Many of us tend to think linearly, solely focused on the what and why of whatever truth we’re trying to convince others is best. When pastors speak about discipleship we tend to focus on the positives, of which there are many. Perhaps we could learn from the traveling salesman, who often shows us what life would be like without his product. In many ways, they ask us to count the cost of saying no to this purchase while we tend to only focus on the present cost.
Take a moment to count the cost of non-discipleship. It short-circuits God’s plan to bring joy to a believer by being able to teach others the way of Christ. Because of their immaturity, the recipients of the letter Hebrews were missing out on the joy of teaching others (Heb. 5:12). Even though they should have been able to instruct others and support the journey of faith in new believers, they were unable to participate in God’s redemptive story in meaningful ways.
Count the Cost — Three Reasons to Get Serious About Discipleship
We are all called to be disciple-makers.
While not all are called to be formal teachers (James 3:1), the Great Commission enlists all of us to be involved in the discipling process of believers, teaching them to become more like Christ (Matthew 28:18-20). Setting this as our priority helps us to not fall into the trap of a thousand other versions of the smaller story, which take our energy and focus away from the main purposes of being left on this earth after conversion, namely being ministers of reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:20), encouraging the disheartened, and helping the weak (1 Thess. 5:14).
Disciple-making gives us a front-row seat to what God is doing.
Taking our own personal relationship with Jesus seriously allows us to be able to walk alongside others who also earnestly desire to follow Christ. As we learn to walk in step with the Spirit (Galatians 5:25) and provide spiritual support for others, we get a front-row seat to the work of God as He produces His fruit in the lives of others (Galatians 5:22-23). Our faith is bolstered when we fight for others in prayer, celebrate breakthroughs that provide freedom from besetting sins, and watch God work in the lives of those we are disciplining. Our joy in the Lord is multiplied when we allow others to be nourished by our soul’s hospitality and we ourselves gain strength from being used for God’s redemptive purposes.
Scripture warns us to count the cost of non-discipleship.
The cost of non-discipleship is to miss out on all of these precious gifts that reinforce our new identity as citizens of heaven (Philippians 3:20). Immaturity has its own costs, as is attested to us in Scripture. Let us count the cost:
- Living with oppressive fear. “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live” (John 14:18-19, NIV). Orphans who have been newly adopted sometimes live with a scarcity mindset. Even though their needs have now been met, they can suffer from fear of abandonment and may have difficulty trusting in someone who will provide for them. “But perfect love drives out fear . . . the one who fears is not made perfect in love” (1 John 4:18, NIV). Fear does not feel good.
- Being enslaved to unhealthy mindsets. “Now I say, as long as the heir is a child, he does not differ at all from a slave although he is the owner of everything” (Galatians 4:1). “Formerly when you did not know God, you were slaves to those who by nature are not gods. But now that you know God—or rather are known by God—how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable forces? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again?” (Galatians 4:8-9). The problem with an enslaved mindset is that while one has been given immense resources for a new way of life, these resources are of no value because they are not appropriated in practical ways. Slavery does not feel good.
- Instability in life. All throughout the New Testament, we hear that maturity is the goal for every believer (Col. 1:28). Infancy is fine if you are truly new in the faith, but an extended spiritual childhood does not produce the abundant life that Jesus came to bring. Growth allows one to become more stable (James 1:2-8) and to be able to discern good from evil (Hebrews 5:14). These qualities are part of a mature disciples’ life which allows us to “no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes” (Ephesians 4:14). Instability does not feel good.
To summarize, Dallas Willard1 puts it this way:
“To depart from righteousness is to choose a life of crushing burdens, failures, and disappointments, a life caught in the toils of endless problems that are never resolved. Here is the source of that unending soap opera, that sometimes horror show known as normal human life. The ‘cost of discipleship,’ though it may take all we have, is small when compared to a lot of those who don’t accept Christ’s invitation to be a part of his company in The Way of life.”
So how do we count the cost?
Pastors and ministry leaders are called on to help those around them count the cost. With our Master of Divinity in Christian Ministry program, you will be equipped to push people toward true Christian discipleship, helping them mature and help foster growth in others. Are you ready to answer the call to ministry? At Grace Theological Seminary we offer various delivery methods to match your season and station in life. Contact us and learn more today.
1 Dallas Willard, The Spirit of the Disciplines (San Francisco, CA: HarperCollins, 1991), 2.
Christy Hill, Professor of Spiritual Formation and Women’s Ministries, has a passion for facilitating the holistic development of men and women into mature disciples of Jesus Christ, who are transformed by the experience of God’s love and truth. Saddened by the discrepancy between accurate theology and a living faith, she seeks to help her learners acknowledge that their operant belief system (behaviors, values, attitudes, motives) reveals their true beliefs. She then seeks to aid spiritual formation by resolving the gap between one’s professed belief system (correct theology) and actual beliefs.