Discipleship to me, is an older, more mature Christian, taking a younger, and less matured Christian under his or wing. The older more mature Christian (or the ‘discipler’) spends a very large amount of time with his or her disciple (due to my laziness (and not male shogunism) in the future I will refer to the discipler as a he). His life is completely transparent to the disciple. The discipler encourages and challenges the disciple in Christ. He does not force anything upon the disciple, but openly invites them to join in his faith, his prayer, and his understanding of the Bible. The discipler is to pick disciples based upon their willingness to learn and God’s calling. This is oversimplifying, but this is the general idea.
I see a very large deficiency of this in the church these days.
It is almost comical to look at how differently the modern church approaches discipleship than Jesus does.
We speak of missions and going out in to the world and changing it. We speak of furthering Jesus’ ministry. We speak of loving other people the best way possible.
Although, it is quite interesting to note that we pay little attention to the way that Jesus actually approached ministry. How is it that we think that we are loving people the best way possible if we are not doing it the way Jesus did it? Don’t we know by now that God knows how to love his creation in the best possible way? I suppose we could attribute some of it to cultural changes, but this excuse does not suffice enough to change the overall basic structure of Jesus’ ministry.
The fact is, Jesus did not focus on the crowds. He did not waist his time trying too hard to preach Himself to them. He did not waist His time doing miracles for them, just to impress them into becoming believers. Jesus’ ministry was never a crusade to save as many people as immediately possible. He didn’t go around in downtown Jerusalem, praying for people in tongues, touching their foreheads, and making them fall over.
If you analyze what Jesus actually did, you will see that what He did was quite different than all of that.
Jesus staked His whole entire ministry on 12 people. 12. People. If these 12 people failed in their purpose, then it would have all been for nothing. Jesus poured His life out for these people. They were His disciples. He was with them nearly 24 hours a day. He ate with them, slept with them, taught them, prayed with them, and even walked on water with one of them. Everything Jesus did was available for the disciples to see, and almost everything He did was available for them to do.
Jesus taught them about the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus taught them about the Torah, what it meant, and how to apply it to their lives. He taught them how to be effective communicators of the message that God had given Him to show the world. He entrusted the whole church to them.
He concentrated so much on these 12 disciples, that when He died, after all the miracles and wonders that He did, there were only about 500 believers. 500! You could get more out of a campus crusade event! But Jesus didn’t seem concerned with this. He was sure that His disciples would take on disciples of their own, and then their disciples would take on new disciples of their own. This process was supposed to continue and continue as he commanded in Matthew 28:18-20:
Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
The Church is not effectively doing it right these days. The most important part of this passage is just 2 words. “make disciples.” Our view of ministry is a widespread outreach to hundreds or perhaps even thousands of people at once. And of course, why not? Jesus loves every single person in that crowd. He does now just as He did back when He walked the Earth in human form. But Jesus understood that in the long run, that is not the most effective way to love people. We know this because Jesus did not go out and save thousands at once. He started the long, hard process, of true and personal love. He modeled discipleship perfectly for us.
Don’t get me wrong, we need to be bringing people in to the church from the outside and going out and effecting the community. Worship services are great. They have been vastly effective for evangelistic purposes in the past and they continue to be. I myself got saved at the end of a worship service. All I am saying is that Discipleship needs to be our #1 priority, because it was the #1 priority of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
I was reading Velvet Elvis today. It is a great book by Rob Bell. I stumbled across a great thought that Bell had in the introduction:
Here’s what often happens: somebody comes along who has a fresh perspective on the Christian faith. People are inspired. A movement starts. Faith that was stale and dying is now alive. But then the pioneer of the movement – the painter – dies and followers stop exploring. They mistakenly assume that their leader’s words were the last ones on the subject, and they freeze their leader’s words. They forget that as that innovator was doing his or her part to move things along, that person was merely taking part in the discussion that will go on forever. And so in their commitment to what so-and-so said and did, they end up freezing the faith.
Rob Bell is right. This process happens this way for one reason and one reason alone. It is a failure of discipleship. The pioneers in the church are just not adequately discipling leaders below themselves so that we can continue the church the way it was meant to be continued, in fulfillment of the Great Commission.
We need to start with discipling where we live (after all, Jesus started in Israel). If our own churches aren’t doing discipleship right, then how can we logically expect to be able to raise up missionaries to go out and preach the Gospel?
So lets get out there and start this thing over. Let’s try and be the most like Jesus that we can, even in our ministry.
So that’s all I have to say about that for now. More soon.