The Heart of Discipleship by Gary D. Almon, Ph.D.

In the classes that I teach I am constantly asking the question, “What is discipleship?”  If I have 20 students, inevitably, I will receive at least 7 different answers. At the Center for Youth Ministry we believe above all else that there is a particular prescription for discipleship and the call that the family and the church has to fulfill the Great Commission.

The Scriptures are clear, Jesus never asked anyone to ask Him into their heart. To Jesus, faith is to follow.  The invitation from Him was to come and “follow me.” Now, don’t get me wrong I understand the theological blessings of repentance and receiving Christ. Peter states in his second letter that we become “partakers of the divine nature.” We are filled with God in the emptiness of our souls and we move from death to a place of life because of his indwelling presence. But no matter how wonderful the “born-again” experience is, discipleship calls us to a wider understanding of what it means to be in-relationship with God.

Simply put, discipleship means learning from and following a teacher. Though simple, we have a problem. Publishers label curriculum as “discipleship material” with the belief that if we can get the right information into our students then all is well. We have downgraded Christianity as belief in a set of facts only and discipleship has become just another program that we do in the church. Without focusing on the instruction and practice of Jesus we will miss the heart of disciple-making and lose the fact that the Great Commission is the only mission statement the Church has (Matthew 28:19-20).

Bill Hull, pastor and author of The Complete Book of Discipleship, has devoted his life to the discipleship process states that at the heart of discipleship is “interference.”

“Interference occurs when someone sticks his nose in your business.”

But no matter how much we dislike people interfering with our lives, it is the missing ingredient in much of our discipleship. We need people who have intimate knowledge of us and are willing to speak the truth in love. Once we begin to practice this type of relationship, we not only begin to grow but we begin to long for the sweet fruit of truth, accountability and correction, knowing that God’s love is truly unconditional. If we have people in our lives and the lives of our students who provide godly “interference,” we will give students the opportunity to become true discipleships of Jesus Christ. This requires leaders who offer unconditional acceptance characterized by the love that God offers us. “But God demonstrates his love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

Hull goes on to state, “This positive interference lies at the very heart of making disciples—a process Jesus described as teaching others “to obey everything I have commanded you.

All of this information begs for us to ask several questions.

  • Who is the person who “interferes” with our lives?
  • Who walks with us on this journey that will help guide us in the right direction?
  • It is crucial & necessary for our growth.

This week, take some time to think about how well your students and leaders are doing at being interferers with each other. It’s the heart of discipleship.