipleship. As we’re all coming out of months of isolation, we encourage you to find safe and healthy ways to begin engaging again in a Christian community. There’s often no better way to hear the Gospel music in our own life than to watch how it’s playing out in someone else’s.