What do you think of when you hear these words: discipleship and stewardship? For some churches, discipleship is paired with training and Bible study emphases. For others, discipleship is paired with lifestyle and/or organizational emphases. Stewardship is less straight-forward. For some churches, stewardship is brought up in a once or twice annual sermon to boost giving. For others, stewardship is term in the Bible that describes Paul’s responsibility as an apostle (usually with little practical or relevant application — it’s a term like propitiation). But for many, stewardship equals “you should be tithing” or “capital campaign.” So, what should you think of when you hear “discipleship and stewardship?”
Discipleship and Stewardship Defined
Disclaimer: these are quick-sketch definitions meant to be a place to work from and not the end-all, be-all definitions for Discipleship and Stewardship. Here’s what I think of when I hear “discipleship and stewardship.”
Discipleship – the process of training a student to become like the teacher.
Stewardship – the process of managing another’s assets in their behalf.
So, how are Discipleship and Stewardship related?
Discipleship and stewardship are straightforward and interrelated: Learn the Way*, Teach the Way, and practice the Way.
Learn and Teach the Way
A disciple of Jesus is a believer who is learning to walk in obedience to the commands of Christ. Obedience to Christ is believing that leads to doing. A person who knows the will of God and does not do it is not a true believer. Discipleship is a process of imitation. Paul instructed his students to imitate him, as he imitated Christ. While there is much to be gained in instruction and study, real discipleship happens at the level of repeating patterns. Christ is our example to follow.
Practice the Way
Jesus has entrusted his disciples with more than just a philosophy; he has entrusted them with his physical and spiritual property that he expects us use for his kingdom. Stewardship is the practical result of discipleship — it’s discipleship in action! When we evangelize, we’re stewarding the gospel. When we’re generous with our resources, we’re stewarding God’s provisions. When we invest time in discipling others, we’re stewarding the teaching we’ve received. Stewardship is the practice of using what God has given to us — spiritually, mentally, and physically.
Every Believer a Disciple, Every Believer a Steward
Whoa. Every believer? Yes, every believer is from the moment of salvation a disciple and a steward. We’re all responsible for learning obedience and walking in obedience. You may be thinking: “Isn’t that only for the super-Christians? You know, ministers and missionaries?” Nope. It’s for all believers. Every believer is indwelt by the Holy Spirit, and He grows and trains them. If you’ve stuck with me to the end, I want you to remember two things:
- We’re all called to learn the Way, teach the Way, and practice the Way
- It is possible for you to become mature, successful disciple-stewards.
*The Way is what Paul and others called Christianity before it became known as Christianity (Acts 9, Acts 22). This should not be confused with various modern cults such as those who call themselves “Followers of the Way.”
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