Christ in Discipleship Submitted to Liberty University in partial requirement for DSM 500 Discipleship Ministries

by Joyce Gerald

October 21, 2014



Introduction. 1

Importance of the Centrality of Christ in Christian Discipleship. 1

Obedience and the Discipleship of Christ 2

The Three Stages of Discipleship. 4

Stage One: Declaration. 4

Stage TwoDevelopment 5

Stage Three: Deployment 5

Conclusion. 6





The author of this paper details the importance of the centrality of Christ in Christian discipleship and obedience to the will of Christ and how it reflects the discipleship as dictated by Christ. The author will proffer areas that a disciple must submit to the authority of Christ. Finally, the author will outline and expand on the stages of discipleship presented by Dave Earley and Rod Dempsey in the textbook.

Importance of the Centrality of Christ in Christian Discipleship

The message of the great commission encompasses the deity of Christ and the manner in which he commissioned His disciples. According to Schreiner, the Pauline theology was Christ-focused and Christ-centered.[1] Every focus of his ministry pointed towards Christ; he worked, lived, and preached all for the glory of Christ.[2] Schreiner declared,


When we think of Pauline theology, I think we need to focus on what is most important in Paul’s theology.  And the focus, I would argue, is on God and Jesus Christ.  Paul’s theology is God-centered and Christ-centered.  We think here of Romans 11:36, speaking of God: “For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things.”  So, Paul’s theology is focused on God, the One from whom all things come and through whom all things are accomplished.  And ultimately all things are for His glory.  In Pauline theology God is the center of that theology.[3]


Thus, Christians are notified that Christ is the central figure of the gospel. The disciple and discipled, must comprehend, live by, and maintain Christ as the focal point of their lives and commission.[4] Delio portrayed the centrality of Christ as, “True knowledge. . . [that is embodied in] the person of Jesus Christ.[5] It is essential that the disciple affirms and believes this construct before the process of discipleship begins. Horton, as interviewed by Galli for Christianity today, confirmed that “The gospel is not good instructions, not a good idea, and not good advice. The gospel is an announcement of what God has done for us in Jesus Christ.”[6]

Earley and Dempsey present the importance of Christ and a focus on Him as the main thrust of discipleship, “However, when we focus on Jesus and on what He did and how He did it, certain things come into focus.”[7] The main thing that enters into focus for the believer is obedience to Christ and the purity of the commission that he handed to his disciples.[8] The Apostle Paul made this point clear when he stated, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile” (Romans 1:16 NIV).[9] Presenting Christ as the central theme of the gospel is simply an act of obedience to the Great Commission.

Obedience and the Discipleship of Christ


Dave Earley and Rod Dempsey postulates that obedience to the will and words of Christ is the central point of being a disciple.[10] Earley and Dempsey also present the argument that in order for a Christian to disciple others they must first be a disciple themselves; obeying all that Christ commanded.[11] It is worth noting what Earley and Dempsey stated, “Before you can be a disciple, you need to begin obeying everything Jesus commanded.”[12] The authors then posed the question, “Do you even know everything Jesus commanded?”[13] Therefore, obedience is hinged on knowing what Christ commanded, then adhering to those commands.

Accordingly, David Wells declares that discipleship of the modern world, on a global basis, is only possible when obedience to the purity and truth of the gospel is realized in the great commission.[14]  Consequently, it is not possible to participate in discipleship without absolute obedience to the dictates of The Lord.  For a disciple to do this they must be willing to submit every area of their lives over to The Lord (I Peter 5:6 and James 4:7). As a follower of Jesus Christ we must be willing to live by the example of submission to the will of the Father (Luke 22:42).

Earley and Dempsey express that the areas of a disciple’s life that require submission to Christ are, “commitment, trust, obedience . . . learning, and taking the next step of faith”.[15] This implies letting go of one’s self and allowing the Holy Spirit to take control. A disciple must embrace the construct of being a “learner or “follower”.[16]  A learner admits that they are not in control of the learning environment.  A learner understands that skills acquisition requires time and effort on their part and a learner is cognizant of the end product of learning.  In this case of a disciple of Christ the end product is the Great Commission; for modern day disciples, the Great Commission is disciplining others for their entrance into The Kingdom of God.[17]  Furthermore, Putman, Harrington and Coleman detailed the four spheres in which a disciple must demonstrate growth [or submit to Christ, because growth in a Christian only comes through submission].[18] (1) The centrality of a relationship with God; (2) Relationships within the Family of God, [church attendance etc.,]; (3) Relationships at home [Christ becomes the head of the home], and (4) Relationships with the world [witnessing to the world as the disciple lives his life].[19] What are the specific stages of discipleship and how does a disciple inculcate them into the discipleship process?

The Three Stages of Discipleship

Stage One: Declaration

The stage of declaration is the first step of obedience to God’s calling on a believer’s life. It requires the new believer to begin the process of “investigating” who and what Jesus Christ is, repenting, believing in his deity, and learning what he requires of them.[20] Although John 3:16 declares God’s love for mankind it is not enough to just believe that statement.  The believer must take the next step and ascertain what it means for them personally. John 3:36 states, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them”. What does this rejection mean to a new believer?  John 15:10 tells the believer that if they keep his commandments then they will remain in his love. John 14:21-24 reiterates this sentiment but goes further by stating, “Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me.” The believer can conclude that rejection Christ would be to reject his commandments.  Rejecting his commandments is an act of willful disobedience and a display of a lack of love for The Redeemer. Disobedience to the commands of Christ will hinder the second stage of discipleship.

Stage TwoDevelopment

The second stage of discipleship is development and the act of obedience to the call of God on a disciple’s life.  This stage implores the believer to begin the process of transformation that Paul speaks of in Romans 12:1-2. The transformation of the new believer will only take place when the believer is engaged in the act “the renewing. . . [their] mind” Ro 12:2. Dempsey and Early identified this stage as the steps of immersion into a deeper relationship with Christ [by talking to him daily in prayer];  into the Christian Community[by spending time with other believers]; into the word of God [through intense Bible study], and finally immersion into ministry itself.[21] Each of these stages requires obedience to the disciplines of prayer, Bible study, and gathering together with the saints as described in Hebrews 10:25.  Negating any of these areas as a disciple of Christ is a demonstration of disobedience. The stages of development and transformation do not complete the process of discipleship  Without the stage of deployment the process comes to a halt.

Stage Three: Deployment

During the deployment stage, obedience to Christ dictates that the disciple is expected to begin and maintain the process of intentionally following the great commission of Matthew 28:18-20.[22]  Earley and Dempsey affirmed that “its [the church’s] mission is not the invention, responsibility, or program of human origin. It flows from the character and purposes of God.”[23]

What this looks like is different for each disciple.  It could be a calling to the ministry, or only reaching out on a daily basis to every person that one meets to tell them of the redemptive act of Jesus Christ. In either case, the disciple does not keep the act of redemption to themselves.  They go forward in their sphere of influence and declare who Jesus is to any and everyone who will listen. Not all believers are called to the position of a pastor; however, all believers are called to minister to others and to the act of teaching others how to follow Christ.


            The author discussed the importance of the centrality of Christ in Christian discipleship. Discipleship in centered in Christ and the Gospel of the Kingdom of God and nothing else. A disciple of Christ demonstrates obedience to His will and that obedience is reflected in how the disciple obeys His commandments. Finally, the author outlined and expanded on the three stages of discipleship; Stage one required investigation into Christ and culminated in repentance, belief, and obedience to follow his directives for their lives. Stage two declared the expectation of transformation from what one was to becoming immersed in Christ, the church community, and finally into ministry itself.  The final stage of deployment is actively carrying out the great commission.  Reaching others for the kingdom of God according to the calling that God has placed on a believer’s life is an essential part of the transformed life.  Not all believers are called to the position of pastor, but all believers are called to minister to others through discipleship. 


Delio, Ilia. “Theology, Metaphysics, and the Centrality of Christ.” Theological Studies 68, no. 2 (June 1, 2007): 254-73. Accessed October 22, 2014. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost.

Earley, Dave, and Rod Dempsey. Disciple Making Is–: How to Live the Great Commission with Passion and Confidence. Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2013. Kindle.

Galli, Mark. “Christ at the Center.” Christianity Today 53, no. 11 (November 2009): 47. Accessed October 22, 2014.

Putman, Jim, Bobby Harrington, and Robert E. Coleman. DiscipleShift: Five Steps That Help Your Church to Make Disciples Who Make Disciples. Grand Rapids: MI: Zondervan, 2013.

Schreiner, Tom. “Centrality of Christ and God in Paul’s Theology.” Accessed October 21, 2014.

Webber, Malcolm. “The Centrality of Christ.” Ministry Today Magazine. September 2014. Accessed October 21, 2014.

Wells, David F. “Christian Discipleship In a Postmodern World.” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 51, no. 1 (March 2008): 19-33. Accessed October 21, 2014.


[1] Tom Schreiner, “Centrality of Christ and God in Paul’s Theology,”, accessed October 21, 2014,

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Malcolm Webber, “The Centrality of Christ,” Ministry Today Magazine, September 2014, “Conclusion,” accessed October 21, 2014,

[5] Ilia Delio, “Theology, Metaphysics, and the Centrality of Christ,” Theological Studies 68, no. 2 (June 1, 2007): 267, accessed October 22, 2014, ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost.

[6] Mark Galli, “Christ at the Center,” Christianity Today 53, no. 11 (November 2009): 47, accessed October 22, 2014,

[7] Dave Earley and Rod Dempsey, Disciple Making Is…: How to Live the Great Commission with Passion and Confidence (Nashville, TN: B & H Publishing Group, 2013), Loc., 822, Kindle.

[8] Ibid., Loc., 832, Kindle.

[9] Unless otherwise noted, all biblical passages referenced are in the New International Version (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2009).

[10] Dave Earley and Rod Dempsey, Disciple Making Is…, Loc. 856, Kindle.

[11] Ibid., Loc. 858, Kindle.

[12] Ibid., Loc. 870, Kindle.

[13] Ibid., Loc. 874, Kindle.

[14] David F. Wells, “Christian Discipleship in a Postmodern World,” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 51, no. 1 (March 2008): 33, accessed October 21, 2014,

[15] Dave Earley and Rod Dempsey, Disciple Making Is…, Loc. 1037, Kindle.

[16] Ibid.

[17] Ibid., Loc. 1048, Kindle.

[18] Jim Putman, Bobby Harrington, and Robert E. Coleman, DiscipleShift: Five Steps That Help Your Church to Make Disciples Who Make Disciples (Grand Rapids: MI: Zondervan, 2013), 78-90.

[19] Ibid., 89-91.

[20] Dave Earley and Rod Dempsey, Disciple Making Is…, Loc. 1059, Kindle.

[21] Ibid., Loc. 1199-1347, Kindle.

[22] Ibid., Loc. 1382, Kindle.

[23] Ibid., Loc. 1393, Kindle.


Comments are closed.

You Are Not The Only One

Unless otherwise cited devotionals and posts on this page are the property of Joyce Gerald.

You-Tube Videos are not the property of this blog.

%d bloggers like this: