Gary Derbyshire

4 Reasons Discipleship is Not a Program

Gary Derbyshire
November 7, 2017

In the church world, the word discipleship is used a lot. When it is used, it typically refers to the process of making Christians stronger in their faith, but it actually encompasses sharing Christ with non-Christians too. The concept of making disciples is a huge theme in the New Testament and modern Christians in America are doing their best to take it seriously. However, it is not always done biblically, if it is done at all.

A few years ago, a single man in his early twenties began attending my church. Over the course of a couple months, this young man ended up seeking my wife out and asking about our young adult ministry. He was a very shy guy and it seemed like him initiating a conversation was no light matter, so my wife believed he needed to meet me soon. What followed was one of the deepest and meaningful relationships in my life. Jason had a traumatic family past, didn’t graduate high school, had a hard time developing relationships, and feared conflict. But God had done a tremendous work in his life confronting him about his personal issues and he decided he was going to obey. For the next year, this guy did almost everything with my family. He was at our house at least three times a week, spent the night often, loved our kids, was a vibrant member of our young adult ministry, and served our church faithfully in numerous areas. Jason would go with me on walks with my kids, grocery store runs, or yard work and talk about the skeletons in his closet, how to know God better, how to be a healthier person, and how to confront the things he was afraid of. Barely a year after knowing him and two weeks after serving God faithfully on his first overseas mission trip, Jason died in a motorcycle crash and went to be with the Lord. In asking me to do the eulogy for his funeral, his family informed me the last year was the most significant time of his entire life.

The following are four observations I want to make from the story of Jason:

1. Jason had been to other churches before meeting my wife and I at our church, but all they wanted to do was put him to work.

2. No amount of volunteering, Bible study classes, or events was going to make up for the fact that Jason lacked real relationships to really hold him accountable to what God was telling him to do.

3. To really speak into Jason’s life, I had to share mine. I could have just been content with him attending my Bible study and coming to the worship service with me, but he needed a relationship with me.

4. My family provided a security blanket for him when others, life, or his own choices disappointed him.

When Jesus began his ministry, he simply began to take a small group of men aside, and do everything with them. If he was to operate on the American church model, I think he would have incorporated a nonprofit defined as a preaching ministry, received donations online, had 200 employees, and a 40-50 hour a week work calendar. Jesus certainly preached and taught all around Israel, had people in his company who had some administrative tasks, but the 12 men who ate, slept, travelled, and cried with him were not his secretaries or administrative assistants.

If you are a Christian, you were not called to attend a service and a small group meeting once a week. You were called to be a disciple and make disciples, which absolutely includes but is not limited to church attendance. Discipleship is not something you can just programatize and write up into a curriculum. It is a lifestyle. It is every worshipper of Jesus coming alongside another worshipper of Jesus and walk them through what a Godly life in Christ looks like.

Gary Derbyshire

Gary is the Senior Pastor of Apollo Baptist Church in Glendale, Arizona. Gary's biggest life influence is his loving parents, who originally taught him the Gospel and biblical exposition, and still live as missionaries in Asia. The next biggest influence is his loving wife, a gifted worship leader and evangelist to their children.

© 2021 Gary Derbyshire   -   Website by Brendan Brooks (

Gary Derbyshire