Unfortunately, in much of North American Christianity, discipleship is mostly defined in terms of providing new believers with only Bible knowledge. The Scriptures, however, reveal a different picture of the elements involved in discipleship training. Clearly, right doctrine must be communicated, but there is more to the Great Commission than orthodoxy (right belief). Orthopraxy (right practice) is a must.
On numerous occasions, the apostle Paul called the new churches to obedience in Christ. He also pointed to his life (belief and practice) as a model for the new churches to follow. Though the apostle was quick to note he had not obtained his heavenly reward (Philippians 3:12-16) and was still with sin (Romans 7:14-25), he had no problem teaching new believers that they should imitate his ways in both orthodoxy AND orthopraxy:
“Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the ex-ample you have in us.” (Philippians 3:17, ESV)
“Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 11:1, ESV)
“Now we command you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from any brother who is walking in idleness and not in accord with the tradition that you received from us. For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us, because we were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone’s bread without paying for it, but with toil and labor we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you. It was not because we do not have that right, but to give you in ourselves an example to imitate.” (2 Thessalonians 3:6-9, ESV)
Paul also exhorted other church planters who worked with him to establish a healthy example for the new churches in Ephesus and on Crete. He wrote:
“Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.” (1 Timothy 4:12, ESV)
“Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us.” (Titus 2:7-8, ESV)
As Christians we would all do well to remember the example set by the apostle Paul to the Thessalonians, and impart both the gospel AND our lives to others (1 Thessalonians 2:8).
This is an excerpt from the book “Discipleship In Church Planting” which was authored by one of our pastors, J.D. Payne. I would highly encourage you to read this book, as it has challenged me in my journey to make disciples.