Mary, at “One Thing is Needed“, has written a post called “Hit and Run Christianity“. In this post, she discusses the practice among some believers of doing short term projects. She recalls a conversation with a Native American pastor on a reservation that had just received assistance through a 1 week missions project:
During the week the pastor invited my husband to tour the reservation with him. They began talking about the various outreach teams that the reservation had already hosted. The pastor was thankful but lamented the lack of relationship that was built with the visiting church teams. He said that the reservation was used to teams that came down, built something, dropped off some clothes or food, and then left thinking that theyâ€™d served the people and made a lasting difference in their lives. He said that what the people really wanted and needed was believers who would come and play with the kids, spend time with the people, eat with them, and then come back again and again. What they really wanted was relationship. Instead what they got was a bunch of blitz building projects and a storeroom full of food and clothes from well-intentioned people but with no continuing relationships. The church groups came, and then they went.
The believers chalked up their 1 week missions project as a good deed done, and went on about their business. Meanwhile, the hurting, poor, immature believers on the reservation desired and needed long-term, mature relationships.
This Native American pastor knew something about discipleship that the church groups did not know: discipleship takes time. People cannot be discipled in a 1 week intensive, and people cannot be discipled in an 8 week class. Discipleship takes a lifetime commitment, and a “living life” commitment. Discipleship takes place as two people walk together through their lives, as we learn from another person’s words as well as their actions, attitudes, and priorities, which we recognize as they live their life. (I’ve discussed this previously in a post called “Discipleship in 8 weeks…” and in a series that begins with a post called “Disciple making 1: The command…“)
As we consider making disciples, we should not ask ourselves who we occasionally interact with or teach. Instead, we should recognize that we make disciples only with those with whom we share our lives consistently. As my family has considered how to better serve our community, we have looked into several opportunities. Primarily, though, we recognize that we will not truly serve disciples by dropping in on them every month or so, or even once per week for a few weeks. (Note: I am not suggesting that we should not interact with and exhort towards maturity those who we only see occasionally. I am only suggesting that this is not the same as discipleship.)
So, we are being careful, listening to God’s prompting, as we determine how God wants us to serve those around us. We are already in several discipling relationships, but we are waiting to see if God would have us share our lives with others – particulars with people who may be different from us. Some friends of ours have been good examples to us in this by getting involved in the lives of some people are are very different from them and by remaining consistent in this. This is our desire as well.
So, if discipleship takes time and if it requires sharing your life with other people, are you discipling someone?