Why Discipleship is Important

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Episode Synopsis

We begin a new series on being a disciple of Christ and then passing on to others what we love about knowing Him. What does the Bible teach us about discipleship? What is it? Why should we care?

Audio Transcript

Heidi: Welcome, everyone, to He Restores My Soul with Heidi Howerton and

Jani: Jani Ortlund.

A New Series: Discipleship

Heidi: It is so good as always to be with you today, in this month of August, Jani. Summer’s slowly coming to an end, it’s hard to believe that the Fall is here and school will be starting up soon. Today, we are going to begin one of the series that I have been most excited to do with Jani since you and I started the podcast. What is it been, almost two years ago? We are going to begin going through Jani’s discipleship material. And I don’t know if you knew this, Jani, but from the first day that we talked about doing the podcast, this material is what I wanted to be available to our listeners more than anything. And so I am so excited to be here as you start this new series.

Jani: I’m excited to start this new series as well, Heidi .You and I both love discipleship. You’ve been in one of my discipleship groups, then you help me lead one. You love discipleship.

Heidi: I do. I think there’s nothing sweeter than walking alongside other women and helping them get to know Jesus better and I get to know Jesus better through the process. Nothing brings my heart more joy than to see women fall more deeply in love with the Lord. I mean, our families are amazing, but right next to my family is discipleship, that sweetnesses I’m going to walk with Christ and come alongside me and then we will walk towards Christ together.

Jani: So we want to begin this new series and we want to take a couple weeks to talk about why should we disciple? And then we’ll get more into the what and how.

Heidi: Yes, you lead a year long discipleship group. Right, Jani?

Jani: Yes, I have been for a while.

Heidi: And so we’re going to take this series, we’ll first talk about, just like you said, why? And then you’ll go into the material of how you do it. And really our listeners, our prayer is that you’ll, in a way, be able to be discipled by Jani through this next year. Hear her discipleship teaching and learn from it.

But First…

Jani: Yes. And we’ll circle back to that how you all can take this podcast series and use it. We’ll circle back to that at the end, won’t we, Heidi? But I also, before we begin our meat of discipleship and why disciple, I want our listeners to know about this exciting news that we’ve mentioned. But Heidi, tell them what’s happening in your life in the next few weeks.

Heidi: Yes, in about six weeks or less, we are due with our fourth child, Abigail Joy Howerton. My heart is overflowing. I can’t believe that she’s going to be born so soon. And so as such it’s kind of a sweet sorrow because you’re getting ready to begin the discipleship, which is so wonderful and I’m getting ready to have a baby girl, which is so wonderful but that’s going to mean that I’m going to need to step back a little bit and not be able to record with you, as we kind of welcome Abby into our family. And so my heart is sad. This is one of our last few episodes, kind of more steadily, I’ll be next to you in our little studio.

Jani: Yes. So I know our listeners will miss you but we’ll be praying for you. And we’ll post updates. I’ll let our listeners know how you’re doing with little Abby when she makes her arrival.

Heidi: Yes, when the baby comes and but Jani, what a joy and privilege it’s been to sit across this table from you for two years and learn from you and see Jesus in you and grow closer to the Lord because you’ve invited me to walk alongside you. So thank you for that. And I will miss you and our listeners very much. But I look forward to popping in here in there after she’s born.

Jani: Well, thank you, Heidi, for all the time you’ve spent podcasting with me. It’s been a joy to have you as my partner. You’ve helped me understand your generation more and you’ve added so much. So thank you for all the hours you’ve spent at this microphone with me.

So why discipleship?

Jani: Now, as you told our listeners, today, we’re starting this new series that you and I are so excited about. We want to begin this new series with the question of why? Why should we disciple? Why should we spend the time talking about this? Why should our listeners think about discipleship themselves?

Jani: Well many of us hunger for meaningful Christian relationships, for being together. We come to church and we’re often looking for friendship and community. But we leave wrestling with sometimes disappointment or loneliness over those needs. Because in a church, it’s very easy to feel lost. We come in on a Sunday morning and we all look straight ahead to the preacher or up to God. Now, that’s fine, because we come to church to worship God. There could be thousands or there could be a few people in your church, it doesn’t matter how many. We’re there to enjoy God, one on one, but in a corporate setting.

Jani: But to be part of the body of Christ means getting in closer with others than we can on a Sunday morning. We all sense that, don’t we? Sunday worship is good, it’s vital, it’s biblical. But we need to go deeper with other worshipers.

3 Types of Groups

Jani: Now, how do we do that? Well think with us for a minute about the different kinds of groups there are in a church. There really are many types. But I basically narrowed them down to three different types of groups: committees, fellowship groups, or small groups, community groups, whatever your church calls them and discipleship groups.


Jani: Committees are formed when the workload gets too heavy for the leaders. We see that in Exodus 18, where Moses’ his father-in-law says,

What you are doing is not good. You and the people with you will certainly wear yourselves out for the thing is too heavy for you.”

Exodus 18:17

Jani: So they formed, in a sense, some committees to help Moses. In the New Testament, we see this in Acts 6, where they help relieve the leadership. Acts 6:1-5 talks about seven men who were chosen to serve the growing number of new believers. A committee has specific tasks. Its primary job is to function. Committees are God-ordained and let me encourage us all to be eager to serve on them. But there are dangers and there are limitations built into committees. They take and they don’t give strength back. Committees drain and deplete their members. Committees never reproduce. Actually, they kind of carry the seeds of death when their job is done. They disband. So a committee is one kind of a church group.

Fellowship Groups

Jani: Now a second kind of church group is a fellowship group. These might be small groups connected to Bible studies or particular needs, maybe divorce care or coping with grief or a new mommies group. Fellowship groups say, “I’ll teach you and you teach me.” These are good. They help build relationships and they offer encouragement and hope in our journey toward heaven. They are a wonderful part of our life together as a body. They often consist of couples meeting together. I’m in a fellowship group and I hope you’re in one as well.

Discipleship Groups

Jani: But to reproduce leadership, you need to make disciples. Christianity is a people movement. It’s passed on generation to generation, which means Christianity is only one generation away from disintegration. You see, to relieve leadership, make committees, but to reproduce leadership, you’ve got to make disciples.

Examples of discipleship throughout scripture

Jani: We see this all throughout Scripture. Can you think of some places, Heidi, in Scripture?

Moses and Joshua

Heidi: Jani, one of my favorite examples is Moses and Joshua and the relationship that they had with one another and kind of how Moses took Joshua under his wing and really trained him and discipled him to take over the leadership of Israel. Exodus 17 is a great example. It’s where Moses tells Joshua to fight the Amalekites while he and Aaron and Ur watch from the top of the hill with Moses’ hands raised. After the victory, God told Moses to write this as a memorial in a book and recite it in the ears of Joshua. Moses also, later in the book of Exodus, took Joshua up to the mountain of God as God confirmed the covenant with him. And later in chapter 33, we see their relationship again at the Tent of Meeting. When Moses turned again into the camp, his assistant Joshua, a young man, would not depart from the tent. So you see all throughout Exodus, these moments where there was Moses leading and Joshua coming up underneath him, learning from him studying from him, Moses teaching him

Jani: Being discipled.

Heidi: Exactly.

Elijah and Elisha

Jani: Moses’ disciple, Joshua. Yes. I think of Elijah with Elisha. Their relationship lasted 10 years, where Elisha assisted Elijah was near him learned from him. I see it as a very close discipleship relationship.

Jesus and His Twelve Disciples

Jani: Or, of course, we all think in the New Testament of Jesus with his disciples. If we had time, we would just like go through one of the Gospels. Even we could think of a few examples from the book of Mark where he appointed in Mark 3, it says,

“He appointed twelve, so that they might be with him.”

Mark 3

Jani: He wanted them in close with him. And then, sometimes when he was alone, those 12 would come in close. Mark 4, says this in verse 10.

“The twelve asked him about the parables.”

Mark 4:10

Jani: They had more access to Jesus, the disciples did, it was a closer relationship. Or what about in chapter 9? They asked him privately, about an unclean spirit. Wy couldn’t we do what you did Jesus? The idea being that we see here in the gospels, that the disciples had private conversations, they had more access.

Heidi: I was gonna say, in all of those examples that we’ve talked about the Old Testament and New Testament, you see again and again with the leader is with the disciples, they’re walking arm in arm, hand in hand as they go through life together.


Jani: That’s a good point. Discipleship takes time. Discipleship means planned time together. Think of Paul. One final example, with several people, John Mark was one of his disciples, or Luke, the beloved physician, or especially Timothy. So we want you to know, as you’re listening today, that this isn’t just a 20th or 21st century phenomenon. This is something that has been happening all throughout human history, where God has said, I have a leader, and I want him to bring others with him.

Heidi: And this is something that Jesus led the way for us to follow in. Jesus discipled and he invites us to become more like Him by discipling others.

Jani: Yes, we must be women who are building for the future. Oh, please hear us here. We talked about Moses. We saw how he was building for the future. But then we come to the end of Moses’ life in Deuteronomy 34. And Moses dies in Deuteronomy 34:5, it talks about,

“So Moses, the servant of the Lord died there in the land of Moab, according to the word of the Lord.”

Deuteronomy 34:5

Jani: And then the people of Israel wept for him. But right on in that very next verse, it says,

“And Joshua, the son of Nun was full of the spirit of wisdom, for Moses had laid his hands on him. So the people of Israel obeyed Him, Joshua, and did as the Lord had commanded Moses.”

Deuteronomy 34:6

Jani: So there is such a seamless transition from the book of Deuteronomy, that last verse to Joshua 1:1. That’s what we long for in our life. As I am ending my life. I want there to be a very smooth transition for the next generation. Because think, what happens, this smooth transition from Moses’s leadership to Joshua’s. Seamless. But what about when Joshua dies? Well, the end of Joshua, he makes a speech and then he dies. And what’s the next book in the Bible? You probably know it. It’s Judges. Judges 2:8-10 says this,

“And Joshua, the son of Nun, the servant of the Lord died at the age of 110 years, and they buried him within the boundaries of his inheritance. And all that generation also were gathered to their fathers, and their rose another generation after them, who did not know the Lord, or the work that he had done for Israel.”

Judges 2:8-10

Jani: What comes next? 350 years of chaos, during the time of Judges where everyone did what was right in his own eyes. I think one of the reasons is Joshua never discipled anyone to pass on the leadership to and to teach the next generation about what God had taught him. Such a difference between Moses and Joshua, and then Joshua and the Judges. You see, making disciples is not just a nifty idea someone thought up, it’s a biblical mandate. Jesus commands us. In Matthew 28, he says this. Heidi, would you read Matthew 28:19-24 to our listeners.

“Go therefore, and make disciples of all nations, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always to the end of the age.”

Matthew 28:19-24

Jani: Wow. Go. It’s a command. It’s in the imperative form. Go therefore, and make disciples. Jesus is telling us to teach others what he has taught us. Please note this, it’s not go and make disciples if you have the gift. No, this commandment applies to any and all of Jesus’s disciples. Each one of us is responsible for what we do know, we’re not responsible for what we don’t know yet, just what we do know. Jesus wants you dear listener to be part of a great chain. He wants you to leave a lasting legacy on into the coming generations. Heidi read 2 Timothy 2:2 for us.

“And what you heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also.”

2 Timothy 2:2

Jani: Alright, this is Paul telling Timothy, what you’ve heard from me, Timothy, now I want you to pass on to faithful men, who will indeed also be able to teach others. Do you see the four generations? Paul disciples Timothy. Timothy teaches and disciples others. Those others will be able to teach others also. Jesus wants this to become a way of life in his followers, so that the fullness of my life in him can be passed on to others, who in turn, can pass it on to others who in turn can pass it on to others, and so forth, until Christ comes back. And his glorious plan for mankind is culminated.

Touching Lives vs. Training people

Jani: Now, in your life, you’re going to touch many people, but you will only be able to train a few. Think of all the people your life has touched so far, family members, friends, neighbors, classmates, Bible study group members, we could go on. But God is calling us all to train a few with what he has given to us. Again, think of your life 25 years down the road. That would be in the year 2046.

Heidi: How old will you be, Jani?

Jani: Oh, my goodness, I will be 96 if I’m still here, Heidi.

Heidi: Well, you know, I said you gotta live until 100.

Jani: Well, with your help, I probably would make it. You’ve been so kind to me and helpful. Oh, my goodness, both my grandmother’s and my mom lived well into their 90s so maybe I’ll make it, we’ll see.

Jani: I don’t want to be the end of the line of what others have given to me, Heidi, you know that’s my heart’s desire. I want to leave behind a trail of women through the decades, who love Christ with all their hearts. Now, it takes time to disciple other women. A glacier, I love this, when I think about the idea of a glacier. It really seems to be accomplishing nothing. You can’t really see it moving. But an avalanche I mean, it’s really dramatic makes a huge ruckus. But a glacier creates a Yosemite or a Grand Canyon while an avalanche melts away with hardly leaving a trace after it’s gone. So don’t be worried about going slow and taking time through the years. Think out beyond today, think out beyond this week and this month, think out into your future decades into your future. The Bible says in Psalm 79:13,

“We are your people, the sheep of your pasture and we will give you thanks forever, from generation to generation.”

Psalm 79:13

Jani: That’s what we want to do. That’s the kind of people we want to be. Let’s close today, Heidi, by reading Psalm 78:1-7. Would you read Psalm 78:1-7 for us?

“Give ear, oh my people, to my teaching. Incline your ears to the words of my mouth. I will open my mouth in a parable. I will utter dark sayings from of old. Things that we have heard and known that our fathers have told us. We will not hide them from their children, but tell to the coming generation, the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might, and the wonders that he has done. He established a testimony in Jacob and appointed a law in Israel which he commanded our fathers to teach their children that the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn, and arise and tell them to their children, so that they should set their hope and God and not forget the works of God, but keep His commandments.”

Psalm 78:1-7

This is why we disciple

Jani: I love these verses. I think they’re so important when we’re talking about why disciple. Why disciple? So people can set their hope in God and not themselves. Why disciple? Because God has given us many examples in both the Old and the New Testament. This is how he passes on his faith into other generations. His works, the wonders that he has done, the stories about him. We’re not to hide them, we’re to tell the coming generations the glorious deeds and his might and the wonders he has done, that the children yet unborn, will hear of our stories, how he lived in our lives in reality, and truth and power and grace. And the ultimate reason why is so that the next generation will set their hope in God and not forget.

Jani: You see, we have this wonderful responsibility from our Lord and Savior Jesus. He says, go and make disciples. That’s our privilege. That’s why we do it. Because we’re obeying Jesus.

Practical ways for you to respond

Jani: Now, over the next few weeks, we want to talk a little bit more with some introductory comments about discipleship. But Heidi, and I want to end today’s podcast here, and we want to convince you that discipleship is for you. Now what we’re going to be doing is sharing how to disciple. And so Heidi and I are encouraging you to begin praying about how you should respond to this podcast and the ones that follow it.

Jani: There are a couple different ways you could respond. One is, you could just listen to it yourself. Take it in and be discipled through the podcast, just follow along week by week, yourself. But it would be so much better, so much deeper, richer, more meaningful if you could gather some other people with you.

Jani: Here’s what you could do. Maybe you have a friend, that you could say, “Hey, I’ve been listening to this podcast, and they’re going to be talking about discipleship and we’re encouraged to gather a friend or two with us and do it together. Would you be willing to listen to the first two or three with me and see if you’d like to enter in?”

Jani: Or, if you are a mom and you don’t have time to do that, listen to the podcast and disciple your children. They should be your first and foremost disciples. If you’re a grandmother and you live near your granddaughter, perhaps you could disciple them through this, you could listen together. Or you could go to your pastor and say, “Hey, I’m listening to this podcast about discipleship. And I’d love to have a couple women listen to it with me. Are there some women in our church that you think need a new friend, I could invite?” Or even your youth pastor, we’ve been in youth ministry before your youth pastor will kiss the ground you walk on, if you come up to him and say, “Hey, youth pastor, I have an idea. Are there any middle school girls two or three or maybe some high school girls two or three that I could meet with once a week and go through a discipleship podcast series that I’m listening to and we could enter into it together?”

Jani: Do you see what Heidi and I are asking of you? Pray, ask the Lord, for someone to do this with, for someone to listen with.

Heidi: Our heart in this series is that you would have the opportunity to be discipled if even in a small way by Jani and then that you’d also be able to gather your children with you or your grandchildren or other women and have the opportunity for them to be discipled by Jani and also for them to be discipled by you, for you to share. I love it, how you said Jani, that God wants us to share what we do know. We all know something. The Lord is teaching us things week by week through scripture, through church, through His Word. And we all have something that we can give to the next generation. And so we would so much love for you to learn from Jani in this series, and also for you to grow deeper in a discipleship relationship with other women through this series as well.

Jani: So welcome to our new series. Heidi and I are praying that God will use it to restore your soul. God bless you.

Thank You

Thank you for joining us today. This podcast is generously funded through Renewal Ministries. If you would like to discover more about Jani and Ray’s ministry or make a donation, visit their website at renewalministries.com. If you have a question for Jani or would like to learn more about this podcast, please visit our website at herestoresmysoul.org.

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He Restores My Soul with Jani Ortlund seeks to encourage women with God’s renewing power for their busy lives. Episodes include relevant biblical teaching, stimulating gospel conversations with other Christians, and “Ask Jani” sessions where we talk about what’s on our listeners’ hearts.

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