Six myths of discipleship

  • Colin Marshall
  • 13 April 2015
Myth 1: Discipleship is a second stage of Christian experience, after conversion. You can be a Christian but not a disciple.

Many people think of discipleship as what happens after conversion. They think that it’s only after someone becomes a Christian that they ‘disciple’ them, by training them in the disciplines of the Christian life. In a similar way, they might think it’s possible to have church members who have been Christian for years, but never ‘discipled’.

However, the truth is that all Christians are disciples—disciples of Jesus Christ. As such, we are always on dangerous ground when we imply that there are two classes of Christians.

Myth 2: Discipleship is only for the super Christian.

This is similar to the first myth. It says discipleship is only for the super-committed Christian, and not for the normal, everyday Christian. Again, it implies there are two membership levels in the church: a small group of dedicated followers of Jesus and a vast crowd of ordinary believers. Another version of this myth might imply that it’s the ministers and/or missionaries who are true ‘disciples’.

However, the truth is that we are all called to be disciples, wherever we are. And this myth runs the danger of teaching ‘cheap grace’, a salvation that has little impact on our daily lives.

Myth 3: Discipleship is a ministry method or program.

Discipleship is often understood as a ministry strategy, like one-to-one mentoring, small group ministry, or the 12-week discipleship program. Many pastors and writers talk about ‘intentional discipleship’ to refer to these kinds of strategies and programs, drawing on the way Jesus discipled a small band, so we are using his method.

However, the truth is that genuine discipleship and disciple-making is the goal of all ministry as we proclaim the gospel of Jesus. If we reduce disciple-making to a particular method, then we wrongly assume that the other parts of our Christian life are not about making disciples.

Myth 4: Discipleship is about personal accountability to a discipler.

This myth says that discipleship is about the kind of trusted relationship where someone keeps us accountable about quiet times, church attendance or avoidance of particular sins, like pornography. While it is a blessing to be able to be open with each other about our sin and our struggles, there is a danger of pleasing the ‘discipler’ rather than Christ.

The truth is that we are already accountable to a life of devotion, repentance and discipleship to the Lord Jesus Christ.

Myth 5: Preaching is not really about discipling people.

Preaching is often understood to be more about teaching and doctrine than discipleship. This myth says that preaching is not discipleship, because it is public and widespread, rather than private and one-to-one.

However, the truth is that making disciples happens in many ways, just as Jesus made disciples as he preached to the crowds that followed him. Discipleship is about what we proclaim in every setting.

Myth 6: Making disciples is only for those with a certain gifting, temperament or ministry.

Many of our church members feel that they are not personally called to obey the Great Commission. They think that it is the work of pastors and church leaders to make disciples, and ‘ordinary Christians’ only support the work in other ways.

However, the truth is that discipleship is the entire Christian life in the service of our Lord Jesus. Which means that everyone is called to make disciples, using their gifts, context and opportunities. Everyone is called to respond to the words of Jesus in Matthew 28:19: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations ...”

This article first appeared at