Every Christian is on their own personal discipleship journey to become more like Jesus. And even though churches often talk about discipleship, some pastors may not know exactly where to start.
If you’re a pastor, you may have questions like, “Where can I find specific Bible verses about discipleship?” or “What is discipleship, and why is it so important?”
These are fair and important questions! After all, the word “discipleship” does not appear anywhere in the Bible. To find answers to these questions, let’s explore what it means to be a disciple and uncover lessons we can learn from scriptures on discipleship.
Before we can understand discipleship, it’s important to define what is meant by the term “disciple.” A Christian disciple is a follower of Jesus Christ, someone who is devoted to becoming like Jesus by studying his teachings and mirroring every aspect of his life. Jesus himself explained it this way:
“A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher.” Luke 6:40 (ESV)
So what does discipleship mean? Christian discipleship is the lifelong transformational process of becoming someone who reflects Jesus Christ to others. The ultimate goal of discipleship is to help others become disciples by sharing the gospel—or, in other words, by fulfilling The Great Commission to “make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19).
With this discipleship definition in mind, let’s look at Bible verses about discipleship and see what lessons they can teach us.
Discipleship transforms who you are by making you more like Jesus. As you grow to be more like Jesus, you can change the world by bringing God’s love to others!
“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:14–16* (NIV)
Jesus selected ordinary people to be his disciples, and he personally called each of them to follow him. These verses about following Jesus show the importance of answering his call quickly and without reservation.
As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him. Matthew 9:9
As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” At once they left their nets and followed him. Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them, and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him. Matthew 4:18–22 (This story is also found in John 5:1–11 and Mark 1:16–22.)
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 Mark 3:13–16
After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go. He told them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” Luke 10:1–2
To be chosen by God as a disciple is an amazing gift! The following Bible verses about discipleship show that God has indeed chosen those of us who are Christians and set us apart to become more like Christ and to impact the lives of people around the world.
“You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you.” John 15:16
But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 1 Peter 2:9
Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? James 2:5
For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will—to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. Ephesians 1:4–6
In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory. Ephesians 1:11–14
What does it mean to be a disciple? Jesus taught that discipleship requires following him above everything else in your life. This means sacrificing the things that you hold closest in order to freely follow him.
“In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.” Luke 14:33
Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self?” Luke 9:23–25
“Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.” Matthew 10:37–39
“And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple." Luke 14:27
These are also Bible verses about discipleship that show there will be people who are not willing to give everything up to follow Jesus.
And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. Mark 10:21–22
After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. John 6:66
See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. Hebrews 3:12–13
Some have in fact already turned away to follow Satan. 1 Timothy 5:15
People who become Jesus’ disciples are not the same as they were before. These discipleship verses show that following Jesus changes our character and how we live.
To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:31–32
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:5
“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:35
“I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.” John 13:15–17
My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. John 15:12–13
That, however, is not the way of life you learned when you heard about Christ and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. Ephesians 4: 20–24
After Jesus’ resurrection, he reappeared to his disciples and revealed his glory. Before ascending into heaven, he gave his disciples the Great Commission—their ultimate calling.
Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 20:18–20 (See also Mark 16:14–18.)
This important passage contains the last four commands Jesus gave to his followers:
One of the main principles of discipleship in the Bible is that Christians are called to be lifelong learners who consistently grow and mature in their faith.
So then, brothers and sisters, stand firm and hold fast to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter. 2 Thessalonians 2:15
They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Acts 2:42
He is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ. Colossians 1:28
Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. Ephesians 4: 14–16
His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Peter 1:3–8
The primary objective of discipleship is to reproduce mature disciples who share Jesus’ life-changing love with others. They in turn will go and make disciples who will bear even more fruit!
Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Messiah. Acts 5:42
Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ. 1 Corinthians 11:1
“This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” John 15:8
Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress. Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers. 1 Timothy 4:15–16
And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others. 2 Timothy 2:2
All of these scriptures on discipleship make it clear that when pastors invest in creating disciples, people’s lives are dramatically changed as they become more like Jesus. The exponential impact of discipleship can be felt around the world.
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Over 15,000 ministries and organizations leverage The Ultimate Engagement Platform™ to easily share podcasts, sermon videos, study materials, and online Bible reading plans right to people’s smartphones, tablets, laptops, and TVs. With Subsplash Messaging, your congregation can have meaningful, personal conversations to help them become better disciples.
To find out how Subsplash can help you better disciple your followers online, let’s chat!
*All Bible verses here are from the New International Version translation unless otherwise noted.