Defining Discipleship

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Photo by Lauren Koski

Throughout college I wondered why my eyes would tear up when the word “discipleship” was mentioned. I wondered why I cringed at the term “D-group.” I wondered why I felt like such a loser when I saw two ladies from my congregation or student leadership team huddled over coffee without me.

I have been hurt by not being chosen for a specific discipleship group, but I never even asked to join. I have been engulfed by jealously at the faithful friendships I can’t seem to find with older women. I have felt sick to my stomach when asked, “Who’s discipling you?” I have asked someone to be my mentor and they have never followed through.

I secretly struggled with this throughout college because before college, I was never introduced to the practice of discipleship. Feeling like the oddball, I never broached the topic to anyone for fear of judgment. I felt very alone and, honestly, I was alone.

Discipleship can be defined as the act of molding one’s life to reflect the teachings of Christ, or it can be for the actual process of teaching Christ followers one step behind you while following those one step ahead of you. As Christ followers, we are all disciples of Christ — He is our Teacher, we are the pupil. All of this terminology is growing obsolete. As I type this out on a Word Doc, red scribbles appear indicating our dictionary’s confusion over the different forms of the word. But, I’m also afraid the practice of discipleship will soon be obsolete as well.

I see two main problems here:

  1. We are all too busy for relationship.
  2. We have allowed structure to compromise intimacy.

Now, I may not be the best voice for this argument — frankly, I know I need more discipleship from both Christ and sisters in Christ before making many arguments — but I have to believe I’m not the only Christian woman who has felt disheartened by the pressures of discipleship.

I am a huge believer in the practice of discipleship — Christ Himself literally commands it (Matt. 28:18-20) — and I have seen how encouraging, uplifting and beautiful it is.

But, with all these “life groups” and Bible studies and women’s retreats and, finally, “D-groups,” what is it that truly defines discipleship apart from all the other spiritual relationships we have out there?

Here are 3 thoughts I have about reconsidering the way we do discipleship:

  1. Go where the disciples are.

Where the boys are… If you want a boyfriend, go where the boys are, right? So if you want discipleship, go where you will find it.

Fellow younger women, don’t spend all your time with your own generation and expect to find yourself a mentor. Reach out to women who are in different seasons of life.

Older women, contrary to popular belief, we do have a desire to be challenged and spurred on in our faith — I just think my generation needs a bit of help getting there.

Maybe I’m speaking just to my own generation here, but we must be willing to enter into life with other believers — and not just believers who are the same age, like the same things or, dare I say it, have the same exact doctrine.

The times I was lonely throughout college were, in large part, due to the fact that I was too shy to reach out and ask for help. When encouraged to find a mentor, I simply retreated back into hiding. I was fearful of being raw with someone about my sin and I was fearful they would let me down.

  1. It’s not all about coffee.

Phew. That was difficult for me, a self-proclaimed coffee addict, to say but am I right? Aren’t we all just sipping coffee, talking about attractive hipster worship leaders and maybe breaking open the Word once in a while? Or, maybe we are too concerned with memorizing the “Bridge” diagram or moving on to the next event scheduled in our busy day?

Okay, I know that’s a little exaggerated, but discipleship is becoming so routine. Amid the coffee stains, various Gospel diagrams, prayer requests and checklists, I wonder where real life is able to come into play.

Maybe discipleship is as simple as spending an hour holding your mentor’s crying baby while she does laundry. Maybe it’s cooking a homemade meal for a college student. Maybe it’s playing Bingo with the lonely woman across the road in the retirement home. Maybe we ought to live life with others and allow spiritual conversations to arise with the different tides of life.

  1. We all have the same Teacher.

Our greatest Teacher is Christ Himself. As His followers, He has bestowed upon us the title of His disciples. This is our greatest and most important relationship, and out of that relationship is where discipleship with others comes alive.

“Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish and it will be done for you. By this my father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.” John 15: 4-8

God has given us to one another. As we all plug into the Vine individually to receive the nutrients we need to produce fruit, we grow together as well.

It was last week that I felt as if I finally saw a glimpse of raw discipleship. With greasy hair and no makeup on, I was deep in prayer with three of my closest family-friends. It was 4 A.M. and I had slept on a cot in their living room that night. They had opened their busy home to me as a resting place before I had to drive the length of California back to my parents’ house. In the middle of life itself is where they met me and where I was able to meet them.

Early that morning, we clasped hands and, through tears, prayed over one another. For that moment, our chests seemed to be cracked open wide to reveal our hearts and the reality of life’s pain and joy was exposed. Together, we beckoned one another further down this road called discipleship and worshipped the God who sacrificed of Himself to even give us that opportunity.

About the Author

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetLauren Koski

Hello! My name is Lauren and I am a follower of Jesus Christ. As a journalist, I believe in harnessing the media’s influence for the Gospel and believe that storytelling will be a strategic tool used for the growth of His Kingdom. I am excited to be interning with GLOW and look forward to the ways Jesus will use this platform for His glory.

  • Bethany McDade

    I can so relate to this post! A few years ago, my husband started a “D-group” with our pastor, and has since moved on to being a discipler. I inquired about discipleship for women at our church, but was given a really loose answer – basically it doesn’t seem that they push it for women the same way they do for men. I’m longing for spiritual mothering in this season of my life (new mom with a new career and a new house, trying to figure out how to Abide in the chaos). I’d love to join a women’s bible study, but between the group my husband and I lead and the rest of life’s commitments, I feel guilty taking a night away from my baby. Praying for guidance and to give God control.

    • Lauren Koski

      Bethany, I am so humbled God used my words to resonate with your heart. Thank you for your transparency and bravery to share your heart regarding this topic. Yes, discipleship is just as important for women as it is for men — we are all heirs to Christ. With Christ there is neither “Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female,” Galatians 3:28. Maybe the Lord will you to begin a movement of discipleship among the women in your congregation, or maybe it simply starts with the bravery of sharing your longing for “spiritual mothering.” I will be praying for you as well that the Lord would reveal how discipleship can work for the best in your current situation. I will pray that He would also send you a specific Godly woman to speak into your life and encourage you. Jesus knows your situation and your heart. He already has a very specific answer in mind. Wait on Him, but don’t be afraid to step into a direction you may feel called — with your steps of faith, He can guide you. I am sending love and prayers your way, sister!