Many Christians consider discipleship to be only something the disciples of Jesus went through to become apostles. Others consider discipleship to be something only pastors have to go through. Before we look at what discipleship is, let’s look at what discipleship is not.
Discipleship is not another program.
Discipleship is not simply a workbook to complete.
Discipleship is not about ego or title.
Discipleship is not about boosting membership numbers.
If any of those areas become the focal point of discipleship then the point of true discipleship has been misplaced. I don’t presume to have all of the answers here, but we cannot simply treat this important element of the Christian faith lightly or as just another component to what we’re already doing. I cannot stress it enough but Discipleship in your church is NOT just another program or a stat line in a monthly report! Discipleship is and should be the life blood of spiritual maturation and biblical/doctrinal understanding. It’s not catechism, or indoctrination, please don’t misunderstand what is being said here, Discipleship is mentoring others in the very foot prints of Christ.
I remember my youngest son, Ethan, watching me in the bathroom one morning as I shaved in front of the mirror. Earlier in the year he had received a toy shaving kit which included a plastic faux razor. As I made my shaving stroke up my neck, I glanced over and Ethan was copying me. I shaved my chin and again Ethan mimicked my motion with his little plastic razor. Every movement I made while shaving, he copied me and we both laughed but I will never forget my son wanting to shave just like his daddy.
In a very real sense we too are to copy the movements and emulate the behavior of Christ, who is our heavenly example of godly living here on earth. Holiness is the primary purpose, but discipleship is the conduit by which holiness happens practically. How did the Jesus’ disciples learn and grow in their faith? They did so by watching the actions and teachings of Christ while learning at His feet. When Jesus called his first disciples he said, “Come follow me!” And the Bible says they left their nets and followed him (Mark 1:17). His command was the command of a Rabbi, a teacher who said to these men you can be like me, you will be my disciples.
How does that match up with how the present day Church is leading people into forms of mentoring and discipleship? Perhaps there are some wonderful examples of mentoring and discipling going on out there but by and large many churches fall short in this aspect of ministry. Where does a new Christian go after becoming saved? Do they just get put into a Sunday school or to warm a pew for the next twenty years or more? When people get up from the alter and profess Christ in their lives and want to learn and live it we as more mature Christians ought to come alongside them and help cultivate a healthy long term relationship with Christ. We as elders of churches ought to become their example of godly living so that they too will emulate and reflect Christ in their lives.
Discipleship is also about trust. Have you ever been thrust into a mentoring program and been told this is your mentor? Don’t get me wrong, some wonderful stories and testimonies might come from these times, but by and large discipleship cannot be forced upon people who are unwilling. Also discipleship is a two way street. Without a developed comradely, understanding and relational side, the mentor to the mentee relationship is just an obligation and not a longing. When we look at scriptures we find disciples of Jesus loving him, wanting to be like him. Sure they made lots of mistakes…LOTS of mistakes! But there was trust within that relationship, a relationship that changed lives not mandated and dictated terms of submission. True discipleship requires time, love, patience and trust. Without an invested caring, reciprocated relationship, discipleship can and will only go so far. Because if the truth is spoken in love, and yet love isn’t present, why should the one being discipled comply and change?
How have you been discipled? Was it just some program you had to attend? Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with programs, but discipleship and discipleship training is not JUST a program! The disciples of Jesus spent many many hours with their discipler, with their Rabbi. They ate together, they laughed together, there was fellowship, there was trust and genuine love sparked change…not edicts or mandates, but love. Who do you want to emulate today? Who can you ask to come along side you so that you can become more and more like Christ? We cannot do this Christian thing alone, we need help, we need mentors in our lives!
A song that says it all for me is “To be like Jesus” . The lyrics speak for themselves:
“To be like Jesus!
This hope possesses me,
in every though and deed,
this is my aim, my creed;
To be like Jesus!
This hope possesses me,
His Spirit helping me, Like Him I’ll be”
Our goal, our mission : To be like Jesus
Our objective: To find Christian Elders who can challenge us, whom we can trust, and who will hold us accountable in love.