Thoughts on Discipleship
Virgil Stokes is a pastor and teacher, serving churches since 1980 in Oklahoma, New York, and Arizona. He and his wife, Judy, pioneered Faith Christian Fellowship of Tucson in 2004. Prior to entering ministry Virgil worked as a registered nurse in the field of mental health and addictions treatment. A recovering addict himself, Virgil has written and spoken extensively on Christian recovery. He is the author of several books, and is the founder of Faith Ministry Training Institute, a training program empowering local pastors to equip ministers in their own churches. Pastor Virgil is a graduate of the University of Oklahoma and Rhema Bible Training Center. His passion is getting people out of the pews and into the harvest. Back in 1983, when I was just about to get out of Bible school, the Holy Spirit spoke to me by tongues and interpretation. He said, “A life lived selfishly is a life wasted. The only reason for a man to live is to bring others to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ and teach them to do likewise. For this reason I have called you. Don’t forget it.” I like to think I have stayed faithful to that call. In so doing, I have given lots of thought and effort to the work of making disciples. A few things have become apparent to me over the years:
Discipleship Requires Commitment
Jesus said to baptize them before you teach them (Matthew 28:19). The call to follow Jesus is never one of enticement. It is a call to leave life as we have known it and take a totally different path, a path that may well be marked by privation and persecution. Baptism is a radical statement: I died with Christ!
You can’t disciple someone who isn’t interested, and you can’t stop someone who is.
I can threaten, beg, and cajole, but it takes a supernatural work in the heart of the believer to make them want to pay the price. I can pray for them, teach them, and love them, but I can’t change them.
Discipleship requires doing life differently, radically so.
Jesus said, “Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you” (Matthew 28:20). He made it pretty simple. He told them to imitate Him in two things:
- Love one another as I have loved you (John 13:34-35).
- Go into the world just as He went into the world (John 20:21).
Our charge can be summed up simply. To make disciples, we must first demand commitment. The committed ones we teach to love like Jesus and to take reaching the world as seriously as He did. That should keep us busy until He comes, and He promises to work with us in the project.
Somebody said: “We reduce discipleship to a canned program, and so many in the church end up sidelined in a spectator mentality that delegates disciple making to pastors and professionals, ministers and missionaries.”
– Francis Chan
A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone who is perfectly trained will be like his teacher (Luke 6:40 NKJV).
These words of Jesus teach me that the goal of my discipleship is to be like Jesus. My aim in making disciples is that they would be more like Him: That they would love one another unto death and be supernaturally empowered and impassioned to reach the lost. Any goal less than that is not worthy of the cross.