I often attend conferences as an exhibitor, so I go there to work. I don’t usually go to these events expecting significant growth as a Christian. But that’s exactly what happened at the Verge ’13 Conference.
The Verge Conference is hosted by The Austin Stone Community Church in Austin, TX. The focus of the conference is Gospel-centered “missional communities”–small groups passionately pursuing life-together and seeking unbelievers to join their fellowship. The organizers helpfully piped the sessions to televisions in the hallway where exhibitors were stationed. So I got to listen to bits and pieces of the presentations as I stood at my table.
I noticed speaker after speaker passionately conveying the life-transforming power of Christ working through missional communities. These groups were not magical or fancy. They didn’t rely on a whole lot of programming or structure to exist. But lives were changing.
The common thread as these presenters proclaimed biblical truth was a focus on discipleship. Here are six truths the Verge ’13 Conference taught me about discipleship.
1. Discipleship is Communal— True Christian community only happens life-on-life. Personally, my picture of the Christian life had been reduced to Sunday morning worship, maybe a small group meeting on Wednesdays, and private Bible reading and prayer on a good day. But true Christian community takes almost constant, daily interaction. Only by doing “life together” do we really really get to know other people. This type of community builds trust among the members and allows them to speak truth into each other’s lives.
2. Discipleship is Essential— The one and only model Christ and the apostles provide for nurturing and maturing believers is discipleship. Matthew 11:1 says, “When Jesus had finished instructing his twelve disciples, he went on from there to teach and preach in their cities.” Jesus personally instructed his followers thus empowering them to do the same for others. This is the pattern He established for passing on biblical truth.
3. Discipleship is Personal— Discipleship is best done in a close relationship. Some of the speakers have even opened up their homes to lost people and future ministers alike in order to teach them the Way. Many more meet almost daily with the men and women they are discipling to teach them the Scriptures and model the Christian life.
4. Discipleship is Costly— In order to disciple someone biblically you have to take on their burdens. You also have to let them know your burdens, flaws, and failures. Getting to know someone deeply means that you share in the pain and their struggles. You become invested in their growth and flourishing as a believer. At the same time, you have to let the person get to know you in your imperfections. You cannot maintain the illusion of having it all “together” when you share your life so openly with another.
5. Discipleship is Transformational— The most important and long-lasting lessons I’ve ever learned have come through discipleship. When I first became a Christian, the guy who led me to Christ also discipled me for the next couple of years. Without ever sitting down for a formal lesson–simply through observation and imitation–I learned how to pray, stop swearing, resist pornography, read the Bible, talk about Christ to others and much more. Lessons learned in relationships can last a lifetime.
6. Discipleship is Replicable— Anyone who becomes a disciple must also make disciples. Jesus’ last charge to His disciples was, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Mt. 28:19). This is how Christianity grew and spread in the 1st century. It is also how it grows and spreads now.
For the first time in my life I am truly excited about discipleship. I want to be a disciple of a mature Christian, and I want to disciple someone else who needs to learn what God has taught me. I’m thankful for Verge ’13 because it reminded me of the simplicity and value of discipleship. I hope that by the time Verge ’14 rolls around I can add an “Amen” through my own firsthand experience of discipleship.
What are your thoughts on discipleship? What are some ways to incorporate discipleship into your everyday Christian life?