The third myth I want to highlight is that the purpose of discipleship is to teach the new believer how to read the Bible, how to pray, how to fast, and to do all the “religious” elements of the faith. These are most certainly important but are a means to an end. I will come back to what I mean by that in a moment.
According to Matthew 28:20 the disciples were to teach the nations to obey everything Jesus commanded them. This is the purpose of discipleship, to teach us and our fellow believers together to obey Jesus’ commands.
A good interpreter of the Bible will then ask the question, “what did Jesus command us to do”; first in Matthew’s gospel and then in the other gospels and subsequently in the rest of the New Testament. Having studied Matthew’s gospel in detail, I can tell you that there is enough to be getting on with in this gospel! The Sermon on the Mount alone gives enough grist for this particular mill!
So why do we do those “religious” elements I mentioned earlier? In the light of the previous paragraph, Bible reading is an obvious one: to find out how to obey. Prayer is important because in prayer we speak to God about our lives and struggles to obey Him. We articulate our care, fears, hopes and failures. In confession we renew our fellowship with God and others when we have failed to obey. Confession is cathartic in exposing what would otherwise remain hidden. Fasting focuses our minds and helps us to listen to God’s voice. As we take time to reflection and meditate we remove other distractions and hear that still, small voice. The “religious” elements of our faith facilitate our obedience.
So, in conclusion the purpose of discipleship is to obey God. In that obedience we demonstrate to those around what it is to be in relationship to the living God, and is an invitation to those others to that same relationship. In that sense, discipleship ultimately is a missional concept.