I ran across two excellent articles on discipleship yesterday.
First, Alan from “DownshoreDrift” discusses many of the same concerns that I have about discipleship in a post called “Is it really that hard to know how to follow Jesus? Or why we DON’T really need religious professionals to explain God to us“. He begins with this:
I really think that we spend WAAAAY too much time overcomplicating the spiritual life for people. All around us are people who are really struggling with their personal life, their marriages, their jobs, their children, their future, their investment portfolios, how to spend their free time, what so and so said about them at the ball field the other day, how to decide where to spend vacation this year, exactly what color to paint the kitchen, etc., etc. Life can be really hard! So, as ministers, we develop all kinds of “strategies” to help make life more bearable for the average American Christian.
After discussing the way that he previously tried to teach and organize people into mature Christians, he says:
For some reason, the American Church has become enamored with the corporate world. We have come to believe that discipleship is a “process” that can be manufactured, not unlike an assembly line. If we put a young believer into our series of steps and processes, then a mature disciple of Christ will be produced on the tail end. Fidelity to our training system is equated to fidelity to Christ. I think that we all know that it does not work that way, even though that approach is very appealling and impressive to our modern minds. Discipleship is different for everyone. It has many ups and downs. But, more important than strategies, procedures, steps, manuals, and discipleship wheels, are the simple concepts of faith and obedience. Our problem is that we have been taught a boat load of information on the Christian life, but we only obey a little bit of it. Because we are taught far more than we obey, we begin to believe that obedience is optional. Worse yet, we begin to believe that obedience can be ascertained by giving even more information that might somehow unlock the desire to obey. We have become quite gnostic that way.
He concludes with this:
The spiritual life is not very complicated, but it is very hard because we have to die to ourselves. Unfortunately, it seems that we’d rather write manuals and develop new strategies to organize the works of the flesh, instead of truly placing our faith in Jesus.
These are excellent comments concerning discipleship from someone who has tried “Christian Education” and organized programs.
Similarly, Dave at “disciplemexico.org” has written an article called “Putting ourselves at a disadvantage?” After discussing the struggles of being a “professional” missionary and all of the expectations that come along with that label, Dave concludes with these four steps for those who find themselves “caught up in the busyness of the ministry” but would like to prioritize discipleship:
- Donâ€™t stop preaching discipleship. Our continued involvement and reflection on the theme will continue to motivate us to â€œpractice what we preach.â€ It will also enable us to explain our inability to fulfill expectations that others may try to place upon us that do not enable disciple-making ministry to take place.
- Expand our circle of influence intentionally to include non-Christians. This requires an honest look at our lives in order intentionally create relationships with those who do not know Christ. Are we truly like our Master who was known as a friend of sinners?
- Look for opportunities everywhere. Discipleship opportunities can take place over a play-date with the kids or a late night greeting across the street. But we need to look out for them, recognize them for what they are, and utilize them to bring seekers closer to a relationship with their God.
- Be in constant prayer. When I prepare for a meeting or a teaching, I can control the elements. I pick the theme, the illustrations, and the length of time that I am going to speak. As a discipler, I donâ€™t have these luxuries. I have to rely on the Holy Spirit for direction and clear insight into the matter at hand. Hearing his voice is only enabled as I practice acknowledging his presence in every moment.
These are two excellent posts about discipleship. Discipleship and education are not the same thing. Similarly, being involved in activities – even “Church activities” – is not the same as being discipled or maturing spiritually.
We need to re-think discipleship.