What Is Biblical Discipleship? 3 Ways to Shepherd Others

We can have many titles—mom, dad, husband, wife, grandparent, teacher, business owner—but these titles are different than callings. Callings are God-given assignments for His kingdom. We all share a common calling and fulfill it under different titles. As Christians, we are all called to be shepherds. Shepherding is biblical discipleship. 

Jesus told His followers to go and make disciples. 

  • “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…”—Matthew 11:28:19

There is no such thing as a disciple not making disciples. By definition, if we are not active in the Great Commission and taking part in biblical discipleship, then we are not disciples. This means that we are called to shepherd and disciple others no matter our titles. 

You have a calling to spiritually develop someone in your life to help them grow from infancy to spiritual maturity. 

  • Are you a parent? Then you are discipling your children.
  • Are you a teacher? Then you are discipling your students.
  • Are you a business owner? Then you are discipling your employees. 

Again, no matter your title, you are called into biblical discipleship. 

Do You See Yourself as a Disciple?

You might say, “I’m a disciple of Jesus,” but do you act in agreement with this statement? In other words, do you see yourself as a disciple maker—a follower of Christ who then teaches and leads others based on what you know about Him?

Some of you feel disqualified from taking part in biblical discipleship. Perhaps you’ve said…

  • I’m not a pastor. 
  • I’m not a teacher.
  • I’ve tried before and failed.

If you’ve made these statements, we want to encourage you to get off the bench and get back in the game. God isn’t done with you yet. And though you may have failed when it came to biblical discipleship in the past, God won’t waste your experience. Turn the situation over to Him and ask Him to redeem it.

He will use whatever you give to Him to grow and teach you and impact others. He is set on accomplishing His mission of making disciples of all nations. And He has chosen you for such a time as this.  

3 Characteristics of Biblical Discipleship

Peter, one of the first disciples of Christ, learned a lot about biblical discipleship through his journey. He gave us three keys to shepherding and discipling well so that as Christ-followers, we can answer the call of God in our lives. 

First Peter 5:1-2 says, “The elders who are among you I exhort, I who am a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that will be revealed: Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly… (emphasis added).

  1. Biblical Discipleship Is About Leading

It might seem evident that biblical discipleship is about leading. But think about the word “lead.” Discipleship is not about lording; it is about leading. Leaders influence others to move forward, not forcing but instead gaining trust through being an example. 

Hebrews 13:7 says, “Remember those who rule over you, who have spoken the word of God to you, whose faith follow, considering the outcome of their conduct.”

Biblical disciples lead with humility, a prerequisite to carrying spiritual authority. Peter reminds us to be “submissive to one another, and be clothed in humility” (1 Peter 5:5). The Word says that God resists the proud and gives grace to the humble (Proverbs 3:34, James 4:6, 1 Peter 5:5). 

Peter also called us to shepherd those among us. There is to be no separation between those in leadership and the layperson. Whether we are leading a Bible study or teaching a child, we must be among others, not above others. We are called to be submissive and have a teachable heart, whereas to avoid pride, which deceives, corrupts, and enslaves. 

Takeaway: To walk in biblical discipleship, we must be among the people and lead by humble example. 

An older woman talking with another woman about the joys of living with Jesus in her heart.
  1. Biblical Discipleship Is About Feeding 

On the night of Jesus’ arrest, Peter denied knowing Him three times. In the face of possible persecution, Peter’s pride got the best of him. He was not humble enough to take on the role of biblical discipleship. God was going to make him a leader, but He first needed to get rid of the pride.  

God allowed Peter to fail so that he would be prepared to lead and shepherd according to His ways. 

After Jesus’ death, Peter returned to what he knew–fishing. He benched himself, thinking he was disqualified. But God used Peter’s denial to shape him to be a shepherd. 

Jesus restored Peter to ministry and asked him three times, “Do you love Me?” Peter replied, “Yes, Lord, You know that I love You.” Then Jesus charged him to feed, tend, and feed His flock. 

  • John 21:15: “Feed My lambs.”
  • John 21:16: “Tend My sheep.”
  • John 21:17: “Feed My sheep.”

We are all called to take the Word of God and invest it into the souls of men and women. This is feeding the flock. First 1 Peter 4:11 says, “If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God.” Peter also said we desire pure milk in our spiritual infancy. However, as we grow, we need “meatier” food (1 Peter 2:2). We are to encourage spiritual growth through biblical discipleship so others will go deeper in their relationship with God. 

Takeaway: Biblical discipleship is about feeding the flock with the Word of God during every stage of their walk. 

  1. Biblical Discipleship Is About Bleeding

First Peter 5:1 says, “The elders who are among you I exhort, I who am a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ…”

Being a disciple will cost you. There will be suffering to some degree. Peter knew he didn’t have much time left as he wrote his letters to the Church. He knew persecution was coming, yet he was willing to suffer because he witnessed Christ’s suffering. 

Therefore, we can follow Jesus not just because of what He said but because of what He did. He laid down His life for us. 

John 10:7-15 says, “Then Jesus said to them again, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who ever came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them. I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep. But a hireling, he who is not the shepherd, one who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf catches the sheep and scatters them. The hireling flees because he is a hireling and does not care about the sheep. I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own. As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep.” (emphasis added)

Takeaway: Jesus taught that biblical discipleship is about laying down our lives for the sheep of the flock.  

A Reward for Biblical Disciples

First Peter 5:4 says, “And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away.”

The “crown of glory” is for those who participate in biblical discipleship. It is awarded by the Chief Shepherd to those who have shepherded others well.

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