Dougald at “Meditations on the Law” is writing a series of posts about a trip to Central Asia. The second post is called “Reflections from Central Asia: Part 2.1 – Mutual Discipleship“. Throughout these posts, Dougald has been stressing the fact that he and his friends did not go to Central Asia in order to present themselves as “The Great White Hope” for the people there. Instead, they went to learn from the believers in Central Asia as the believers in Central Asia also learned from them. Dougald calls this “mutual discipleship”. Here is one excerpt:
One of the cheif things that my friend Wes and I focused on before going on this trip was something that we called, “mutual discipleship.” We took this term (though modified) from Romans 1:11-12 which reads, “For I long to see you that I might impart some spiritual gift to you that you may be established, that is that I may be encouraged together with you, while among you, each of us by the others faith, both yours and mine.“
The whole idea that Paul seemed to be communicating was one of mutual discipleship. Though Paul was an apostle, his main role was to encourage the church. But, this wasnâ€™t the only goal of his visit: he desired encouragement from them for his own growth in Christ. That was our concept of mutual discipleship: We were to encourage our brethren and to receive encouragement from them. Just like we do here in the States, so we were to do there. We wanted to struggle together with them in our walks. We wanted to see victory over sin in our walks together. Just as if we were sitting at home with a group from our church. We wanted deep fellowship across cultural lines. Most importantly we wanted this trip to be OUR tripâ€”both the Central Asian believers and the American believers.
I think Dougald and his group are on to something with this idea of mutual discipleship. It takes humility to travel to the other side of the world in order to learn from believers who many would consider somehow “less”. But, as Dougald expresses in his post, this is exactly the kind of humility that all believers are to hold toward one another.
We recognize that anything good that we can impart to another person comes only through the presence and work of the Holy Spirit, not through our own knowledge or education. Thus, if the other person is indwelled by the Holy Spirit as well, then the potential for us to learn from that person is just as high as their potential to learn from us.
I think this is a great attitude (humility and desire to learn from the other person) for a missionary – that is, for someone who travels away from their home to share the good news and build up the church. I also think this is a great attitude for a believer who stays close to home. Most importantly, I think this is a mandatory attitude for anyone who considers themselves a leader.