What is Peer Discipleship?

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Peer Discipleship is when two or more Christians encourage one another toward Christlikeness with Bible in hand.

That is another way of saying – be intentional as a godly friend!

But let us retrace some steps and see how it is that we get to this definition!

What is a ‘Disciple’?Trinity City 'Five by 5' Challenge - hand

Discipleship comes out the fact that we are called first and foremost to be a disciple!

History has seen several famous teachers who had ‘disciples’. The Chinese philosopher Confucius (551 – 479 BC) was known to have disciples. The Greek philosopher and scientist Aristotle (384–322 BC) was known to have disciples. And of course best known was Jesus Christ.

A disciple is someone who intentionally lives with and is taught by a teacher.

Jesus gave a definition (to the Jews) saying ‘If you hold to my teachings you are really my disciples’ (John 8:31). And then later when he said to his disciples ‘I am the true vine and you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit…showing yourselves to be my disciples’ (John 15:5,8).

For Jesus, a Christian disciple is someone who is with him.

Gospel of Mark

The gospel of Mark helps us see a little of what is involved in being a Christian disciple.

The first disciples we meet are Simon and Andrew, then James and John when Jesus calls saying ‘Come, follow me’ (Mark 1:16-18). We then meet Levi (Matthew) when Jesus again calls saying  ‘Follow me’ (2:13-14). Fairly quickly others gather such that Jesus appoints them to be ‘Apostles’ which means ‘Sent ones’ and sends them out to preach (3:13-19 and again in 6:7-13). So many of the accounts in Mark’s gospel show Jesus teaching and instructing his disciples, such that they call him ‘teacher’ (4:38 ) and others recognize him to be a ‘teacher’ (5:35), yet that was not all Jesus came to do.

By chapter 8:27-29, Jesus asks the disciples ‘Who do you think I am?’. They answer, ‘Some say Elijah, some John the Baptist‘ (notable examples of teachers who had disciples), ‘and still others, one of the prophets’ (known as one who spoke the words of God). Jesus isn’t satisfied with what others think, he wanted to know what his disciples thought and so he asked ‘But what about you?’ – and Peter answers ‘You are the Christ‘ (Messiah).

Now with that, Jesus begins to teach them what it really means to be a disciple: ‘If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it.’ (8:34-35 – my emphasis). That raises the bar.

It makes being a Disciple, less about the follower (the Christian), and more about the Master (Jesus) and his message (the gospel). How counter cultural!

What is ‘peer discipleship’?

Now, let us consider what Discipleship is. Christian Discipleship then is the endeavour of becoming more like Jesus. The aim of discipleship should be Christian maturity – something every Christian is involved in. That is far more than simply ‘learning to live a more consistent Christian life’, which is often that way that Christians have talked about ‘discipleship’.

And so Peer Discipleship recognises the examples in the Bible where discipleship has occurred between two or more people.

Jesus with his disciples is an obvious example and one which we follow. There are others. In 1 and 2 Kings Elisha as a follower of God became a disciple of Elijah and then succeeded him as a prophet. In the Pastoral Epistles, Timothy and Titus as followers of Jesus became disciples of Paul. In fact outside of Jesus, Paul appears to have had a very clear discipleship agenda as he called believers in churches he planted to ‘follow my example as I follow the example of Christ’ (1 Cor 11:1 c.f. 1 Cor 4:16).

Peer Discipleship is when two or more Christians encourage one another toward Christlikeness with Bible in hand.

It might occur when a disciple helps a new or younger disciple to grow in faith. What a gift.

It might occur when a disciple helps other disciples of similar Christian maturity. What a blessing.

It might occur when a disciple helps less experienced disciples to grow in ministry. Leadership Discipling if you wish. What a calling.

 

It happens informally or formally – but definitely intentionally.

It happens when we train together, when we meet 121,  at Home Group, in our Evangelistic Prayer Teams, before playing sport or having coffee, or going for a walk or attending a conference , or talking about a recent sermon, or Christian book  – the list could go on and on. But the distinctive is that it happened when two or more  Christians encourage one another with Bible in hand. Without that, the interaction would be better seen simply as a friendship (as good as that is).

Be intentional, as a godly friend! Grab your Bible and go an encourage someone!

 

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