Every believer is a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ. The early believers were known as “disciples” long before they were called “Christians.” A “disciple” is a follower, and a disciple of Christ is therefore one who follows Christ. It was as the believers in Antioch increasingly followed Christ that they were first termed “Christians” (or, “little Christs”) (Acts 11:26). (Most scholars believe that the term “Christian” was originally used in ridicule.)
Conversion cannot be separated from obedience. Every true believer desires to follow Christ in obedience. Every true believer wants to be a disciple. Discipleship is a lifelong process; it begins at the moment of conversion and ends at the moment of death, when the disciple is ushered into God’s presence as one who has been perfectly conformed to the image of Christ.
The assignment of the local church is to make disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ in all nations (Matthew 28:18–20). This begins with evangelism, proceeds with baptism, and culminates with teaching the new convert how to live in obedience to Christ’s commands.
The discipleship ministry of our church seeks to accomplish four major goals, to establish the believer in four areas of Christian living:
- the word of God;
- the fellowship of the believers;
- the structure of the local church; and
- the ministry of Christ.
In many ways, discipleship is the heartbeat of the church. Effective missions and ministry cannot be carried out apart from biblical discipleship.
In his last inspired epistle, shortly before his execution by Nero’s godless Roman government, Paul wrote to his young friend Timothy, whom he had left in charge of the Ephesian church, “And what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (2 Timothy 2:2).
Discipleship is a biblical ministry, a matter of obedience to the Great Commission: “And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age’” (Matthew 28:18–20). It is not a program; it is the personal commitment to take up one’s cross and follow Jesus Christ. We do this by daily obeying his commandments. In making disciples, we come alongside believers and doctrinally and practically teach them to observe what Christ has commanded.
Though we do not want to confuse discipleship with a mere program, it is helpful to have a structure (at least initially) to follow when beginning the process of lifelong discipleship. To this end, BBC makes use of 22 discipleship lessons aimed at grounding the disciple in fundamental Christian doctrines and the philosophy of the church. The lessons covered in the discipleship material are as follows:
- Lesson 1: Salvation—The purpose of this lesson is to explain what takes place at salvation and how receiving Jesus Christ affects your relationship with God.
- Lesson 2: The Word of God—The purpose of this lesson is to acquaint believers with the basics of the Bible and how it relates to their everyday life. They can then begin to understand how its principles are to guide every facet of their walk with Jesus Christ.
- Lesson 3: Baptism—This lesson is intended to give the Bible’s clear and definite teaching on the subject of baptism so that the individual understands perfectly what God’s intention for it.
- Lesson 4: The Lord’s Supper—The purpose of this lesson is to acquaint the believer with what the Bible teaches about the Lord’s Supper, its importance, and the attitude with which it should be celebrated and conducted.
- Lesson 5: Prayer—The purpose of this lesson is to acquaint the believer with what the Bible teaches concerning prayer so that he can practise this in his life.
- Lesson 6: The Local Church—The purpose of this lesson is to impress upon you the central role which the local church should play in your everyday life.
- Lesson 7: Corporate Worship—The purpose of this lesson is to teach the disciple what God has prescribed concerning the corporate worship of the church. In the words of the apostle Paul, the believer must know “how one ought to behave in the household of God” (1 Timothy 3:15).
- Lesson 8: Church Discipline—The purpose of this lesson is to examine the scriptural teaching on church discipline so that we will properly understand and appreciate the local church’s commitment to this biblical mandate.
- Lesson 9: Eternal Security—This lesson examines the state of the new believer in God’s family, and from the biblical facts, settles the question of their eternal security. This study will give the believer biblical evidence that God is the author of his salvation and that he will continue to accomplish his purposes in the life of the believer to the very end (Philippians 1:6).
- Lesson 10: The Holy Spirit—The purpose of this lesson is to give the disciple a basic understanding of who the Holy Spirit is and what He does in the believer’s life.
- Lesson 11: Giving—This lesson deals with the believer’s responsibility in stewardship of his life, which includes his resources.
- Lesson 12: Dealing with Sin—This lesson is designed to help you combat the sin nature of the old man.
- Lesson 13: The Lost World—This lesson is designed to show how the believer is to live in this world in order to influence people for the Lord Jesus Christ; without the world influencing him for evil.
- Lesson 14: Biblical Discipleship—The purpose of this lesson is to help the disciple to understand his purpose, which is to glorify God by making disciples.
- Lesson 15: Missions—The believer will learn that missions is about God’s eternal purpose being worked out on earth through his people.
In addition to these fifteen lessons, which are compulsory for all prospective church members, we have discipleship lessons based on the following additional subjects, which you may choose to complete if you so wish (or if the person discipling you recommends it).
- Lesson 16: Bible Study—The purpose of this study is to give some basic principles of Bible study that will enable the disciple to get the most out of the Bible.
- Lesson 17: Spiritual Gifts—The purpose of this lesson is to give the disciple a basic understanding of what gifts the Holy Spirit makes available to the church and how those gifts are to be properly used.
- Lesson 18: Other Christians—This lesson is designed to give the individual a clear understanding of how the body of Christ operates as a family unit.
- Lesson 19: The Will of God—The purpose of this lesson is to give the believer a basic understanding of how to know God’s will for his life and to trust him concerning his plan.
- Lesson 20: Money and Possessions—The object of this lesson is to determine how God would have us deal with money and possessions in light of biblical principles.
- Lesson 21: Liberty in Christ—The purpose of this lesson is to help the individual understand just what his liberties are in Jesus Christ, and what lines need to be drawn in his life in relation to his actions as a child of God.
- Lesson 22: The Judgement Seat of Christ—The purpose of this lesson is to explain your final accountability/responsibility to the Lord Jesus Christ.
The 22 discipleship lessons used as an introductory course to our church are quite basic in nature. Their design is to establish young believers in the faith and to introduce new members to the basic philosophy of our local church.
For those who wish to delve deeper into some of the issues and doctrines introduced in the discipleship lessons, we have a second, briefer discipleship course. Discipleship II covers some of the same subjects as Discipleship I, but it goes into slightly more detail. This second level of discipleship is not a requirement for church membership, but the booklets are made available to anyone who wishes to consider things more deeply.
Discipleship II covers the following subjects.
- Lesson 1: The Character Qualities of a Maturing Christian—On the basis of 1 Timothy 3:1–10 and Titus 1:5–9, this lesson considers the specific character qualities which a Christian should manifest in his life, and aims to help him take the first steps toward preparing for ministry by preparing him to be the kind of person God wants him to be.
- Lesson 2: The Spiritual Qualities of a Maturing Christian—On the basis of Galatians 5:25, this lesson examines the spiritual nature of all believers, and aims to help the believer to deliberately walk in the Spirit.
- Lesson 3: The Stages of Spiritual Growth—This lesson deals with seven broad areas of Christian growth, which may help you to examine your own growth in the grace and the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.
- Lesson 4: The Bible and Bible Study—Taking Discipleship I’s lessons on the word of God and Bible Study to the next level, this lesson introduces some “rules” that one must follow when studying the Bible, as well as how to apply those rules in practical study, and addresses the issue Bible translations.
- Lesson 5: Soteriology (the doctrine of salvation)—This lesson examines in greater detail the teaching of the Bible on matters relating to God’s gift of salvation.
- Lesson 6: Ecclesiology (the doctrine of the church)—This lesson deals further with the teaching of the Bible on the church, both local and universal.
- Lesson 7: Missiology (the doctrine of missions)—This lesson takes to the next level Discipleship I’s teaching on missions and aims to enable the believer to both articulate the biblical philosophy of missions and to defend it by Scripture and sanctified reasoning.
- Lesson 8: Eschatology (the doctrine of the last things)—This lesson aims to offer a brief overview of the biblical teaching concerning “the last things.”