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Reducing discipleship to a series of classes

Posted by on Jul 6, 2011 in discipleship | 12 comments

Reducing discipleship to a series of classes

In the Gospels, Jesus called people to follow him. They spent time with him, ate with him, watched and listened as he talked with and taught others, observed his miracles and concern for others, and were witnesses of his death, burial, and resurrection. He called these people his disciples, and one of Jesus’ last commands to them was for them to “make disciples.”

When Paul sent a letter of encouragement to his “son”, Timothy, he reminded Timothy of his teaching along with his way of life. As Paul said elsewhere, he followed Jesus Christ, and then challenged others to imitate his example of following Christ.

In the New Testament, being a disciple means following Jesus. While it certainly includes learning certain information (facts) about Jesus, learning facts does not make someone a disciple.

Today, Christians often reduce discipleship to a series of classes or lessons. Churches develop discipleship programs and enroll as many people as possible into these classes. While instruction and classes can help a Christian understand Scripture, they are not a replacement for following Jesus and being his disciple.

Paul reminded Timothy of something very important in his second letter:

You, however, have followed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, 11my persecutions and sufferings that happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, and at Lystra — which persecutions I endured; yet from them all the Lord rescued me. (2 Timothy 3:10-11 ESV)

Timothy had spent much time traveling with his mentor. He not only heard Paul teach, he also saw Paul’s way of life. Timothy saw how Paul dealt with trials and struggles. He knew why Paul traveled from city to city and joyfully faced such persecution. Timothy was discipled by Paul by sharing Paul’s life – both the good and the bad – and through that, Paul was able to help Timothy follow Jesus as his disciple.

In order to disciple one another today, Christians must begin by sharing their lives with one another. They must be willing to live openly and honestly, showing others the good and the bad – the beautiful and the ugly – parts of their life.

Only by sharing our lives with one another can we begin to help one another be disciples of Jesus Christ. Classes can never do this.


12 Comments

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  1. 7-6-2011

    So agree with you Alan. Jesus gave us the model when he discipled those who would be the pillars of the early church. Yet finding ways to apply that model to our culture can be a challenge.

  2. 7-6-2011

    Alan – After taking a 2-year discipleship class with about 12 men at the church I used to attend, and then taking another 2-years to teach the class to another group of 11 men.. to this day I do not even know them, I do not even know their families. It is so sad.

    After many times of effort to break the surface and really get to know them.. failure. I think it would be easier to get into Fort Knox here in KY and steal all the gold then it would be to share all of our struggles together.

    Swanny

  3. 7-6-2011

    I so resonate with Swanny’s comment. I have shared my guts with guys and have rarely experienced reciprocity.

  4. 7-6-2011

    If Jesus lived today he would use twitter, facebook, myspace (haha, not really, no one does), blogs, and even have an online learning center to disciple us. Who shares life anymore?

  5. 7-6-2011

    Kansas Bob, Swanny, and Jeph,

    Thanks for the comments. Have you also had experiences actually discipling one another by sharing life together? If so, how did you break out of the mold and begin sharing your lives with one another?

    -Alan

  6. 7-6-2011

    Alan – Once I was out of the environment that was built up within the walls (gaining knowledge, not relationships), it was much easier to get with other people and open up together.

    I found within the church walls a disease called “Jesus Deficit Disorder”. When I get with others now, Jesus is all we focus on.

    Swanny

  7. 7-6-2011

    I have found my mentoring relationships with non-church types much more satisfying than anything inside the church. Those guys related to my vulnerability and transparency so much better.

  8. 7-6-2011

    Alan,

    Why can’t you leave the evangelicals something of our traditions? 101, 201, 301, etc. is church bulletin gold. :)

    The LTG model from Church Multiplication Associates has been really helpful for me in kick-starting discipleship relationships. The hardest part is finding other believers who want to go that deep in obedience. I haven’t had the experience of multiplying a group yet.

  9. 7-6-2011

    Good comments everyone… I think this is a huge issue for the church today.

    -Alan

  10. 7-6-2011

    This is a huge onion that must be peeled back one layer at a time. These layers are the many movements, methods and models that created the evangelical Christendom we find ourselves in knee deep.

    Changing the culture and environment comes down to relationships…with Jesus and others. It’s about life-on-life like Jesus did it and we should do.

  11. 7-6-2011

    I agree with kansas bob. The context of life in Jesus time was mainly agrarian while we live mostly in a post-industrial age.

    The challenge of discipling by the imparting of one’s life; where spending time together is an essential element, in a “post modern” instant culture ofquick fixes; is great but not impossible.

  12. 7-7-2011

    gibby,

    In many ways, I’m still peeling back layers for myself… so I definitely know what you’re talking about.

    Pete,

    Difficult, but not impossible. I agree.

    -Alan