5 Characteristics of Real Discipleship

This is a guest post by Chad Barrett. He is the Director of Child Evangelism Fellowship of Greater Houston and Director of Inspiring Evangelism, a ministry dedicated to inspiring and training believers to share the gospel effectively. He is a speaker and has authored two books, Journey to Freedom: The Pursuit of Authentic Fellowship among Men, and The RADIUS Initiative. He lives with his gorgeous wife, Melissa, and their 4 kids. You can connect with Chad on FacebookTwitter, or at his blog

Chris recently trusted in Christ as his Savior, and he had enough baggage from his past that would fill a 747. He was not the easiest guy to get along with, and the people in his church soon began to avoid him. They had him fill out a church-membership card to join, baptized him, and made sure he got into a Sunday school class. But Chris needed more than programs, and growth in Christ was stifled.

Lonely Sports Fan In Stadium

Author Dr. Dennis Okholm once wrote “…in our desire to maximize our return on investments in reaching people for Christ, we…are often captives of the consumer-driven, efficiency-minded, results-oriented culture in which we grow our churches. But [Saint] Benedict and his contemporaries remind us that Christians mature more like trees than like fast-spreading computer viruses….We have become consumers of religion rather than cultivators of a spiritual life.”

The spiritual life that Okholm speaks of involves making disciples. To make a disciple, one must enter into the life of another, show the love of Christ, share the good news of Christ, and continue on developing maturity in Christ.

Many times, this developing maturity can be a bear of a task! But we are commanded by our Savior to make disciples. Here are 5 things to keep in mind in order to get involved in real discipleship.

1. Real discipleship takes time. Sometimes we expect new believers to act mature when we haven’t given them time to mature. It would be like me expecting my 12-year-old son to respond to life the same way I do. But I’m 37-years-old. I’ve had more time to mature. (No comments from my wife, please.) Discipleship takes time and patience.

Jonathan and Chad making goofy faces

2. Real discipleship takes effort. If a young believer isn’t growing in his relationship with Christ, perhaps we should question the other Christians in his church. Whether it was Paul, Peter, James, or Jesus, discipleship took hard work on the part of the discipler. Listening patiently, exhorting, encouraging, and leading (not driving) takes great effort. Real discipleship is not easy.

3. Real discipleship can be dirty. Many times new believers carry lots of dirty baggage. This is quite overwhelming and burdensome to deal with. Discipleship involves helping the new believer to sift through and weed out the dirty laundry. This could include addictions, anger issues, certain doubts, dealing with dysfunctional families, grave fears, bad habits, etc. It’s quite inconvenient to get phone calls at 2am due to any of the above-mentioned items. Real disciple will get your hands dirty. And sometimes more than that.

4. Real discipleship can be painful. People who experience pain can easily cause pain in others. Especially in those closest to him. It’s just human nature. That’s why Christ tells us to weep with those who weep. But sometimes we weep because the one we disciple has hurt us. To put it rather bluntly–sheep bite. One pastor once told me that when a soldier falls, he usually goes down swinging his sword. Real discipleship can be painful when that sword nicks you on the leg. Hurtful words, confrontation, depression, etc. Real discipleship can be painful. It was for Jesus.

5. Real discipleship is rewarding. As painful and difficult as real discipleship can be, it is incredibly rewarding. Not just in heaven with your eternal rewards for faithfulness (1 Cor. 3:9-15), but even here on earth. The Scriptures are full of passages where the discipler is overcome with joy at seeing those in his care grow and mature.

Pray that God will place someone in your path whom you could disciple. Whatever you do, don’t leave a new believer alone.

And if you’re the new believer, pray that God will send someone to mentor you. Talk to you pastor about it.

Question: What are your thoughts about these 5 characteristics of discipleship? Perhaps you could add more!

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.