The Christian faith community regards the making of disciples as a prime directive of Jesus himself, though this theme is not dominant in contemporary models of teaching in the church. This investigation seeks to develop a theory of discipling and to test its congruence as an effective educational strategy with the objectives of modern Christian faith communities.
After briefly examining the discipling model of teaching as practiced in the world of the Ancient Near East, a detailed study of New Testament texts investigates the practice of discipling by Jesus and his followers and in the church of the first century. An understanding of the concept of discipling is gained by gradually refining its definition as the study progresses through a contemporary examination of other informal models of education. Religious and educational research findings are explored to enable the validity of the discipling model to be determined. Finally, the definition is used as a benchmark to examine various contemporary educational theories within the community of faith.
In contrast to the schooling model, discipling has been shown to be an effective model for teaching attitudes, values, and behavior as well as knowledge and beliefs in today's church. Its emphasis on commitment to learning relationships within a nurturing community and active involvement in the mission of Christ to the world, and its capacity to adapt to differences in age, culture, ability, and interests, make it a model of teaching worthy of much greater attention by the Christian faith community.