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Replay: Discipling as Discipleship

Posted by on Aug 25, 2012 in discipleship | 6 comments

Replay: Discipling as Discipleship

Have you ever heard someone (perhaps you?) say something like this, “I learn more about a subject when I study, prepare, and teach a subject.” A couple of years ago, when I was having a conversation with a friend about this, we started talking about how discipleship works like this also. I wrote about some of our conversations in a post called “Discipling as Discipleship.” If I’m correct, then “making disciples” not only helps others (the ones discipled) follow Jesus (i.e., disciples them), it also helps us (the ones discipling) follow Jesus (i.e., disciples us). Confused? See if the post makes more sense…

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Discipling as Discipleship

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.


6 Comments

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  1. 8-25-2012

    Well put. As someone who loves(!) to teach, I can attest to the truth of this without hesitation. Simply sitting down over coffee or a meal with another brother and having to go through the process of putting into words what the Lord has been teaching you, and how it can help them in their situation is an immensely helpful thing to both individuals. In many ways, if we are sent as He was sent (John 20:21) we are to be disciplers. But that in turn will grow us into more Christ-like people. Thanks for the word!

  2. 8-25-2012

    Alan,

    Wonder where I’ve heard that before? :)

  3. 8-26-2012

    This makes a lot of sense, Alan. One way this process has been described (vis a vis learning) is that there are several stages to grasping a new concept.

    – At first we don’t understand
    – We can follow when it’s explained to us
    – We can understand it on our own but quickly forget
    – We have finally got it
    – We can explain it to others

    It’s all to do with practice. The more we go through the thought process the better we do. I’m sure that applies to discipling as we well.

    I really like the way you put it, than in discipling we are also discipled.

  4. 8-27-2012

    John,

    Thanks! I’m glad this made sense to a few people. I’ve seen this more and more in my life since I originally thought about it and wrote this post.

    Aussie John,

    I probably learned it from you.

    Chris,

    Thanks for the comment. I’ve seen that process description before for learning specific things. The interesting thing to me is that following Jesus is not always about just one thing, so we could be at different point of the process related to different issues at the same time.

    -Alan

  5. 8-30-2012

    Yes, good point Alan.

    On another aspect of discipleship, to what extent are we considering things we can learn, and to what extent are they things we might need to just notice?

    For example, we can teach a method for church planting, and we might be able to teach a person how to listen to the Holy Spirit. But can we really teach patience, or grace, or wisdom, or gentleness? Are these things that need to be lived out, observed and imbibed?

  6. 8-30-2012

    Chris,

    Yes, exactly. Follow Jesus includes so much more than learning information about him. Our methods of teaching should include living these things out among one another.

    -Alan