the weblog of Alan Knox

Apprentice to a Follower of Jesus Christ

Posted by on Aug 17, 2007 in discipleship, service | 3 comments

For two days last week, I attended an intensive seminar on the topic of teaching in higher education. This seminar covered many topics including preparing for academia, teaching and research, administration, teaching methods, and teaching philosophy and psychology.

One comment that the professor made was (paraphrasing), “Lecture is one of the least effective methods of teaching.” Even those who support and defend lecture usually include other teaching methods such as class participation, discussion, case studies, etc.

I think that an emphasis on lecture in preaching and teaching is one of the reasons that the church is filled with immature believers who have never grown beyond the “birth” stage in the life of Christ. I have found that people learn, understand, apply, and grow in maturity toward Christ much more when the “teaching” is more hands-on – living and learning together instead of lecturing someone.

In the introduction to Paul’s letter to the Philippians in The Message, Eugene Peterson says:

This is Paul’s happiest letter. And the happiness is infectious. Before we’ve read a dozen lines, we begin to feel the joy ourselves – the dance of words and the exclamations of delight have a way of getting inside us.

But happiness is not a word we can understand by looking it up in a dictionary. In fact, none of the qualities of the Christian life can be learned out of a book. Something more like apprenticeship is required, being around someone who out of years of devoted discipline shows us, by his or her entire behavior, what it is. Moments of verbal instruction will certainly occur, but mostly an apprentice acquires skill by daily and intimate association with a “master,” picking up subtle but absolutely essential things, such as timing and rhythm and “touch.”

I like the way that Peterson describes learning and discipleship in these two paragraphs. Following Christ does not come about through the sharing of information, but through the sharing of lives, much like a mentor shares his life with an apprentice. We cannot disciple through a series of lectures alone, whether those lectures last 30 minutes, 1 hour, or 4 hours.

I desire to live as an apprentice and a mentor. I desire to live with, learn from, and follow those who are more mature in Christ, just as I live with, teach, and lead those who are less mature in Christ. Of course, this works both ways. Mentors learn from apprentices. Certainly lecture can be part of this type of lifestyle, but it should not and cannot be the primary aspect of discipleship.

As we live with one another and learn from one another, our goal is not simply to make each other more knowledgeable about Scripture and about God. Instead, our goal is to see one another transformed through the work of the Spirit of God. If this is our goal, then our life and our methods should work toward that goal.


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  1. 8-17-2007

    I really like this! I’ll say from experience, my History of Ideas classes (which are nothing but interaction if you have the right professor, I think I’ve had 2 or 3 lectures in 3 years) are my favorite and I get the most out of them. I understand Nietzsche because I’ve had to verbalize Nietzsche’s opinion on my own and discuss/debate with my classmates.

    I think if we could get Churches beyond asking baby questions (I always knew in Sunday school the go-to answer was Moses, Jesus, Noah, or Adam…always) and get people to dialogue and interact with the text, we’d have a much healthier kingdom on our hands.

    Great post!

  2. 8-18-2007


    What a thrill to read what you have expressed in this post.

    This is an example of the dynamic interpretation of the Christian life which the Anabaptists desired, and which Stanley A. Nelson wrote about in his “The Anabaptist Story.

    No wonder brother Dave is inspired by the Anabaptists.

    Nelson writes,”Grebel had written that “the church is of the few who believe and live right.” Please note “Christian living,” not “Christian life.” What is the difference? Constantinianism would have a static concept–you are a Christian and you live your life, therefore, the way you live is the Christian life. The Anabaptist would seek a dynamic interpretation. Christian living is a dynamic, and one is seeking to pattern after the Sermon on the Mount. The Christian life is, therefore, “everything you do is Christian.”

    Surely that dynamic, which is caught NOT taught, should be apparent in those who claim to be teachers, preachers etc., a dynamic that is next to impossible to pass on via rhetoric and oratory.

  3. 8-18-2007


    Thanks for the comment. It does make a different in learning and living when you actually have to verbalize and use what the teaching is teaching. I wonder if this is what Jesus meant when he said, “And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand.”


    I think you hit on something key here. Our goal is to pattern the way we live after Jesus. This does not happen by simply sitting and listening. It happens as we live – dynamically – as we learn and make mistakes and grow from those mistakes. We can learn and grow much more if there is actually someone more mature that is walking along with us, instead of just telling us what to do and going his or her own way.