As human beings, we begin to look like whatever we emulate. This is what discipleship is, to follow and become like our teacher. 2 Corinthians 3:18 tells us that believers are called to be transformed into the very image of God. To do this, we must look to Jesus and emulate HIM.
Author and Bible commentator Ralph Earle wrote that as followers of Jesus, we are to be, first of all, learners. We learn from Jesus primarily in two ways; by listening to his words and by watching his example. By studying the words that he spoke we can learn the truth which will set us free. By following his example, we can learn how to live a life of beauty and blessing.
We are not only called to grow in our own relationship with God; Jesus also directed us – his followers – to make disciples. In his parting words to us in Matthew 28:18-20, known as the Great Commission, He said "...go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them ...and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely, I am with you always..."
How do we disciple others? Paul, the apostle, lays out for us how this works in 1 Corinthians 11:1 when he says, "Imitate me as I imitate Christ." This is the core of discipleship. As we grow, we set an example for others to follow, who in turn set an example for other believers.
Dietrick Bonhoeffer was a German Pastor and theologian who spoke against the atrocities of the Nazi regime during World War 2. His life of faith led to his death in Flossenburg concentration camp in 1945. He was outspoken about discipleship, defining it as "following after". Prepared to die for his beliefs, he taught that true discipleship would result in following not only Jesus’s teaching, but also his suffering.
Some Christians may think that discipleship is just for Pastors or preachers or missionaries. It is not an extra activity only for the super spiritual. The Bible is clear that we should ALL be actively engaged in pursuing spiritual maturity and investing in the growth of others. It is a natural response born from walking with Jesus.