Discipleship is About Relationships

By Bill Mangham

Jesus commanded the church to make disciples of people from all nations (Mt. 28:18-20). At times we get hung up on what materials to use or what delivery system to organize. Should we teach people in classes in the church? Should our approach be one-on-one discipleship? What is the formula for making disciples?


As we look at churches that have made discipleship a priority one thing is clear. There is no magic formula for making disciples. The process looks different in each church. Discipleship is based on relationship, not a secret formula. Jesus chose His disciples and developed a close relationship with them. He taught them how to be His followers within a context of relationship. In Mark 3:13-15 we read these words: “Jesus went up on a mountainside and called to him those he wanted, and they came to Him. He appointed twelve that they might be with Him and that He might send them out to preach and to have authority to drive out demons.”


What were the components of Jesus’ success in forming His disciples?  These were the disciples who would later shake the known world with the Gospel.  First Jesus wanted a relationship with His disciples. He enjoyed being with them and experienced both joy and frustration as His disciples learned to follow him. He liked hanging out with Peter, James and John and the other disciples. Second, Jesus called them to “be with him”. He first wanted them to walk with him before they declared Him to others. God wants to walk with us before He works through us.  He longs for us to be with Him and develop an intimate relationship that is the basis for who we are and what we do. Finally, Jesus sent them out to declare the good news of the Kingdom, to heal the sick and free the captives. Everything the disciples learned was learned in the context of being with Jesus, the context of relationship.


The discipleship process must involve the practice of, “teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you.” In the discipleship process we teach the basic truths of the Kingdom and what it means to follow Jesus. There are specific Bible truths that we share during the discipleship process. But we must remember that the communication of truth is enhanced through relationship. As we teach biblical principles in the context of a caring relationship transformation takes place and discipleship becomes a lifestyle.
Bill Mangham is a part of the pastoral team at Existence Church and coauthor of Kingdom Come: A Gospel Centered Guide to Discipleship. Bill and his wife Ann have served in Latin America missions with the Christian and Missionary Alliance for over twenty years. Bill graduated from Toccoa Falls College and Columbia International University.