Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20 ESV) (emphasis added)
Jesus makes it very clear what the mission of the church is; to make disciples. Discipleship is the process where we embrace the life and ethics of Jesus personally while helping others to do the same. By embracing Jesus' life I mean having faith in his work for sinners in his life, death, and resurrection. By embracing Jesus' ethics I mean embracing all he has commanded us to do, both explicitly and implicitly.
The church therefore is made up of disciples who are making disciples. Disciple making is not just about acquiring head knowledge or changing outward behavior, but responding to God's work in such a way that sanctification can be seen in all those who actively participate in the process.
But, is there an end to discipleship? How do we know when we're done? In one sense we never are. There will never come a time when we don't need to be discipled, or when we shouldn't be discipling someone else. In another sense we hit a milestone when the one being discipled is effectively discipling someone else.
So, in an important way the end, or goal, of discipleship is when the person being discipled starts discipling someone else. Which frees the one doing the discipling to do the same.
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:2 ESV)
Knowing when someone you've discipled is ready to disciple someone else will be a topic of a future post.