I like to think of discipleship as helping one another (disicpleship is mutual) move from here to there. But, what is “here” and what is “there.”
The “here” part is fairly obvious. Wherever we are spiritually and theologically and relationally right now is “here.” And, of course, all of us have a “here.” All of us need to be discipled, to change, to grow, to mature.
But, what is the “there”? What is the goal of discipleship?
Too often, I think, Christians consider “there” (i.e. the goal of discipleship) to be wherever the “disicpler” (perhaps a teacher or leader) currently is spiritually and theologically and relationally. Discipleship ends up becoming a plan to help people believe and live like the “discipler”. In other words, in default mode, we end up helping people look and act more like us.
Certainly, if we stop and think about it, we would not want to be helping people be more like us. We want to help people be more like Jesus Christ. He is the “there”. Or, since we will never reach perfection in this life, “there” means moving toward him – toward Christlikeness.
So, we are not the “there” of discipleship. In fact, while we may be able to help someone understand some issues in their lives, we cannot tell them what God is doing in their lives. We don’t know where God is leading them and how he is changing them. You see, that’s another aspect of discipleship that we must always take into account: Discipleship and change is a work of God; it is not something that we can do.
Thus, we can never know exactly where the “there” is for someone else; we often don’t even know where the “there” is for ourselves. Where is “there”? It is wherever God is leading someone and however God is changing someone.
Thus, discipleship is not changing someone or telling them what needs to change or even helping them change. Discipleship is helping people pay attention to what God is doing in their lives, and then helping them respond to what God is doing.
There are many, many ways that we can help one another both recognize God’s work and respond to his work in our lives. This is where teaching by word and example, encouragement, service, patience, fellowship, etc. comes into the discipleship process.
And, since God is always working in the lives of his children, we should recognize that discipleship is therefore a mutual process. Even if I am a more mature Christian who has been walking with God for decades, I can still learn from the work of God in a new believer’s life… if I’m willing to pay attention and learn from someone “less mature.”
So… we are “here.” Everyone has a “here,” and our “here” will probably be different from other people’s “here.”
God is moving us “there.” Everyone has a “there,” and our “there” will probably be different from other people’s “there.”
Discipleship involves helping one another pay attention to what God is doing in each other’s life, helping one another respond to what God is doing “here,” and then encouraging one another to walk toward the “there” that God is leading us to.