Recently, I was talking with a friend about teaching. My friend said that he thought he learned more by teaching (both the study beforehand and the act of teaching combined) than his students learned. I’ve heard many, many people make this same kind of statement.
In fact, I noticed the same thing when I first started teaching Greek. Although I had taken several classes in Greek grammar, Greek exegesis, and even Greek linguistics, I learned more by teaching an introductory Greek course than I learned in all of those classes combined. (Obviously, I needed the foundations of what I learned in those classes, though.)
Furthermore, I think that I learned things by teaching that I never would have learned if I had remained a student… that is, if I had never tried to teach someone else.
So, if my friend’s statement and other people’s statements and my own experience are any indication, then teaching is a good way for the teacher to learn. In fact, teaching may be the only way for the teacher to learn certain things.
Lately, I’ve been wondering if this is true of discipleship as well. Is making disciples a good way of being discipled? Do we become better disciples (are we discipled) when we help disciple others (make disciples)?
As we help people mature in their faith and help people follow Jesus, are we then in the process helped to mature in our faith and helped to follow Jesus?
Furthermore, could it be that there are aspects of being a disciple of Jesus that we will never learn or understand or obey until we are in the process of discipling others?
To me, these seem like simple, rhetorical questions, all of which would be answered, “Yes!” But, practically, I (and others that I’ve observed) tend to live as if the epitome of discipleship is to continue to be discipled by the master discipler.
When Jesus told his disciples to make disciples, he included this: “teaching them to do all that I commanded you.” (Matthew 28:19-20) It would seem that as Jesus’ disciples made disciples, they would teach them to “make disciples.” Otherwise, the disciples would not be teaching others to do all that Jesus commanded the disciples to do.
But, if my assumption at the beginning of this post is correct, then discipling other is not simply a matter of obedience… it is a form of discipleship itself. In the process of discipling others, we are discipled. Thus, if we fail to disciple others, not only do we fail to obey the teachings of Christ, we also fail to be discipled ourselves.
Perhaps this seems strange or convoluted or even confusing. But, this is what it boils down to: to be a disciple of Jesus, we must make disciples. While we are making disciples, we are being discipled ourselves.