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5 Reasons Discipleship is Important for Christians


In this article, we will explore 5 reasons why discipleship is so important for believers today. Not only did Jesus model discipleship and call us to make disciples, but there are several different benefits to being a disciple and/or making disciples. 

Despite the benefits, many self-professing Christians today are not involved in discipleship. A recent study from the Barna Group showed that 39% of Christians were not engaged in discipleship at all–that is a huge percentage! And while 61% said they were involved in some level of discipleship, there are different levels of involvement. 

In the Barna study, they defined Christians who were engaged in “discipleship community” as those who were both being discipled by someone and discipling others. We understand that discipleship is a broad term, and can encompass many things. For reference, here is how we define discipleship at Life on Life:

“Laboring in the lives of a few with the intention of imparting one’s life, the gospel and God’s Word in such a way as to see them become mature and equipped followers of Christ, committed to doing the same in the lives of others.”

We see a lot of overlap in both our definition and Barna’s definition, and there are several important things we can draw from their research to identify the important benefit of discipleship in churches today.

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Let’s get started and explore the importance of Christians being in discipleship.


1) Discipleship is Important Because Jesus Called Us to Make Disciples

The first reason it is important for Christians to be involved in discipleship is that Jesus called us to make disciples. He modeled it by discipling the twelve, and then He gave us the Great Commission in Matthew 28:18-20 (ESV) when He said,

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to follow all that I commanded you; and behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

As our Lord and Savior, we obviously need to listen whenever Jesus calls us to do something. It’s also important to remember that Jesus doesn’t tell us to do things because He wants to inconvenience us or make our lives difficult. As John 10:10 (ESV) says, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”

Jesus wants to give us an abundant and fulfilling life, and discipleship is part of His vision for that.

2) Discipleship Strengthens our Relationship with Jesus

The second reason discipleship is important for Christians is that it actually strengthens our relationship with Jesus. Here is another insightful set of statistics from the Barna group study on discipleship:

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Christians who were engaged in Barna’s defined group of “discipleship communities” consistently had the highest scores when it came to three different metrics about faith. On the other hand, self-identifying Christians who were not engaged in any form of discipleship consistently scored the worst.

In other words, people who were in discipleship community were far more likely to agree with the all three of the following statements:

  • “My relationship with Jesus brings me deep joy and satisfaction.”
  • “My relationship with Jesus impacts the way I live my life every day.”
  • “I am reenergized when I spend time with Jesus.”

No matter which way you look at the data, it seems clear that discipleship has a positive impact on our faith. To dive into that data point even more, believers who were discipling others consistently had higher scores than those who were just being discipled. This makes sense–stepping out as a leader often requires greater commitment, dependence, and faith which would lead to a stronger relationship with Jesus.

So why don’t more people lead discipleship groups?

3) Being Discipled Equips You to Make Disciples

When the Barna group asked believers why they were not making disciples or training disciples, the three top responses were as follows:

  • Don’t think I am qualified or equipped
  • No one has suggested it or asked me
  • I just haven’t thought about it

discipleship is important for christians

All of these problems have a single solution: life-on-life discipleship.

As a reminder, here is our definition: “Laboring in the lives of a few with the intention of imparting one’s life, the gospel and God’s Word in such a way as to see them become mature and equipped followers of Christ, committed to doing the same in the lives of others.”

Did you notice some of the key words there? There are many benefits, but one of the goals of life-on-life discipleship is to make others feel qualified or equipped to disciple others. The intention is to train and empower them to invest in the lives of others. Simply by joining a life-on-life missional discipleship group, you’re being asked to think about and eventually disciple others. 

And while leading your own discipleship group may seem scary now, if you are being discipled then it should give you greater confidence to become a discipleship leader.

4) Discipleship Positively Impacts the Way We Live

If we return to one of the earlier statistics from the Barna group, we know that those who were involved in discipleship were far more likely to say “My relationship with Jesus impacts the way I live my life every day.”

This is important, because many believers today are not known for being different. We are called to be “light” and “salt” in the world. We are identified as “citizens of Heaven” and “God’s chosen ones.” Our lives should be noticeably different, and yet for many believers today that simply is not the case. 

Another Barna study, completed for the book unChristian, found this data point: “84% of young non-Christians say they know a Christian personally, yet only 15% say the lifestyles of those believers are noticeably different in a good way.”

So while the vast majority of non-Christians today know someone who identifies as a Christian, a very small minority would actually say those Christians lived differently. Life transformation is hard, but Jesus provided us with a model for change: life-on-life discipleship.

Hearing truth is an important part of discipleship, but unfortunately, many believers stop there. We have all been a part of Bible studies where everyone talked about the things in the text they liked, and then they finished the study and went back to life as normal. We want to push discipleship groups to go further, and to more closely follow the model that Jesus used while on earth. The model we’ve identified for this is called TEAMS, which means each week people spend time focused on Truth, Equipping, Application, Mission, and Supplication. 

It’s not a perfect model, but we see each of these elements reflected in the way Jesus discipled others. We want to do our best to imitate Christ in all things, and we have seen the TEAMS format lead to life transformation all over the world.

Want to see how discipleship can transform someone’s life? Watch Julianna’s testimony below:

Through life-on-life discipleship, we’ve seen the faith of countless believers grow. We’ve seen lives changed, marriages saved, work lives transformed, neighborhoods blessed, and countless other positive impacts. Discipleship is important because it has a positive impact on the way we live, work, and play.

5) Discipleship Builds Stronger Churches

Not only can discipleship transform the lives of believers, it can transform an entire church! Many churches today are desperate for leaders. Pastors feel burnt out and stretched and have no one to help fulfill the duties of ministry. 

Yung Kim, a pastor in California, explained the situation this way: “I feel like I’ve met a lot of pastors who, they’re so busy, and rightfully so. There’s a lot to do when you’re a pastor. And they’ll oftentimes share how they’re feeling burnt out or feeling dry, or lost a little bit of that initial joy of doing ministry.”

What is an antidote to that feeling of burnout? To invest in the people of your church and equip them to become leaders. Each new leader in your church is like a pillar who can help hold your church together and make it stronger. Soosang Park, who is the lead pastor alongside Yung Kim, put it this way, “[Life-on-Life Discipleship] is God’s way to build more pillars in your church, more men you can trust, more women you can trust. And so, I feel the weight lift off my shoulder.”

If you’re a pastor who is feeling burnt out, if you’re a pastor who wants to see your church become more healthy, then you need to invest in life-on-life discipleship. We’ve worked with churches all over the world, and consistently see them become stronger and healthier because discipleship works.

How to Start a Discipleship Movement

If you want to start a discipleship movement in your church, but aren’t sure where to start, we have good news. Not only do we offer discipleship resources, but our discipleship training program has helped launch discipleship movements all over the world. 

We believe discipleship matters, so we walk with you every step of the way, helping you to establish a strong, healthy discipleship movement in your church. Then, when you’re ready, you can join other pastors and leaders who are giving Life on Life away to their cities and beyond in this global movement.