Misconceptions About Discipleship: Part One

 

Editor’s note: In 2022, a Chinese pastor wrote this letter to his congregation, encouraging them to take discipleship seriously, both in their own lives and in the life of the church. The article was first published in Chinese on the Grace to City website.

Today, we are publishing the first half of this letter. This selection has been lightly edited for clarity and length.


The Pandemic Test

The discipleship ministry and culture of a church is like a web. This web of discipleship is woven by constant Scriptural teaching and application from the pulpit; by repeated appeals and examples from the pastors and elders; and by the work of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of true Christians. The discipleship web may have some threads which are knotted and others which are half-woven and unfinished, but a church’s spiritual discipleship web is both spontaneous and organic.

““This epidemic has served as an examination of the public health system. In the same way, it has been an examination of the church’s discipleship culture.”

There are times pastors and elders will need to step in and solve trouble. At other times, leaders may need to intentionally set up structures like small groups to help church members take part in weaving the discipleship web. At times, leaders may need to grab those who are just standing by, and pull them in to be a part of the net. There are also times the net must be divided into two to help church ministry. (I’m speaking here of church planting.) In any case, discipleship  is an organic network in which people grow alongside one another. It is not tidy!

The pandemic has brought many challenges to church life. This epidemic has served as an examination of the public health system. In the same way, it has been an examination of the church’s discipleship culture. During this pandemic, the culture of mutuality and considering one another the church has built over the previous five years will be tested and challenged.

The pandemic has also been a test of Christian discipleship relationships. Are your relationships really edifying to others? Even when you cannot see people, is there still a spontaneous concern for the other which stems from friendship? Are you eager to continue to meet and encourage one another? Or – are you glad to realize you have an excuse to not have to fulfill this troublesome Christian responsibility?

Every Christian Called to Discipleship

In this letter, I hope to help you face any misconceptions you may have about discipleship training. Discipleship can be defined as “a thoughtful and intentional exhortation relationship established among Christians, based on loving and edifying people with God’s word.” Discipleship is an important biblical command. It is also the most natural way for the church to grow and be sanctified.

In the New Testament, we see that seeking and discipling followers has been part of ministry since John the Baptist led his disciples to come before Christ. Jesus, in his own ministry, also called and discipled his followers. In the book of Acts, the church sprang up because the first generation of disciples followed Christ’s teaching to make disciples of all nations. Because they obeyed, the church was established.

The more the church understands making disciples of all nations, the more the church will grow healthily. Christ intended that we should multiply, both individually and as a church. The church, Christ’s body, is like a greenhouse made by God, a place where God desires to harvest Jesus’s disciples and bring glory to God the Father.


Would You Pray With Us Today?

Sign up to receive our weekly prayer emails with requests for the house church in China

““Every Christian is called to discipleship. Every Christian is called to encourage faith and love in other believers. God wants every single Christian to learn how to build deep, encouraging relationships with one another.”


Would You Pray With Us Today?

Sign up to receive our weekly prayer emails with requests for the house church in China

The Great Commission says: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations.” From this command, it appears that God calls every Christian to enter into discipleship ministry. Only a small percentage of believers are called to preach; another small percentage lead worship; yet another small percentage teach Sunday school. But every Christian is called to discipleship. Every Christian is called to encourage faith and love in other believers. God wants every single Christian to learn how to build deep, encouraging relationships with one another.

Over the past few years, I have talked with many brothers and sisters. I have also followed up with them about a number of issues. I am thankful for the culture of discipleship in our church. But I also believe we often bring our own ideas, both from the world and from our past experiences, into the church’s discipleship culture. This might lead us to not edify others in our discipleship relationships, or to stagnate and perhaps even to block the church’s discipleship ministry.

Misconceptions

I would like to share with you several misconceptions about discipleship I have observed in my communication and ministry. This is the first:

  1. I have always been like this. I do not need a discipleship relationship.

This misconception exists among church members who do not have discipleship relationships. These people may think they are already quite good, or that their personalities are not suitable for being in discipleship relationships with others. They think discipleship is optional, something for outgoing or “normal” Christians. As for themselves, they do not think they need discipleship.

““No one can say, ‘I don’t need a discipleship relationship; I’m fine being a Christian on my own.’”

But the Bible does not give this option. “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations” is a command given to all Christians. Each individual does indeed have different experiences and different personalities. These may create a block to entering into deep relationships, but they are no excuse for being disobedient to God. As Christians, we should allow the Holy Spirit to guide us in everything we do. We should also allow Scripture to change us.

The Bible does not say, “Those of you who are outgoing and have not been wounded in relationship: go and make disciples of all nations.” Instead, the Bible calls every Christian “disciple.” It does not divide Christians, calling some “believers” and others “disciples.” Every Christian needs a discipleship relationship. No one can say, “I don’t need a discipleship relationship; I’m fine being a Christian on my own.” This attitude is against the teaching of Scripture.


Pastor Xie is pastor of a Baptist church in a large Chinese city.

FOR PRAYER AND REFLECTION

Pray for Chinese Christians to believe that they themselves need to be in discipleship relationships with others.

Share This Story

Further Reading

billow926-ND4-6joi3t8-unsplash
Qingdao: How to Pray
Read More
cajeo-zhang--Qkr9oCfcZo-unsplash
Qingdao: Locals and Outsiders
Read More
cajeo-zhang-CuoflMy9KIM-unsplash
Qingdao: Good Soil for the Gospel
Read More

LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT IN CHINA

With rising pressure and persecution in China, there are two challenges imperative for church leaders. The first challenge is for current leaders to love Christ above all else, and not to stray into legalism or love of the world. The second challenge is to raise up the next generation of leaders, who will humbly model Jesus even if current leaders are arrested.

WILL YOU JOIN US IN PRAYING FOR LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT IN CHINA? PRAY FOR:

  1. Current leaders to grow in their daily walks with Christ
  2. Current leaders to shepherd and raise up new leaders
  3. New leaders who love Christ and will model him to the world
  4. New leaders to love and care for the church

Videos

ABOUT LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT

About Shenyang

Shenyang is a city located in northeastern China and is the capital of Liaoning Province. It is known for its rich history and cultural heritage, including the Shenyang Imperial Palace, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Shenyang is also a hub for China’s heavy industry, with companies such as the China First Automobile Group and the Shenyang Aircraft Corporation having their headquarters in the city.

Videos

Stories from Shenyang

About Qingdao

Qingdao is a city located in eastern China and is famous for its beaches, beer, and seafood. The city is home to several landmarks, including the Zhanqiao Pier and the Badaguan Scenic Area. Qingdao is also a major port and has a thriving economy, with industries such as electronics, petrochemicals, and machinery.

Videos

Stories from Qingdao

About Xiamen

Xiamen is a city located in southeastern China and is a popular tourist destination known for its beautiful coastal scenery, including Gulangyu Island, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The city is also a hub for China’s high-tech industry, with companies such as Huawei and ZTE having research and development centers in Xiamen.

Videos

Stories from Xiamen

About Chongqing

Chongqing is a city located in southwestern China and is a major economic center in the region. The city is known for its spicy cuisine, especially its hot pot dishes, and is also famous for the Three Gorges Dam, the world’s largest hydroelectric dam. Chongqing is also home to several historic sites, including the Dazu Rock Carvings, which are UNESCO World Heritage sites.

Videos

Stories from Chongqing

About Nanjing

Nanjing is a city located in eastern China and is the capital of Jiangsu Province. It is one of China’s ancient capitals and has a rich cultural history, including the Ming Xiaoling Mausoleum, the Nanjing City Wall, and the Confucius Temple. Nanjing is also a modern city with a thriving economy and is home to several universities, including Nanjing University and Southeast University.

Videos

Stories from Nanjing

About Changchun

Changchun is a city located in northeastern China and is the capital of Jilin Province. It is known for its rich cultural heritage and is home to several historical landmarks such as the Puppet Emperor’s Palace and the Jingyuetan National Forest Park. Changchun is also a hub for China’s automotive industry, with several major automobile manufacturers having their headquarters in the city.

Videos

Stories from Changchun

About Guangzhou

Guangzhou, also known as Canton, is a city located in southern China and is the capital of Guangdong Province. It is one of the country’s largest and most prosperous cities, serving as a major transportation and trading hub for the region. Guangzhou is renowned for its modern architecture, including the Canton Tower and the Guangzhou Opera House, as well as its Cantonese cuisine, which is famous for its variety and bold flavors. The city also has a rich history, with landmarks such as the Chen Clan Ancestral Hall, the Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall, and the Temple of the Six Banyan Trees. Additionally, Guangzhou hosts the annual Canton Fair, the largest trade fair in China.

Videos

Stories from Guangzhou

About Kunming

Kunming is a city located in southwest China and is the capital of Yunnan Province. Known as the “City of Eternal Spring” for its mild climate, Kunming is a popular tourist destination due to its natural beauty and cultural diversity. The city is home to several scenic spots, including the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Stone Forest, Dian Lake, and the Western Hills. Kunming is also famous for its unique cuisine, which features a mix of Han, Yi, and Bai ethnic flavors. The city has a rich cultural history, with ancient temples and shrines like the Yuantong Temple and the Golden Temple, and it’s also a hub for Yunnan’s ethnic minority cultures, such as the Yi and Bai peoples.

Videos

Stories from Kunming

About Shenzhen

Shenzhen is a city located in southeastern China and is one of the country’s fastest-growing metropolises. The city is renowned for its thriving tech industry, with companies such as Huawei, Tencent, and DJI having their headquarters in Shenzhen. The city also has a vibrant cultural scene, with numerous museums, art galleries, and parks. Shenzhen is also known for its modern architecture, such as the Ping An Finance Center and the Shenzhen Bay Sports Center. Despite its modernization, Shenzhen also has a rich history and cultural heritage, with landmarks such as the Dapeng Fortress and the Chiwan Tin Hau Temple.

Videos

Stories from Shenzhen

About Chengdu

Chengdu is a city located in the southwestern region of China, and the capital of Sichuan province. It has a population of over 18 million people, and it is famous for its spicy Sichuan cuisine, laid-back lifestyle, and its cute and cuddly residents – the giant pandas. Chengdu is home to the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding, where visitors can observe these adorable creatures in their natural habitat. The city also boasts a rich cultural heritage, with numerous temples, museums, and historical sites scattered throughout its boundaries. Chengdu is a city of contrasts, with ancient traditions coexisting alongside modern developments, making it an intriguing and fascinating destination for visitors to China. 

Videos

Stories from Chengdu

About Beijing

Beijing is the capital city of China and one of the most populous cities in the world, with a population of over 21 million people. The city has a rich history that spans over 3,000 years, and it has served as the capital of various dynasties throughout China’s history. Beijing is home to some of the most iconic landmarks in China, including the Great Wall, the Forbidden City, and the Temple of Heaven. The city is also a hub for political, cultural, and educational activities, with numerous universities and research institutions located within its boundaries. Beijing is renowned for its traditional architecture, rich cuisine, and vibrant cultural scene, making it a must-visit destination for travelers to China.

Videos

Stories from Beijing

About Shanghai

Shanghai is a vibrant and dynamic city located on the eastern coast of China. It is the largest city in China and one of the most populous cities in the world, with a population of over 24 million people. Shanghai is a global financial hub and a major center for international trade, with a rich history and culture that spans over 1,000 years. The city is famous for its iconic skyline, which features towering skyscrapers such as the Oriental Pearl Tower and the Shanghai Tower. Shanghai is also home to a diverse culinary scene, world-class museums and art galleries, and numerous shopping districts. It is a city that is constantly evolving and reinventing itself, making it a fascinating destination for visitors from around the world.

Videos

Stories from Shanghai

give

A short message about partnering with us.