Discipleship: The Forgotten Foundation

Pastors and spiritual leaders wear many different hats. Sometimes it can be confusing to know when to wear the coach hat, the consultant hat, the mentor hat or the discipleship hat.

here’s my summary of the difference between coaching, consulting, discipleship and mentoring.

  • Consultant = an expert adviser. Pastors do not need to be experts; they just need to find experts and listen to them. Over the years, we have sought and listened to expert consultants in the following areas: kid’s ministry, campus ministry, worship, admin, partnership development, communications, IT,  law and finance. Pastors should become experts at listening to experts.
  • Mentor = an experienced adviser. A consultant has expertise; a mentor has experience. Experience and trust are the keys in an mentoring relationship.
  • Coach = a life guide. Consultants and mentors lead and give input; coaches guide and draw out. A coach does not need expertise or experience to help you. Coaches need listening skills that lead to good questions that draw out and help clarify dreams, goals and passions.
  • Discipler = a spiritual adviser. Discipleship is the process of helping someone follow Jesus, fish for people and fellowship with others while carrying their cross. Therefore a discipler is a spiritual adviser. Developing consulting, coaching and mentoring skills can be a huge help in the discipleship process. Like coaching, discipleship does not require expertise or experience. It is simply helping people find and follow Jesus.

I’m thankful i have had all of the above at the right times and seasons in my life.


For Jesus, discipleship was not a program or a Bible study course, it was a relationship, not just a casual relationship, but the closest relationship imaginable. When Jesus was told that his mother and brothers were looking for him, he used that encounter to teach an important truth about discipleship – that it should be relational, like a family.

He replied to him,  “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” Pointing to his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers.
For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”
(Matthew 12:48-50)

These discipleship relationships were not to replace blood family, but they were to function with the same type of love, respect and trust. Many Bible writers also used family terms to describe discipleship and church relationships.


In his first letter to the Thessalonians, Paul did not use intimidating ecclesiastical terms to identify to himself, rather he refered to himself as a brother several times. He reminds them that he dealt with them as a father deals with his own children. He even says that he and his team were gentle among you like a mother caring for her little children. (1 Thess 2:7,9,11) Like Jesus, Paul saw discipleship and church relationships as spiritual family.

Even though he really was the brother of Jesus (same mother), he seems to call just about everyone his brother. He writes to brothers who are going through trials, brothers who are in humble circumstances, brothers who talk too much, brothers who show favoritism, brothers who have faith without works, brothers who want to be teachers, brothers with untamed tongues, brothers who slander, brothers who are impatient, brothers who grumble, brothers who swear, brothers  who wander away. To James, discipleship was like a living room filled with brothers, not a classroom filled with students.

Even a tough aggressive leader like Peter saw discipleship relationships as spiritual family. He referred to Silas as a faithful brother and to Mark as a son.

Like James and Peter, John often used the B-word. He said that one of his great joys in life was to know that my children are walking in the truth. These children he speaks of are not his flesh and blood sons and daughters, but spiritual sons and daughters.

Unfortunately today in the church, even the family terms of endearment like father and brother have often become dead religious titles. Real discipleship, patterned after the New Testament, will function like a family. This does not mean we must call each other brother and sister, but we must treat each other like brothers and sisters.


Many churches are weak because…

  • – People need discipleship and leadership, but pastors offer counseling and pop psychology
  • – People need the eternal life-changing truth of God’s word, but pastors preach relevant and entertaining, but powerless messages
  • – People need to do life together, but they end up doing church together instead

What do you think – why are so many churches so weak?

-Steve Murell-

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age. -Matthew 28:19-20

source: more about discipleship: “Discipleship Is Relationship” http://joeybonifacio.blogspot.com/, http://smurrell.multiply.com/
This entry was posted in Discipleship, Teaching and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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