What is discipleship? That may be the easier question. Discipleship is the following of someone else – living in a way similar to the master, learning, listening, questioning. Discipleship means to follow.
The harder question is how one actually is a disciple. It’s much more difficult because it goes from just a theory or a mental answer to an answer that is given based on how one lives their life, speaks, interacts, thinks, etc. It’s quite easy to claim to be a disciple of Jesus. It’s quite different to actually live it out and allow your life to answer the question.
There isn’t a manual for discipleship – a book to give you the step by step instructions. The closest thing you get is the bible, but even then, it’s not supposed to be an instruction book. The bible raises more questions than it answers. But it does give us the essence of who Jesus was/is. It does give us Jesus’ commands. It does offer some insights. But it also is confusing at times, contradicting at others, and really unclear at still others. Part of the puzzle of what it means to be a disciple can be found here.
Part of it also comes in community with other disciples attempting to live their lives in a way that Jesus would have them live life. Community brings accountability and consolation.
Part of discipleship comes from understanding something basic – you aren’t called to everything at every time. You are called to be you fully – seeing how God is active in your life, how God has blessed you with a set of gifts and talents, and how God is calling you to go serve in the world to carry out the kingdom around you.
One doesn’t just start out as a disciple – at least I don’t think so anyway. It is something that develops in a person as God works in that person and radically reorients them towards God.
One of the challenges the church faces is discipleship. We’re really good at parts of this, and really poor at other parts. So often we want to just from initial contact with someone to disciple. That would be similar to seeing someone you are interested in and then asking them to marry you. Probably isn’t going to happen. Instead, it’s about growing in relation to one another. And that takes time, communication, listening, and activity. Discipleship is the result of God’s action in our life and our response to what God is doing – as God turns us toward Godself, we respond with a willingness to be turned and not to turn away. Of course there are plenty of times when we do turn away, but God is right there to pick up where things left off.