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The word "disciple" derives from the Latin verb "discere" meaning "to learn". In that respect, I would say that any Christian who finds the writings or teachings of another Christian to be useful or instructive in arriving at a greater understanding of events and principles associated with Christianity, as well as being consistent with the Bible, could legitimately, and without any type of sacriligious intent or meaning, be called a disciple of that writer. (For example, I personally have always found that the writings of the late Christian author and apologist C. S. Lewis convey points about Christianity in a way that is easier for me to relate to than other authors whom I have encountered. In that sense, I would thus not object to being called a "disciple" of Lewis.) At the same time, any Christian teacher should also strive (as Lewis did) not to point any such "disciples" to himself or herself as an ultimate "authority" or source of knowledge, but should direct his or her followers to give all their devotion and worship to God alone, and to His definitive teachings, as found in His inspired word, the Bible (1 Corinthians 3:1-15).
Disciple making is at the heart of the Christian faith. God's will is that every person come to faith in Jesus Christ and then grow up in that faith until they are mature and complete, not lacking any good thing, and ready to do all the good works that God has prepared in advance for them to do. So discipleship is at the heart of this process. But there are 2 different discipleship relationships. I can come along side someone who is farther along in the faith than I am and ask them to disciple me, to pass on their wisdom and experience so I will grow up in my faith. Alternatively, I may have someone in my life who is just beginning their journey in the Christian faith and I desire to help them along the way, to train and equip them for the ministry that God has prepared for them. Both types of discipleship are invaluable in growing up Christians who are spiritually mature and effective for the kingdom of God. Too often, Christians rely solely on the teaching in weekend services and other occasional personal devotions to feed their faith, but this approach will never be enough to become spiritually mature. Jesus discipled 12 men whom he worked with every day for 3 years. These twelve all had their own disciples whom they brought to faith. In the missionary travels of the apostle Paul we see numerous examples of his disciple making, particularly in the life of Timothy, where two of Paul's letters now form part of the bible. Paul appointed Elders and Deacons in all the churches that he started. These men would have been Paul's disciples to be trained and equipped for these leadership positions in the church. Then these leaders would have discipled others. However, I do want to mention some important warnings about this process. 1) Because the reliance is on another sinful human being, the training process is likely going to have flaws. Two thousand years of church history is filled with examples of people choosing to follow others instead of following Christ. The result is the fractured church we have today with many different doctrines and church structures. 2) When we focus too much attention on getting our insight and instruction from leaders in the church, it can lead us away from spending time in the bible, through which the Holy Spirit will teach us. 3) When we focus our efforts on following the example of another person, we can lose our focus on following Christ and we stop hearing his still, small voice that wants to shepherd us. 4) When we disciple another person who is new to the faith, we may become proud of our accomplishments in their life and take credit for their spiritual growth rather than giving thanks to God. To overcome the potential pitfalls from discipleship gone astray, I suggest the following steps would be a good plan of protection to keep the discipleship relationship in harmony with the will of God. 1) Make spending time with God, in bible reading, study and prayer your number one priority. After that, explore the writings of other Christian authors for insights that will help you grow 2) Keep a thanksgiving journal and record all the things that God is doing in the life of the person you are discipling. Share the things you are thankful for with your disciple. It will keep you humble. Finally, it is vital to always keep in mind this foundational truth. "I am willing to follow the teaching and example of someone else only to the extent that they are following Christ in accordance with the teachings of the bible" With all this in mind, I encourage you to disciple others who are new to the faith so they can grow up to become mature and complete.
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