Definition of Discipleship?

I recently got my $20 Logos coupon for Pastor Appreciation Month. There’s always a new Concordia Commentary or newly-translated volume of Luther’s Works to add to my collection, but sometimes I just like to scroll through the recent additions to see if something catches my eye. Sadly, Lutheran theology is a small portion of what they have, so you have to dig a bit for the good stuff.

In any case, I’ve been spending so much time recently studying baptism that baptism-related words, like discipleship, jump out at me. Logos had a couple of Discipleship education courses, so I was curious what they’d say. The result was about what I expected. The 10-hour course on Discipleship History and Practice never mentions baptism in any of its bullet points. The 8-hour Introducing Discipleship course has exactly 3 bullet points referencing baptism out of the 40 or so in the course.

I’m not entirely sure how the change came about in how we define discipleship. Perhaps it was part of last century’s rabid discipleship drives that boiled the faith down to the bare minimum. It isn’t all that often I see discipleship defined the way Jesus defines it: teaching and baptism. When I do see baptism associated with discipleship, it is usually just treated as a milestone, a checkbox that needs to get marked off to fulfill the requirement. I’d like to say this is solely a problem for our Reformed and Non-Denom brothers and sisters, but it isn’t.

I think this disconnect substantially affects how we think about the discipleship process. Sure, teaching is a fundamental part of it. Usually that’s in the form of various basic doctrines that needed to be imparted. The baptism half of the equation changes things by adding a whole new dimension to that teaching. Baptism gives you the template for how to live out that life of discipleship. The prophetic, priestly, and kingly vocations are yours again through your baptism into Christ. That alone, even without all of the other baptismal theology you might draw on, is enough to provide the basis for building discipleship in the church and making further disciples. Let’s start with discipleship in the same place God does and see what happens. What might a discipleship program that draws strongly on baptismal theology look like?

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