The Eastbourne Consultation Joint
Statement on Discipleship
International Consultation on Discipleship
September 24, 1999
When our Lord Jesus was about to ascend into heaven, He commissioned His followers to go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them, and teaching them to obey everything He had commanded them (Matthew28:18-20). This comprises the mission given to His people today.
Given that this is our mission, it is of absolute and critical importance that we understand just what Jesus was commanding us to do. Jesus said, "?anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple" (Luke 14:27). Thus, Jesus made it clear that true discipleship, at its very core, is a matter of the heart, and a matter of radical submission to His Lordship.
Acknowledgment of the Need
As we face the new millenium, we acknowledge that the state of the Church is marked by a paradox of growth without depth. Our zeal to go wider has not been matched by a commitment to go deeper. Researchers and pollsters have documented the fact that many times:
- Christians are not that different from the culture around them. When the desert wind blows, it shapes the sand, and the Church has become more like the sand than the wind.
- We grieve that many within the Church are not living lives of biblical purity, integrity and holiness. The need is in the pulpit and pew alike.
- The lack of true discipleship has resulted in a lack of power in the Church to impact our culture.
Definition of Discipleship
???? While there are valid differences of perspective on what constitutes discipleship, we define Christian discipleship as a process that takes place within accountable relationships over a period of time for the purpose of bringing believers to spiritual maturity in Christ. Biblical examples suggest that discipleship is both relational and intentional, both a position and a process. We become disciples by turning from sin through repentance and turning to God through faith. The process of discipleship is played out in a vital life-giving relationship to God that enables us to walk in the light as He is in the light, and do the will of the Father (1 John 1:7; John 4:34). Jesus said if we hold to His teaching, then we are really His disciples (John 8:31), and we demonstrate this through loving one another (John 13:34-35).
The Marks of a Disciple
Although the process of identifying effective discipleship tools or methods is affected by the culture and setting, we affirm that
- the life of a disciple is marked by submission to Christ. Jesus said that we cannot be His disciples unless we give up our very lives (Luke 14:27).
- the marks of true repentance in the life of a disciple are evidenced by ongoing transformation, personal holiness, compassionate service, and the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22).
We acknowledge that perfection will not be achieved until we see Him face to face. True disciples do fail and are marked by humble repentance in response to personal failure, but recognize God's forgiveness and restoration in the journey.
In recognition of the state of the Church and the biblical mandate to make disciples of all nations (Matt. 28:18-20), personally and corporately, we
- call the Church and commit ourselves to preaching the Gospel and making disciples among all peoples in all nations.
- will not water down the cost of discipleship in order to increase the number of converts. We acknowledge that part of making disciples is teaching people to obey everything that Jesus commanded.
- acknowledge that a local church is the primary community within which discipleship should take place.
- will pursue the process of discipleship just as purposefully as the proclamation of the Gospel. Evangelism and discipleship must be seen as integral.
- will strive to submit ourselves to Christ as Lord in every area of our lives, recognizing that we are subjects in the Kingdom of God.
- acknowledge that prayer and worship, study and teaching of the Bible, fellowship in the context of God?s people, and personal accountability are necessary elements of spiritual growth. We recommit ourselves to exercising these disciplines as part of a life of discipleship.
- affirm unreservedly the uniqueness of Christ as the one name under heaven whereby we must be saved, the only mediator between God and man (Acts 4:12; 1 Timothy 2:5-6; John 14:6), but we resist the temptation to define simplistic solutions that suggest there is only on method of growing in Christian maturity.
- recognize that different people and different cultures have different learning and communication styles. We must accommodate those styles in our efforts to make disciples, and address the unique needs of men, women, young people and children.
- commit to follow the model of our Lord who lived His life with His disciples, and affirm the vital role of mentoring in the discipleship process.
- call churches to rigorously assess their existing structures and processes to determine if they provide the most effective means of making disciples.
- commit to beginning the discipleship process as early in life as possible, recognizing that large numbers of people come to faith as children and youth (2 Timothy 3:14-5).
- acknowledge that discipleship resources, including Bibles, are not readily available to large numbers of God?s people in some countries of the world. We commit to doing all we can to make these resources available to those who need them.
- refocus on Christ and Christ-likeness as revealed in Scripture. He is the perfect pattern for our discipleship, and by living as His disciples we bear fruit and bring glory to the Father (John 15:8).
- affirm the role of the Holy Spirit as our teacher, and the One by whom we are led into all truth (John 14:26; John 16:13). The Holy Spirit convicts, guides, and empowers us in the process of discipleship.
- acknowledge the need for our faith in Christ to impact our societies: our families, our workplaces, our communities and our nations, thus becoming salt and light in a dark world (Matt. 5:14-16).