What is the Difference Between Discipleship & Development?

In this video, Justin Cofield talks about the differences between discipleship and development and why they both matter.

Definition wise, I want to talk about development for a second. I think a lot of times people use the term development and discipleship interchangeably and they’re really not.

Discipleship and development are kind of close cousins, and they really can’t accomplish much without the other. So really let’s define discipleship for a minute. Discipleship is spiritual formation. It’s kind of a one on one, helping a guy from going from Point A to Point B to Point C to as much like Jesus as they can be.

Discipleship is something that every born again believer should be doing. It’s like Christian Basics 101. You should be pouring into someone spiritually. That’s a great thing.

Development is a little bit different. Development is taking someone from Point A to Point B to Point C to their best potential in leadership. Development is focusing on someone’s leadership skills, giftings, and capacity. Development is really focused on someone’s leadership capacity and helping them become the best possible leader they can become.

I’m thinking about discipleship and development working together and there are some caveats. If you just disciple someone, if you just pour into someone spiritually, spiritual formation – maybe you teach them hermeneutics, soteriology, eschatology, and election, and you have them read their Bible from cover to cover, and you have them read Grudem’s Systematic Theology cover to cover – then you’re gonna have this guy or this gal who is a deep, deep well of spiritual information.

A deep well can really satisfy and sustain a whole city when you think about it. The problem with the well is that it takes someone to get the water out. The problem with the well is usually only one person can get that bucket in there and get that water out. You’re gonna have a human-being who is extremely well versed in the Gospel but maybe awkward socially. Maybe someone who doesn’t know how to interact with other people, doesn’t know how to pastor them, doesn’t know how to have relationships.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, if you take development and you teach someone to hone their skills, you take this prodigy – this supernova of a musician who is an incredible guitar player, pianist, maybe they’ve got some skills on strings, or maybe one of their primaries was horn and they can play all of these instruments, and they have perfect pitch, they’re really good with people and hanging out, and they can be captivating from the stage, maybe they’ve been entertaining from the stage but they don’t know anything about theology or doctrine.

They don’t know how to handle the Word of God precisely. Then you’ve got a dying star, you’ve got someone who is gonna be great for a short time but eventually, they’re gonna fizzle out because they don’t have anything inside them, so discipleship and development have to work together.

Justin Cofield

About Justin Cofield

Justin Cofield serves as Worship Pastor for The Austin Stone St. John campus, as well as the Director of Worship Development for Austin Stone Worship. He can be found on Austin's East side eating Tex-Mex with His wife and 4 kids, bass fishing on the river, or on the hunt for vintage pearl snap shirts.