A Model for Balanced Discipleship
Dr. Charlie Bing
Christians agree that Jesus directed us to make disciples in Matthew 28:18-20. But making
disciples means different things to different people. How can we know when we have made a disciple?
Is someone who has passed a course or series of courses a disciple? Is someone a disciple who has
learned Bible doctrine? Or have we made a disciple when we teach a Christian to have a regular
quiet time or devotional?
A survey of discipleship programs, courses, and books demonstrates the different
understandings of what it means to make a disciple. Some are never clear in what they are trying to
produce, and it quickly becomes evident that there are different ways to get there. Some material is
weighted heavily towards knowing doctrine or the Bible. Others choose to emphasize disciplined
habits such as prayer, Bible study, and witnessing. Still other material might focus on relationships
or on character.
One element that seems consistently lacking in discipleship materials is proper motivation.
Perhaps this is why many who pass discipleship courses fail to continue their discipleship
commitments. Jesus attached a high cost to discipleship. Disciples must be motivated to pay the
price. Jesus often spoke of blessings, consolations, rewards, and eternal significance in discussions
about discipleship. A truly motivated disciple will overcome all obstacles to learn doctrine and the
Bible, do the necessary disciplines, and develop the necessary relationships.
That is where grace comes in. The grace of God that brings us salvation is the motivation for
following Christ in discipleship. Sadly, many or most discipleship materials seem to miss a consistent
application of the blessings of grace to the Christianís life and growth. Yet Jesus incorporated grace
in his discipleship teachings as motivation. He spoke of temporal and eternal rewards, a future
accounting for our deeds (the judgment seat of Christ), and eternal significance (cf. Matt. 10:37-39;
16:24-27; Mark 10:28-31; Luke 9:23-26; John 8:31-32).
To make a disciple, we must begin with the end in mind. In Matthew 10:25, Jesus says, ďIt is
enough for a disciple that he be like his teacher.Ē Our goal must be to have Christlikeness realized in
the disciple. Discipleship programs, courses, or materials should produce a committed follower of
Jesus Christ who is grounded in grace and thus motivated to grow in the characteristics of a disciple
as taught by our Lord.
With this in mind, here is a four-part model for balanced discipleship:
1. What does God want me to become? This involves transformation as the disciple
becomes more like Jesus in inner character.
2. What does God want me to know? Information in the form of doctrine and Bible
knowledge are necessary to a godly life.
3. What does God want me to do? We canít have true discipleship without discipline,
though we can have discipline without true discipleship. The focus here is on application of truth in
life and behavior.
4. What does God want me to enjoy? Here is the motivation for ongoing discipleship as the
disciple gains an eternal perspective through the appreciation of Godís grace.
Discipleship is more than knowing. It is more than doing. It is knowing, and doing, and being for
the right reasons. Those reasons are a Christianís response to Godís grace. We know that we are producing
disciples of Christ when we see people balanced in Christlikeness through transformation, information,
application, and motivation. Such a disciple will produce similar disciples.