the weblog of Alan Knox

Defining discipleship as helping each other follow Jesus

Posted by on May 20, 2013 in discipleship | 17 comments

According to Matthew, just before Jesus ascended into heaven, he gave his followers this last instruction: 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, baptizing 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 ESV)

The command in this passage is translated “make disciples.” It is precipitated by Jesus’ authority. It includes the aspects of go[ing], baptizing, and teaching. And it is wrapped up in the promise that Jesus will always be with us.

My “go to” definition of making disciples (or discipleship) is this: “Helping each other follow Jesus.”

This definition includes several parts:

“Helping” reminds us that the real work is done by God. He often chooses to use his children (that would be us), but the work is still his. However, there is a role for us to play.

“Each other” reminds us that this is mutual (reciprocal) work. There are no pure discipler->disciple relationship among humans. Instead, we’re all in need of being helped to follow Jesus, and, at the same time, we can all help others to follow Jesus.

“Follow” reminds us that being a disciple is not a passive adventure or a mental exercise. Instead, it is a way of life. (In fact, the first name for “Christianity” was “the Way.”)

“Jesus” reminds us that we do not want people to follow us. We want people to follow Jesus.

Finally, the entire phrase reminds us that there will be some aspects of following Jesus that will be the same (or similar) between different believers. But, at the same time, there will be some aspects of following Jesus that will be different between different believers.

For the next few days, I’ll be publishing posts about “helping each other follow Jesus.” But, for now, I’d have a question for you:

What do you think of my definition “helping each other follow Jesus”? What would you add, change, or remove from this definition?


Series: Discipleship as “helping each other follow Jesus”

  1. Defining discipleship as helping each other follow Jesus
  2. Helping each other follow Jesus… in different directions?
  3. How has someone helped you follow Jesus
  4. Unintentionally helping each other follow Jesus
  5. Intentionally helping each other follow Jesus


Comments are closed. If you would like to discuss this post, send an email to alan [at] alanknox [dot] net.

  1. 5-20-2013

    I like it. I’ve seen others use a definition very similar:

    “Helping others get one step closer to Jesus.”

    Part of why I like this definition is that it leaves room to “disciple” or “make disciples” of unbelievers. Or at least to me it does. There are plenty of real life experiences that would indicate some follow Jesus into salvation. From salvation, the making of a disciple continues if what we’re doing is “helping each other follow Jesus.”

  2. 5-20-2013

    Overall I like the definition. However “helping” here is describing each other, not God in a simple reading of the text. A natural reading, then, incompletely communicates your message. I am not sure how this can be resolved elegantly. Perhaps by appending the phrase “… in the Holy Spirit’s power.”

  3. 5-20-2013

    I like it a lot. ‘Helping’ demonstrates the activeness of our faith, ‘each other’ requires interaction with one another (some would say community) and ‘follow Jesus’ is the path or ‘the Way.

    Even if we were to try to do it without the Holy Spirit, if our focus was on following Jesus, there is no doubt in my mind that He would soon reveal the work of the HS, in that process, to us. In other words, putting the addendum as Gordon mentions is ultimately unnecessary, it’s part and parcel of following Jesus and inextricably combined.

  4. 5-20-2013

    How interesting… in defining Anabaptism in my own blog today, I, too, pointed out that what it is, at the core, is following Jesus… I like this definition of discipleship because it is how I see Anabaptism itself being carried out… it is about discipling others and discipling each other in following Jesus in everything we do.

    Thanks, Alan!

  5. 5-20-2013

    That’s awesome!! I agree….helping each other on the journey.

    God has planted small seeds in our hearts at our birth…. seeds of love, hope, trust, faith, righteousness…. and He uses us as water & light for each other.. and then He does the growing as we get what we need from each other.

    Something like that…. don’t have the imagery down pat yet.

  6. 5-20-2013

    He builds up His Church….but He allows us to be part of that building process… by lifting up each other. It is His work. He is the potter. We are the clay that He forms into great tools to be used to help each other…. all the while bringing Him glory…. because He is the hands holding the tools that He created and giving the power/force necessary to make the tools work.

  7. 5-20-2013

    Each tool is so different from each other…..

    and each tool can be used for different purposes as He sees fit…

    and He can even re mold tools and make them very different at new stages of their journey with Him….

    but no matter how impactful we are….or what we are being used for at any specific time….it’s always the same underlying purpose…to glorify God and help each other.

    He gets all the credit. If we never surrender to His hands and allow Him to pick us up and use us as HE desires….we will just be a bunch of tools lying around.

  8. 5-20-2013

    There are an awful lot of expensive, good looking tools laying around that are simply just laying around. They are not eternally impacting anybody and not bringing glory to Him…because they mostly just sit around and think about how shiny and put together they are… they might even dream about how they can be even shinier and more protected from anything that might mess up their looks. They don’t realize that looking good themselves really just doesn’t help others. And being so shiny and un-banged up is really just showing the world they haven’t been used as they could have been.

  9. 5-20-2013

    All of that might not make sense or help anybody but me…Sorry! 🙂

  10. 5-20-2013

    Been reading through the love posts. I was completely ruined financially as a single mom by a mega church because I thought it would be so great to go and work with Christians. I have never seen so much raw evil in my life. It scared me. I was totally stunned as I was expected to help with power turf wars and and setting people up to fail and even asked by HR to get dirt on my boss! I was deemed “not a team player” and thrown to the curb with not even unemployment.

    Since then the excuses have been there are no perfect churches. It is sort of a Darwinian Christianity.

    So I struggle to trust Christians because these were people I had known on “stages” for many years and I belived the persona they projected. They were not the same people behind stage. It was a dark place back there full of intrique and back room strategizing for power and position.

    So, I cannot tell you what love looks like between Christians because it was so redefined for me. That was their normal and they would call it love as in doing great things for God because they are bringing the numbers in. It was mostly plastic smiles and acting like there was a love for one another when there wasn’t.

    Do Christians mistake outward “nice” for real love?

    I have come to the conclusion the buildings, salaries, programs, etc, get in the way of being able to experience real love with each other. They become the focus and not the actual people. STrip away all that stuff and there is nothing to jockey for. The people in the pews become a means to the end. Building a following and being close to the leader.

    I have found much more real love and trust among the unchurched. Ironically they are the ones who have helped me the most get through this financial crisis.

  11. 5-20-2013

    I like it. its not exhaustive or unambiguous but its simple and points in the right direction.

    “There are no pure discipler->disciple relationship among humans.”
    I 100% agree. Just wish more of us would embrace that truth. Whether we have primarily a leader or follower mentality, the challenge is the same… to rethink our attitude and approach.
    In that regard helping each other follow jesus is quite a radical concept.

  12. 5-20-2013

    Sounds like the best short, to-the-point summary of discipleship I’ve heard.

  13. 5-21-2013

    Very easy to understand and as I read the passage, your definition lines up…no confusion here…something all of us can do and should do….I like it!

  14. 5-21-2013


    I read your comment yesterday, and it broke my heart. Unfortunately, I’ve heard that too many times. Believe it or not, the people you are talking about often feel that they are doing great things for God and helping other people at the same time. Unfortunately, they do not understand how detrimental it is to many people individually and to the maturity of the church.

    They are followers of Jesus who love genuinely and consistently. I pray that God brings some of them into your life soon.

    If you want to talk about this more, feel free to email me at alan [at] alanknox [dot] net.


  15. 5-21-2013

    Thank you for the feedback, everyone. It’s been extremely helpful!


  16. 5-22-2013


    You ask…
    “What do you think of my definition “helping each other follow Jesus”? What would you add, change, or remove from this definition?”

    From what I see in the Bible there is a big difference between
    “followers of Jesus” and a follower being one of “His Disciples.”

    ALL His Disciples did “Follow Jesus” – But…
    NOT ALL who “Followed Jesus” were “His Disciples.”

    Disciple in the Strong’s is #3101 mathetes – A learner, pupil.

    “His Disciples” 2,000 years ago learned directly from Jesus. NO middle man.
    And – Jesus, is the same, Yesterday, and Today, and Forever. Heb 13:8.

    How many today “learn” from Jesus directly? NO middle man? 😉

    Many can “follow” Jesus at a distance, and even walk on the same path,
    but are they “learning” directly from Jesus? NO middle man?

    Or are they ”learning about him” from a another “Mere Fallible Human?”
    Or “learning” from others on the same path? Who learned from others?

    Jesus always spoke to the multitudes “who followed” in parables. – BUT…
    When Jesus was “alone” with His Disciples He explained the parable.

    All these things spake Jesus unto the multitude in parables;
    and without a parable spake he not unto them.
    Matthew 13:34

    and when they were alone, he expounded all things to his disciples.
    Mark 4:33

    These multitudes were all in the same location following Jesus?
    But only “His Disciples, His pupils, learned” what Jesus meant.

    Seems to be two different things.
    1 – “Making “Followers of Jesus.” – “Helping each other follow Jesus”

    2 – And- A believer being one of His Disciples…
    – His Disciples “deny themself, Pick up their cross daily, and follow.” Luke 9:23
    – His Disciples “forsake ALL that they have.” Luke 14:33
    – His Disciples learn directly from Jesus/God. NO middle man.

    John 6:45
    It is written in the prophets, And they shall be ALL taught of God.

    John 14:26
    But the Comforter, [which is] the Holy Ghost,
    whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you ALL things…

    Deuteronomy 4:36
    Out of heaven he made thee to “hear His voice,”
    that *He might instruct thee:*

  17. 5-22-2013


    From what I can tell, that’s exactly what I said in the paragraph about “helping” above.