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  • Writer's pictureDarrell Stetler II

Sermon Illustrations on Discipleship

Updated: Mar 3

Below, you'll find a selection of preaching illustrations on discipleship. You can click for another post on discipleship sermon ideas.

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Introduction to Sermon illustrations on discipleship

What are sermon illustrations?

Sermon illustrations are anecdotes, stories, examples, or metaphors that pastors or preachers use to make their messages more relatable and engaging for their audience.

As someone said, "Sermon illustrations are like the windows of your message. They let in more light, so people can see your point clearly."

The purpose of these illustrations is to help clarify and reinforce the main points of a sermon, making the message more memorable and applicable to the lives of the listeners. This is accomplished by appealing to the imagination, as the God-given way of grasping meaning and activating emotion.

Where to find Illustrations:

Sermon illustrations can be drawn from various sources, including personal experiences, historical events or people, literature, current events, or everyday occurrences. They are used to connect the biblical teachings to the practical aspects of life, providing context and application for the congregation.

What makes a good sermon illustration?

Effective sermon illustrations often have the following characteristics:

  1. Relevance: They should be relevant to the main theme or point of the sermon.

  2. Clarity: Illustrations should be easy to understand, ensuring that the congregation grasps the intended message.

  3. Engagement: They should capture the audience's attention and maintain their interest throughout the sermon.

  4. Authenticity: Personal stories or experiences can add authenticity and make the message more relatable.

  5. Memorability: A good illustration helps people remember the key points of the sermon.

  6. Emotion: A good illustration should tap into emotion by subverting expectations or connecting to deeply held values.

How to use these illustrations:

It's important for preachers to use illustrations judiciously and in a way that enhances the overall impact of the sermon rather than detracting from it. Respecting the audience by choosing illustrations that resonate with them can contribute to the effectiveness of the message.

Illustrations on Discipleship for preaching

"Your building is nice, but where is your MAN?" (Mentoring)

"Where is your man?" That's the question with which Professor Howard Hendricks of Dallas Theological Seminary challenged me at a pastor's conference in Gatlinburg, TN in the early 1980s... Dr. Hendricks said that when he was invited as a guest speaker in churches where graduates of the seminary were pastors, he was often led on a tour of the church buildings. "If you've seen one Sunday School room, you've seen them all!" Dr. Hendricks often said... "So I began asking these pastors, 'Where is your MAN? Your church building is nice, but I'm more concerned about the men in whom you are investing your life!" (Source: Randall Faulkner, From "Meeting the Dawn at Jimmy's Egg," a book on discipleship)

Quote on Discipleship and the local church from Tim Keller

“The glory of God is available to you in the church in a way it’s not available to you anywhere else. . . . There is no more important means of discipleship than deep involvement in the life of the church.” (Tim Keller, quoted here.)

Quote on Christian community and discipleship from John Stott

We come into this world totally dependent on the love, care and protection of others. We go through a phase of life when other people depend on us. And most of us will go out of this world totally dependent on the love and care of others. And this is not an evil, destructive reality. It is part of the design, part of the physical nature that God has given us.

I sometimes hear old people, including Christian people who should know better, say, "I don’t want to be a burden to anyone else. I’m happy to carry on living so long as I can look after myself, but as soon as I become a burden I would rather die." But this is wrong. We are all designed to be a burden to others. You are designed to be a burden to me and I am designed to be a burden to you. And the life of the family, including the life of the local church family, should be one of "mutual burdensomeness." "Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ" (Galatians 6:2).”" (Source: John Stott, The Radical Disciple)

Quote on self-sacrifice and discipleship

“When we say we want to be the hands and feet of Jesus, we need to remember what happened to the hands and feet of Jesus.” (Trevin Wax, The Thrill of Orthodoxy)

Stay where the water is rough: Discipleship and risk

"My brothers and I had traveled to the western edge of Zimbabwe to raft the Zambezi River. We boarded our raft at the base of the Victoria Falls....

"Our guide [said], 'When the raft flips …' There was no 'If the raft flips' or 'Or on the off chance we get flipped.' But 'When the raft flips.' He went on, '… stay in the rough water. You will be tempted to swim toward the stagnate water at the edge of the banks. Don't do it. Because it is in the stagnate water that the crocs wait for you. They are large and hungry. Even when the raft flips, stay in the rough water.'

"Stagnancy will kill your spirit …. The church of tomorrow must resist stagnancy. God needs us out there in the rough waters, pouring our lives into people …. Live in the whitewater. Live where it's just a little bit uncertain and unsafe."  (Source: Palmer Chinchen, PhD, True Religion, David C. Cook, 2010)

Steve Harvey not really developed as a Christian, needs discipled

"I’m a Christian, but I’m really undeveloped," (Steve) Harvey began. "I don’t have high-level Christianity. On a scale of 1 to 10, I’m like a 2. That’s the level of Christianity I can work on." (Source: Steve Harvey, interview)

Dallas Willard on the American church not doing discipleship

For at least several decades the churches of the Western world have not made discipleship a condition of being a Christian. One is not required to be, or to intend to be, a disciple in order to become a Christian, and one may remain a Christian without any signs of progress toward or in discipleship…. So far as the visible Christian institutions of our day are concerned, discipleship is clearly optional. (Dallas Willard, The Great Omission)

On The Methodist Class meeting as a means of discipleship:

In the beginning the Class Meeting was not primarily a discipleship tool, but a way to raise much needed finances. On February 15, 1742 Wesley met with the Society in Bristol England to discuss how to pay off a loan on the preaching-house and cover its frequent repair costs. A sea captain named Foy presented an idea that led to the Class Meeting: “Let everyone in the Society give a penny a week, and it will easily be done.” It was suggested that this might be a problem because not everyone could afford to give a penny. Captain Foy said, “Then put ten or twelve to me, and I will supply what is wanting [lacking].” He volunteered to call upon these “ten or twelve” each week, and if they could not pay, he would pay for them.

Other leaders at the Society agreed to do the same. But as they visited their people, they discovered many problems. Soon their collecting became more pastoral in nature as the leaders realized the needs of those they visited. Before long, the leaders invited those they visited to meet with them in a “class.”

Captain Foy’s suggestion helped to solve a financial crisis at the Bristol Society, but more importantly it helped establish a system where fellow believers would help to bear one another’s burdens in Christian love. Wesley realized the potential that this system presented, and he wrote later: “This is the very thing we wanted. The Leaders are the person who may not only receive the contributions, but also watch over the souls of their brethren.” (Rev. Jon Earls:

Matt Friedeman on discipleship in 5Q

Hal Perkins has said that if a layperson will pursue this kind of disciple-making effort for ten years, that layperson will have a far greater impact on a congregation (and probably more than a single congregation) than the vast majority of full-time pastors.  I am now in my fourth decade of pastoring and have seen many colleagues come and go. Further, I have had the opportunity to teach thousands of seminary students.  Hal is right.  Whoever takes this discipleship vision and ardently runs with it will have dramatic impact. (Source: Matt Friedeman, 5Q Discipleship)

"You teach him!" Dawson Trotman quote on disciples making disciples

'In 1933, Dawson Trotman, founder of The Navigators, began teaching sailor Les Spencer the principles of Christian growth. They spent many hours together in Bible study, Scripture memorization and prayer. A shipmate of Spencer's soon asked him about the secret of his changed life. Spencer brought the new man to Trotman and said, "Teach him what you taught me!" Trotman"s answer –"You teach him!" – was the beginning of The Navigators.

Spencer did teach the second sailor, and the two in turn reached others. Soon, 125 men on board the USS West Virginia were growing in Christ and actively sharing their faith. By the end of World War II, men on a thousand ships and military bases had surrendered their lives to Christ and were learning the principles of Christian discipleship as a result of The Navigators" ministry.

After the war, the ministry of The Navigators expanded to college campuses (the first at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln in 1958) and numerous communities throughout the U.S. In 1948, the first overseas Navigator missionary was sent to China. Others soon followed to Europe, Asia, Australia, the Middle East, Africa, and Latin America.

Today, tens of thousands of individuals worldwide are being reached for Christ as the work of The Navigators grows. Internationally, more than 4,000 Navigator staff of 64 nationalities serve in more than 100 countries around the world A heart for individuals continues to motivate us to teach on a one-to-one basis. Our ultimate goal is to equip them to fulfill 2 Timothy 2:2—to teach what they have learned to others. (Source: Our history, The Navigators)

Forget about "God's Will for My Life" - Francis Chan Quote on choosing discipleship today

“I think a lot of us need to forget about ‘God’s will for my life’. God cares more about our response to His Spirit’s leading today, in this moment, than about what we intend to do next year. In fact, the decisions we will make next year will be profoundly affected by the degree to which we submit to the Spirit right now, in today’s decisions. It is easy to use the phrase ‘God’s will for my life’ as an excuse for inaction or even disobedience. It is much less demanding to think about God’s will for your future than it is to ask Him what He wants you to do in the next ten minutes. It’s safer to commit to following Him ‘someday’ instead of ‘this day’.” (Francis Chan, Forgotten God)

A Communist young man talks about his commitment level:

Consider this passionate confession by a young adherent to communism expressing his radical allegiance to the Communist Party:

We Communists have a high casualty rate. We’re the ones who get slandered and ridiculed and fired from our jobs and in every other way made as uncomfortable as possible. A certain percentage of us get killed or imprisoned. We live in virtual poverty. We turn back to the Party every penny we make above what is absolutely necessary to keep us alive. 

We Communists don’t have time or the money for many movies or concerts or T-bone steaks or decent homes and new cars. We’ve been described as fanatics. We are fanatics! Our lives are dominated by one great overshadowing factor, the struggle for World Communism. 

We Communists have a philosophy of life which no amount of money could buy. We have a cause to fight for, a definite purpose in life. We subordinate our petty, personal selves into a great movement of humanity. And if our personal lives seem hard or our egos appear to suffer through subordination to the Party, then we are adequately compensated by the fact that each of us in his small way is contributing to something new and true and better for mankind. The Communist cause is my life, my business, my religion, my hobby, my sweetheart, my wife and mistress, my bread and meat. I work at it in the daytime and dream of it at night. Its hold on me grows, not lessens, as time goes on. 

Therefore, I cannot carry on a friendship, a love affair, or even a conversation without relating it to this force which both guides and drives my life. I evaluate people, books, ideas and actions according to how they affect the Communist cause and by their attitude toward it. I’ve already been in jail because of my ideas, and if necessary, I’m ready to go before a firing squad. (Source: Article by Keith Green quoted by Frank Viola in Insurgence)

John MacArthur telling the story of John Bunyan's discipleship

John Bunyan knew all about this, only in a kind of a special way. They told John Bunyan to quit preaching, but he said - I cannot quit preaching because God has called me to preach. And they said - "If you preach we'll put you in prison." And so he said to himself, "If I go to prison who cares for my family? But how can I close my mouth when God has called me to preach?"

And so he committed his family to the care of God and was obedient to the call of God and preached, and they put him in prison. And since then he's blessed millions of families because it was there that he wrote PILGRIM'S PROGRESS.

Listen to what he said: "The parting with my wife and poor children hath often been to me in this place, as the pulling of the flesh from my bones; and that not only because I am somewhat too fond of these great mercies, but also because I should have often brought to my mind the many hardships, miseries, and wants that my poor family was like to meet with, should I be taken from them, especially my poor blind child, who lay nearer my heart than all I have besides. O the thought of the hardship I thought my blind one might go under, would break my heart to pieces...But yet, recalling myself, thought I, I must venture all with God, though it goeth to the quick to leave you; O I saw in this condition, I was a man who was pulling down his house upon the head of his wife and children; yet thought I, I must do it, I must do it." (Source: John MacArthur sermon,

Illustration of The Power of Focus In Life and Discipleship

Gary Keller’s book, The ONE Thing, makes a great case for the power of focus. Keller’s main point is that when we find out that one thing we should be doing and do it well, our life begins to fall into place. He gives an example Lorne Whitehead wrote in the American Journal of Physics. (The One Thing, pp.13-15) Whitehead noted that one domino could not only knock over another domino of similar weight. It could in fact knock over something that was 50 percent larger. By simply doing the math, it would only take a mere ten dominoes to knock over a human being, 18 dominoes to knock over the Leaning Tower of Pisa, 31 dominos to eclipses Mount Everest, and 57 dominos to bridge the entire distance from the earth to the moon. Incredibly, through the power of chain reaction one 2 inch domino could potentially bring down an entire building 15 billion inches in height. One domino can make a major impact.

            While taking several years of the original Biblical languages in college, I had to learn about a specific verb tense in Koine Greek called the perfect tense, which does not exist in the English vocabulary. The perfect speaks of an action that has been completed in the past but the results of that action are ongoing into the future. The greatest example of this is found in John 19:30 when Jesus uttered those famous last words on the cross, “It is finished.” In this phrase, John uses the Greek word telos in the perfect tense to signify Christ’s death had indeed occurred but that the results of this death would have major implications for the future. One decision to die was highly significant for billions of people.

            When you make a genuine commitment to follow Jesus, you are making a “perfect tense decision.” You are completing an action that will significantly change the course of your life. While, like the domino, that decision may seem small, the results of this decision will multiply far beyond anything you could originally imagine.

(Source: Unknown, quoting Gary Keller’s book, The ONE Thing)

Illustration on Discipleship, choices and willpower, and the cost of busyness & distraction:

Psychologists know that most of our choices are made on autopilot, without any real awareness of what’s driving them, and certainly without serious reflection on their consequences. Heck, most of the time, we don’t even realize we’re making a choice. For example, one study asked people how many food-related decisions they made in one day. What would you say? On average, people guessed fourteen. In reality, when these same folks carefully tracked their decisions, the average was 227. That’s more than two hundred choices people were initially unaware of—and those are just the decisions related to eating.

Baba Shiv, a professor of marketing at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, has shown that people who are distracted are more likely to give in to temptations. For example, students trying to remember a telephone number are 50 percent more likely to choose chocolate cake over fruit at a snack cart. Distracted shoppers are more susceptible to in-store promotions, and more likely to go home with items not on their shopping lists.2 When your mind is preoccupied, your impulses—not your long-term goals—will guide your choices. (Source: Kelly McGonigal, The Willpower Instinct)

The dual self in your mind - illustration on the nature of the flesh & discipleship

Some neuroscientists go so far as to say that we have one brain but two minds—or even, two people living inside our mind. There’s the version of us that acts on impulse and seeks immediate gratification, and the version of us that controls our impulses and delays gratification to protect our long-term goals. They’re both us, but we switch back and forth between these two selves. Sometimes we identify with the person who wants to lose weight, and sometimes we identify with the person who just wants the cookie. This is what defines a willpower challenge: Part of you wants one thing, and another part of you wants something else. Or your present self wants one thing, but your future self would be better off if you did something else. When these two selves disagree, one version of us has to override the other. (Source: Kelly McGonigal, The Willpower Instinct)

Superman Defeating the Klan & what disciples can learn from it about authenticity & defeating sin

After WWII, the Ku Klux Klan experienced a resurgence in membership in some parts of the U.S. A Florida activist and folklorist named Stetson Kennedy decided to take on the Klan and began infiltrating meetings in hopes of exposing the Klan’s secrets. After Kennedy learned how Klansmen identified each other, he went to the local police with the info in the hopes they could use it to start arresting members of the organization. But the police sat on their hands because they were too afraid of the Klan’s power.

So Stetson went to the producers of the mega-popular Superman radio program and asked if they’d be interested in creating a “Superman vs. the Klan” plotline for the show.

The producers were game and so began a 16-episode series in which Superman took on the Klan. During the episodes, Klan secrets like handshakes, rituals, and passwords were divulged. Almost overnight, KKK recruitment dried up and local authorities started cracking down on Klansmen who were flagrantly and openly violating the law.

Why the change? Part of the power of the KKK was their “air of menace” that came with clouding themselves in a shroud of secrecy. Once Superman revealed their secrets, the group didn’t seem all that scary or powerful anymore. (Source:

Warren Buffet & The power of choosing the best things over the acceptable things in discipleship

Warren Buffett wanted to help his employee get ahead in his working life, so he suggested that the employee list the twenty-five most important things he wanted to accomplish in the next few years. He then had the employee circle the top five and told him to prioritize this smaller list.

All seemed well until the wise Billionaire asked one more question: "What are you going to do with the other twenty things?"

The employee answered: "Well the top five are my primary focus but the other twenty come in at a close second. They are still important so I’ll work on those intermittently as I see fit as I’m getting through my top five. They are not as urgent but I still plan to give them dedicated effort."

Buffett surprised him with his response: “No. You’ve got it wrong…Everything you didn’t circle just became your ‘avoid at all cost list.’”

Steve Jobs said something similar in an interview a few years ago:

“People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully. I’m actually as proud of the things we haven’t done as the things I have done. Innovation is saying no to 1,000 things.” (Source: Cal Newport Blog)

The Resolutions of Jonathan Edwards on discipleship

Being sensible that I am unable to do anything without God’s help, I do humbly entreat him by his grace to enable me to keep these Resolutions, so far as they are agreeable to his will, for Christ’s sake.

Remember to read over these Resolutions once a week.

Overall Life mission

1. Resolved, that I will do whatsoever I think to be most to God’s glory, and my own good, profit and pleasure, in the whole of my duration, without any consideration of the time, whether now, or never so many myriad’s of ages hence. Resolved to do whatever I think to be my duty and most for the good and advantage of mankind in general. Resolved to do this, whatever difficulties I meet with, how many and how great soever.

2. Resolved, to be continually endeavoring to find out some new invention and contrivance to promote the aforementioned things.

3. Resolved, if ever I shall fall and grow dull, so as to neglect to keep any part of these Resolutions, to repent of all I can remember, when I come to myself again.

4. Resolved, never to do any manner of thing, whether in soul or body, less or more, but what tends to the glory of God; nor be, nor suffer it, if I can avoid it.

6. Resolved, to live with all my might, while I do live.

22. Resolved, to endeavor to obtain for myself as much happiness, in the other world, as I possibly can, with all the power; might, vigor, and vehemence, yea violence, I am capable of, or can bring myself to exert, in any way that can be thought of.

62. Resolved, never to do anything but duty; and then according to Eph. 6:6-8, do it willingly and cheerfully as unto the Lord, and not to man; “knowing that whatever good thing any man doth, the same shall he receive of the Lord.” June 25 and July 13, 1723.

This is only a small slice... I'd encourage you to read them all at the source. (Source:

Henry Cloud quote on when life change happens: when old patterns crop up

When you "begin again," your old patterns will crop up very soon.  THAT is the moment of change.  Quarantine, add structure, add support. (Source: Henry Cloud on X)

Illustration on not leaving any space for sin in discipleship

A certain man wanted to sell his house for $2,000. Another man wanted very badly to buy it, but because he was poor, he couldn't afford the full price. After much bargaining, the owner agreed to sell the house for half the original price with just one stipulation: He would retain ownership of one small nail protruding from just over the door.

After several years, the original owner wanted the house back, but the new owner was unwilling to sell. So the first owner went out, found the carcass of a dead dog, and hung it from the single nail he still owned. Soon the house became unlivable, and the family was forced to sell the house to the owner of the nail.

The Haitian pastor's conclusion: "If we leave the Devil with even one small peg in our life, he will return to hang his rotting garbage on it, making it unfit for Christ's habitation."  (Source: Dale A. Hays, Leadership, Vol. X, No. 3 (Summer, 1989), p. 35., via

Luciano Pavarotti on the power of choosing a single path in discipleship

"When I was a boy, my father, a baker, introduced me to the wonders of song," tenor Luciano Pavarotti relates. "He urged me to work very hard to develop my voice. Arrigo Pola, a professional tenor in my hometown of Modena, Italy, took me as a pupil. I also enrolled in a teachers college. On graduating, I asked my father, 'Shall I be a teacher or a singer?' "'Luciano,' my father replied, 'if you try to sit on two chairs, you will fall between them. For life, you must choose one chair.' "I chose one. It took seven years of study and frustration before I made my first professional appearance. It took another seven to reach the Metropolitan Opera. And now I think whether it's laying bricks, writing a book--whatever we choose--we should give ourselves to it. Commitment, that's the key. Choose one chair." (Source: SermonCentral)

"I want men who will come if there is no road at all." David Livingston

A missionary society wrote to David Livingstone and asked, "Have you found a good road to where you are? If so, we want to know how to send other men to join you."

Livingstone wrote back, "If you have men who will come only if they know there is a good road, I don't want them. I want men who will come if there is no road at all." 

(Source: Good News Broadcaster, April, 1985)

Faithful Discipleship in Missions - Disciples making disciples

Adoniram Judson sweated out Burma's heat for 18 years without a furlough, six years without a convert. Enduring torture and imprisonment, he admitted that he never saw a ship sail without wanting to jump on board and go home.

When his wife's health broke and he put her on a homebound vessel in the knowledge he would not see her for two full years, he confided to his diary: "If we could find some quiet resting place on earth where we could spend the rest of our days in peace. . ." But he steadied himself with this remarkable postscript: "Life is short. Millions of Burmese are perishing. I am almost the only person on earth who has attained their language to communicate salvation. . ."  (Source: Regions Beyond, Vol. 37, No. 1, p. 2. via

When Judson began his mission in Burma, he set a goal of translating the Bible and founding a church of 100 members before his death. When he died, he left the Bible, 100 churches, and over 8,000 believers

Illustration on discipleship & mentoring - Doctor operates on himself

February 15, 1921. New York City. The operating room of the Kane Summit Hospital. A doctor is performing an appendectomy. In many ways the events leading to the surgery are uneventful. The patient has complained of severe abdominal pain. The diagnosis is clear: an inflamed appendix. Dr. Evan O'Neill Kane is performing the surgery. In his distinguished thirty-seven-year medical career, he has performed nearly four thousand appendectomies, so this surgery will be uneventful in all ways except two.

The first novelty of this operation? The use of local anesthesia in major surgery. Dr. Kane is a crusader against the hazards of general anesthesia. He contends that a local application is far safer. Many of his colleagues agree with him in principle, but in order for them to agree in practice, they will have to see the theory applied.

Dr. Kane searches for a volunteer, a patient who is willing to undergo surgery wile under local anesthesia. A volunteer is not easily found. Many are squeamish at the thought of being awake during their own surgery. Others are fearful that the anesthesia might wear off too soon. Eventually, however, Dr. Kane finds a candidate. On Tuesday morning, February 15, the historic operation occurs.

The patient is prepped and wheeled into the operating room. A local anesthetic is applied. As he has done thousands of times, Dr. Kane dissects the superficial tissues and locates the appendix. He skillfully excises it and concludes the surgery. During the procedure, the patient complains of only minor discomfort. The volunteer is taken into post-op, then placed in a hospital ward. He recovers quickly and is dismissed two days later. Dr. Kane had proven his theory. Thanks to the willingness of a brave volunteer, Kane demonstrated that local anesthesia was a viable, and even preferable, alternative.

But I said there were two facts that made the surgery unique. I've told you the first: the use of local anesthesia. The second is the patient. The courageous candidate for surgery by Dr. Kane was Dr. Kane.

To prove his point, Dr. Kane operated on himself! A wise move. The doctor became a patient in order to convince the patients to trust the doctor.  (Source: Max Lucado, In the Eye of the Storm)

What Surrender Means Practically - Fred Craddock quote on discipleship

Fred Craddock, in an address to ministers, caught the practical implications of consecration. "To give my life for Christ appears glorious," he said. "To pour myself out for pay the ultimate price of martyrdom... I'm ready, Lord, to go out in a blaze of glory.

"We think giving our all to the Lord is like taking $l,000 bill and laying it on the table--'Here's my life, Lord. I'm giving it all.'

But the reality for most of us is that he sends us to the bank and has us cash in the $l,000 for quarters. We go through life putting out 25 cents here and 50 cents there. Listen to the neighbor kid's troubles instead of saying, 'Get lost.' Go to a committee meeting. Give a cup of water to a shaky old man in a nursing home.

Usually giving our life to Christ isn't glorious. It's done in all those little acts of love, 25 cents at at time. It would be easy to go out in a flash of glory; it's harder to live the Christian life little by little over the long haul."  (Source: Darryl Bell quoted here)

Illustration from Rev. Eric Kuhns, a missionary in Honduras:

Screenshot of his Facebook post, with the story of a man making his decision to be a disciple of Jesus when it was difficult.

screenshot of a facebook post about discipleship when it's difficult

Metaphor Illustrations for sermons on Discipleship

Illustrations are not just quotes, "Johnny and Susie" stories, or poems and statistics. They are also metaphors, quick illustrations that help to frame or analogize a complex topic such as "discipleship." Here are 11 metaphors for discipleship. Some are from Scripture, others from just observing the world and logic.

  1. Discipleship is like a baby born into a family. Imagine a baby, who is just born. There is so much potential in them, but they are dependent on their family for so many things. They need nutrition, contact, protection, and love. This is probably the most common metaphor in Scripture, since it is implicit in so many other metaphors: Growth in grace, moving from "milk to meat," God as a father, and more.

  2. Discipleship is like a Gardener's Care: Imagine a skilled gardener carefully tending to a young plant. Through regular watering, pruning, and nourishment, the plant grows stronger and eventually bears fruit. Similarly, discipleship involves God's nurturing care, helping us grow and bear the fruit of Christlikeness. (See Galatians 5:22-23, Romans 6:22-23, Matthew 3:8)

  3. Discipleship is like a Potter's Hands: Picture a skilled potter shaping a lump of clay into a beautiful vessel. God, like the potter, molds and shapes us through life's experiences, challenges, and triumphs, transforming us into vessels for His purpose as we walk the path of discipleship. (See Romans 9:19-24, Jeremiah 18)

  4. Discipleship is like Navigating Stormy Seas: Envision a ship navigating through stormy seas. Just as sailors grow in skill and resilience through the challenges of the ocean, discipleship equips us to navigate the storms of life with faith, trust, and a deepening relationship with Christ. (Mark 4:35-41, etc.)

  5. Discipleship is like a Caterpillar to Butterfly Metamorphosis: Reflect on the metamorphosis of a caterpillar into a butterfly. Similarly, discipleship involves a transformative process where we, through the power of the Holy Spirit, undergo a metamorphosis, emerging as new creations in Christ. (This is implicit in the word metamorphosis in the Greek NT.)

  6. Discipleship is like a Marathon Runner's Training: Consider the discipline and training of a marathon runner. Discipleship requires perseverance, endurance, and a commitment to spiritual training as we run the race set before us, growing stronger and more Christlike with each step. (See Hebrews 12:1-3,

  7. Discipleship is like a Masterpiece Restoration: Think of a skilled artist restoring a damaged masterpiece. God, our divine Artist, patiently restores and refines us in discipleship, turning the broken areas of our lives into a masterpiece that reflects His glory. (This is implicit in Ephesians 2:8-10, God's "workmanship")

  8. Discipleship is like a Symphony of Unity: Envision a symphony where each instrument plays a crucial role in creating a harmonious melody. Similarly, discipleship emphasizes the unity of believers, each contributing to the beautiful symphony of the Body of Christ as we grow together in Christlikeness. (This is implicit in the idea of harmony: unity among diversity in Scripture.)

  9. Discipleship is like a Mountaineer's Ascent: Picture a mountaineer ascending a challenging peak. Discipleship involves the climb toward greater spiritual heights, with each step drawing us closer to the summit of Christlikeness and a deeper relationship with God. (This is implicit in all the mountain experiences of Christians within the Bible: Abraham, Elijah, Moses, Peter/James/John, and more.)

  10. Discipleship is like a GPS using God's Word: Imagine using a GPS to navigate unfamiliar terrain. God's Word serves as our spiritual GPS in discipleship, guiding us on the path of righteousness and leading us toward a Christlike destination.

  11. Discipleship is like a Oak Tree's Growth: Consider the strength and resilience of an oak tree that grows over many years. Discipleship involves deep roots in God's Word, allowing us to withstand the storms of life and grow into mature, Christlike followers of Jesus. As Rick Warren says, "When God wants to make a mushroom, he takes 60 hours. When he wants to make an oak tree, he takes 60 years. Which do you want to be?"

Feel free to adapt these illustrations to fit the specific context and style of your sermon or teaching on discipleship.

To Create your Own Illustrations:

If you want to create your own illustrations, you might want to check out Sermon Illustrator, a ChatGPT pro tool that I built for AI help with sermon prep.


I hope these sermon illustrations on discipleship have been helpful. If you are interested in other preaching resources on discipleship, you can see another post here on 21 sermon ideas on discipleship, or you can download a specific sermon on discipleship in Word format.

Other resources to help you preach on discipleship

Or, if you want multiple sermons, you can check out the subscription to NewStart Discipleship, that includes all these resources (including sermons to help you launch it!).

newstart discipleship sermons and resources

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