Missional Discipleship

Taking a Closer Look

Sometimes a word like discipleship requires a closer look.  What is it that we mean by that word?  We hear it all the time, but short definitions are hard to come by.  Here is a good attempt at capturing discipleship in short order:  “A disciple is an intentional learner from Jesus.  Thus the two questions of discipleship are:  1. What is Jesus saying?  2. What am I doing in response?”[1]

I like this brief definition of discipleship because it sheds light on how we can miss the mark by focusing on only half of the equation.  On the one hand, we can see discipleship only as assessing what Jesus is saying—only increasing our knowledge.  This is a form of spiritual obesity—we keep consuming and consuming without ever exercising what we take in.

On the other hand, we can run off the rails with discipleship by focusing solely on doing.  We engage in doing things for other people and serving because we know it is the right thing, but cannot seem to make the time to be immersed in studying God’s Word to examine what Jesus is saying.  Although doing right things, our spiritual health begins to quietly decline as we are no longer nourished by intentionally taking in Jesus’ guiding Words.

Answering both questions is critical as we journey with Jesus as His disciple.  It is worth pausing to ask ourselves, “Am I taking time to really soak in what Jesus is saying?”  Likewise, we need to keep asking ourselves and inviting our church family to ask us, “What am I doing in response?”

When we answer both questions about discipleship positively, we start into a process of “disciple-making” as “missional disciples”.  Pause here for a moment—notice the activity that we are being called to with each of these quotes—”disciple-making” and “missional disciples”.  Both the process and the label are action laden, and it is a call to every Christian—it is not extra-credit for the over-achieving Christ follower.  Think about our call as missional disciples:  “Disciple-making is the process that includes going to non-believing others, proclaiming the gospel, baptizing those who believe, and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commanded, even the commands to love God, to love one another, to love one’s neighbor, and to make disciples.”[2]

I do not think that entering into missional disciple-making is a solitary act.  It takes a community of believers to truly ask who Jesus is, and to also encourage one another to respond accordingly.  I know for me, a significant milestone in my life was when my pastor at the Berlin SDB Church, Pastor Matthew Olson, first asked me to teach an adult Sabbath School class.  He did not simply ask me because I met the minimum requirements of being warm and with a pulse—he asked me with underlying encouragement.  He asked me in a way that affirmed my abilities, and then he followed up with suggestions of how to lead better.  It was only in community that I was truly encouraged to step out into being more missional as a lifetime habit.

I wonder what would happen if we took more steps of intentional encouragement with the people around us.  Might it be that people are hungry to be asked to respond to Jesus’ words?  Might people be hungry to be encouraged to step out in faith to make disciples?  As we think about discipleship, I hope that we see clear opportunities to not only ask ourselves, but to also ask those in our covenant community about what Jesus is saying, and what their response is.  I certainly continue cherishing the times in which I have been asked those questions.

Grace and peace,

Carl Greene, Executive Director, Seventh Day Baptist General Conference of USA and Canada

Interested in a challenging discipleship opportunity?

The SDB School of Ministry registration for classes in our Ministry Leadership and Pastoral Leadership programs for the Spring 2020 semester is open.  Students wishing to register for classes should follow this link and register for classes prior to the close of registration at the start of the new semester.

The Spring semester begins on February 9, 2020 and ends on May 23, 2020.


Ministry Leadership Certificate:

SDBU 211 – Biblical Preaching

SDBU 230 – New Testament Survey 

SDBU 260 – Intro to Evangelism & Apologetics

SDBU 280 – Practical Ministry Skills

Pastoral Leadership Certificate:

SDBU 354 – Sabbath Theology – SUMMER INSTITUTE
**This course requires 5 days (June 7-11) in person at the SDB Center in Janesville**

More information about the application and registration process is available here.

Students meaning to apply to begin classes in February should submit their applications immediately so that they can be properly admitted prior to the beginning of classes next semester.

Students meaning to apply to begin classes in September (Fall 2020) should submit their application by July 15th, so that they can be properly admitted prior to the beginning of classes in September.

For more information about SDBU, click here.


[1] Harrington, Bobby and Alex Absalom.  2016.  Discipleship That Fits:  The Five Kinds of Relationships God Uses to Help Us Grow.  Grand Rapids:  Zondervan.

[2] Gustafson, David.  2019.  Introduction.  In Missional Disciple-Making:  Disciple-Making For the Purpose of Mission, eds. Michael J. Breen and David M. Gustafson.  USA:  3DM.  11.

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