Thoughts on Discipleship
James Pendergrast, Consultant, Church Strengthening
The hip word in the church world today is “discipleship.” Everyone is talking about it. If you do a quick Google search on discipleship curriculum, you can spend a couple of days poring over the results and still not be sure that you found THE discipleship program for your church. Perhaps we have distorted the kind of discipleship that Jesus commanded we all do, changing it to conform to what is convenient for our lifestyles.
If we were to take a step back and take a fresh look at what it truly meant to be a disciple back in Jesus’ day, I believe that we would find that we have made discipleship much more complex than it really needs to be. Back then, disciples (talmidim) fully submitted themselves to the teachings and interpretations of their teachers (rabbanim). Teachers allowed their disciples to struggle with how scripture should be applied in everyday situations. This prepared the disciples to eventually become teachers of other disciples. There were no curricula or programs that disciples followed. They just patterned their lives after the lives of their teachers. Teachers and students simply “did life” together.
Discipleship/apprenticeship was an everyday life occurrence back then. Today it seems foreign and maybe even uncomfortable. That is why we search for the right curriculum or program. If it’s laid out for us, it relieves some of the discomfort. However, there is nothing for us to be afraid of. We are all broken and none of us are perfect. When we are discipling someone, we are not hiding our imperfections. Rather, we are showing someone how God uses our imperfections to bring glory to Him. We are showing them how God guides us through the mess, not how we avoid the mess. Life is messy. Without the Lord, it is hopeless.
Discipleship should not be a hard process. It was part of the natural rhythm of life back in Jesus’ day. With the very clear charge Jesus gives believers to make disciples, we need to bring simple discipleship back into the natural rhythm of our lives today. If you have trusted your life to Christ, it’s His call on your life to make disciples. So, go out and ask someone to coffee or lunch. Talk to him or her about what God is doing in your life. Meet regularly for prayer. Share what God is teaching you through your Bible study time. Memorize and talk about scripture together. There are ways that we can bring discipleship back into the rhythm of our lives; we just need to take that first step. What’s stopping you from being obedient to God’s call on your life?