What’s Wrong with Discipleship?

by | Mar 24, 2016

WorkMatters chose Multiply as our “One Word” for 2016. Since then, the idea of growth through multiplication has permeated most of our conversations. We want to reach as many people as we can, as far as we can, in the biggest mission field on earth – the marketplace. To do that, we intend to equip those we serve – you – to be able to share faith at work with others. You could say we have an opportunity to disciple others at work. Multiplication starts with each of us being the example of what it looks like to live your faith out at work. And Stephen Caldwell has some great insights to share. Stephen has written in the faith and work space for many years. He has served on the writing team for most of our Leadership@Work Studies and wrote the soon-to-be-released book Grow Like Jesus.

There’s no shortage these days of advocates for the concept of mentoring. It’s the magical key, it seems, to advancing your career, to becoming a better husband or wife, to improving as a parent, and to growing spiritually. All we need is a mentor or a coach, and we’re set. In other words, we just need discipleship.

So who would ever raise a red flag about discipleship? Well, uh … me.

Now, before you roll your eyes and reach for delete button, hear me out. First, I’m the biggest fan of discipleship this side of the Apostle Paul. I advocate for it. I practice it. My life has been the better because others have poured their wisdom and insights into me. And I’ve benefited just as much or more when I’ve been the so-called mentor.

As followers of Jesus, discipleship is part of the final instructions Jesus gave before He departed (for now) the earth (Matthew 28:18-20). He said to go and make disciples, and I’m not one to argue with the instructions of Jesus. So we should be about the business of “going” and “making disciples.” We might go to another country, or we might go to an office building or a factory where we work, to a social gathering with friends, or to some event with our kids. But wherever we “go,” part of our role there is to “make disciples.”

Of which, we must be one.

And that’s where we might get off track if we’re not careful. Mentors can and often do enhance our opportunities for spiritual growth – in our work and in the other areas of our lives. But we, individually, are responsible for walking with Jesus. We count on Him, not our mentor, for our growth.

Frankly, I hadn’t thought about this until Nick Floyd mentioned it during a sermon on the first chapter of Philippians. He had walked us through the famous passage where Paul says “to live is Christ and to die is gain,” (Philippians 1:21) and a lot of times a sermon will end on that. Paul was torn. He wasn’t sure if he’d see his friends in Philippi again, but the alternative – death – was “far better” (v. 23) because it would mean he would be with Jesus. Like Paul, we should live for Christ while we’re here and long for the greater reward of heaven. Awesome message. Cue the invitation hymn.

But wait. Paul goes on and says, “Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.” (Philippians 1:27) In other words, he tells them that their spiritual growth doesn’t depend upon him visiting or not visiting. He tells them to “stand firm” and strive “together,” so he’s not telling them to take on life alone.  But he is making the point that spiritual growth isn’t dependent on having coffee with someone at the ancient Philippi version of Starbucks.

Paul, one of the great practitioners of discipleship, knew that following Jesus begins with a personal drive to live for Christ. Then our discipleship has the right fuel to create a flame that will light up our world around us, wherever we go and with whomever we meet.


Stephen Caldwell is a follower of Jesus, husband, father, writer, editor, entrepreneur, and the author of Grow Like Jesus: Practicing Luke 2:52 Discipleship (Elevate Publishing, available April 19, 2016). His career includes writing and editing credits on nearly twenty books, as well as work in the newspaper, magazine, marketing, advertising, and training industries. He and his wife, Audrey, are active members of Cross Church of Fayetteville, Ark. He blogs on growlikejesus.com and Tweets as @growlikejesus.
Photo of Catherine Gates

Catherine Gates

Catherine Gates is Executive Director of Women in the Marketplace, a nonprofit marketplace ministry that equips working women to confidently pursue their faith and career for the glory of God. She is also the author of The Confidence Cornerstone: A Woman’s Guide to Fearless Leadership. Learn more at womeninmarketplace.net.