[O]bedience based discipleship stresses the importance of teaching people to obey the Bible, rather than simply teaching people Bible content.
There are two features about this emphasis on obedience as the basis of discipleship that need to be noted. First, they privilege the commands of Jesus over the rest of the New Testament. … However, it is not essential to the concept of obedience-based discipleship, and others who share this methodology do not share this prioritization of the actual words of Jesus over the writings of the apostles. Second, [George] Patterson and [Richard] Scroggins [an early example of obedience-based discipleship comes from their book, Church Multiplication Guide] stress obedience alongside and even above theological knowledge. …
The foci are clear. Bible doctrine is “heavy,” and it can be dangerous. “Simple, loving, childlike obedience” is the goal of both discipleship and leadership training.
[I]t is one thing to say that biblical discipleship should issue in obedience, and another thing altogether to make obedience the basis of discipleship. It is also one thing to say that knowledge without obedience is dangerous, and another thing to set obedience above knowledge or at odds with it. This was certainly not the pattern of the apostles.
The letters of the New Testament were part of the apostolic missionary method.
Three things may be observed from the apostolic letters of the New Testament. First, theological knowledge was given as the basis for practical obedience. It is particularly true in the letters of Paul that he often begins with an extended discourse on gospel theology, and then transitions with the word “therefore” into the practical sections of his letters. Clearly, the truth about God and his gospel is the essential foundation for Christian obedience. Paul does not simply issues [sic] orders to be obeyed. He explains the theological truth that motivates and enables obedience before he exhorts people to that obedience. This is a crucial difference between legalism and Christian discipleship. The biblical pattern puts knowing (the message of the gospel, and the larger biblical theology that stands behind it and around it) and being (being a new creation in Christ, in union with him and indwelt by his Holy Spirit) as the necessary foundations for doing, not as secondary or extraneous to it.
Second, the apostolic letters of the New Testament present deep theology to ordinary Christians, many of whom were recent converts. … To regard the great theological themes of the Bible as unnecessary for new believers is to disregard what the Holy Spirit, through the apostles, thought essential for the new believers of the early church.
Third, the vast majority of the obedience enjoined by the New Testament is altogether mundane in nature. There is actually very little about evangelism and church planting, and a great deal about ordinary life. … Based on who God is and what he has done for us in Christ, discipleship must lay the same emphases as the New Testament on godly living in every area of life.
So what should we think of obedience-based discipleship? First of all, biblical discipleship should most certainly teach and expect obedience. … However, obedience is not the basis for discipleship, nor does it stand alone as the main aspect of discipleship. The basis of discipleship is the gospel of salvation in Jesus Christ…
Biblical discipleship therefore involves knowing, being and doing in an inseparable union.