What is Discipleship? A Definition.


For one of my spiritual formation classes, I had the privilege of reading Deitrich Bonhoeffer’s Life Together and Henri Nouwen’s In the Name of Jesustwo incredible books. Last night, after having read these books, we were then asked to offer our own one sentence definition of Discipleship, and then spend some time expounding on the definition. Here was my contribution. Feel free to add your own definitions below.


Discipleship: The cultivation of an inner and outer life–with both ourselves and others–that is marked by a humble reliance on the work, words, life, and leading of Christ and His Spirit.

The thing that struck me most about these readings as it pertains to discipleship was the weird paradox of one’s inner- and outer-lives. In both Nouwen and Bonhoeffer, there is such an emphasis that our hearts’ goal should be nothing less than the heart of Christ Himself and our reliance upon it. And yet, the primary access point to this Heart is found in the simple, mundane bodily actions we take upon ourselves with regularity.

The way in is from without, I suppose.

Especially for those of us in seminary and who minister in a Church context, isolation in these endeavors can be such an easy temptation. I don’t even pastor a church, and yet as a deacon leading a home group or class or the Sunday liturgy, I feel that damnable desire just to be liked, and not be seen for who I really am.
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Discipleship: Making Good Little Pharisees?

Caravaggio-The Calling of Saint Matthew{summary: the way we disciple others in the church is far too often a results-based process, and not a grace-driven one. Here, I explore Jesus’ example in Matthew as a guide for us. And, once again, we see Jesus’ radical application of grace to his Disciples’ lives.}

I’m taking a class on “The Practice of Discipleship”. Some discussions on our online message boards inspired these thoughts. Discipleship, as many people could tell you is all about “following Jesus”. After all, that’s how Jesus himself invited his disciples into it. But as I was thinking about this, I realized something: Pharisees had disciples too.

Now, with “Pharisee Discipleship” the point was to let that Pharisee get all up in your business so that you could become a good, well-behaved Pharisee someday. Christian Discipleship, as we are often told, is not about following Christians per se, but following Christians who are following Christ. The ultimate goal is to follow Christ and to help one another do that.

This is how it works in theory. I can’t speak for everyone, but at least in my experience, a lot of Christian Discipleship subtly looks more like the type that creates well-behaved Pharisees than the one that truly follows Christ.
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