Discipleship is important.
Jesus lived with His disciples for 3 years, and in those three years He taught them through both words and deed. They were not mere students in a classroom learning some “concept”, they engaged humanity and encountered the Divine as He loved and led. Our prime example of discipleship should Christ and how He instructed His followers.
Some within the The Salvation Army, as well as other denominations, have never been properly discipled.
One might contend that soldiership classes count as discipling, but I believe it is only a drop in the bucket and is not enough. Others might contend that youth classes like junior soldiers and corps cadets are a form of discipling, again, a good start but not enough.
Discipleship is more than a passing grade.
Discipleship is more than completing a work book with a mentor.
Discipleship is SO much more than these things.
We begin this two part series on discipleship with the wrong ways to disciple.
Some of these might be obvious to you, but it never hurts to put these down in writing…so here goes:
5 Wrong Ways To Disciple:
1. “Do as I say, not as I do!”
This is can be a very slippery slope. Mentors and Disciplers want to be good leaders of others, but sometimes putting into practice what is preached (even to the leader) is easier said than done. We all find it much easier to tell others how to live while experiencing the same struggles of daily temptations of old habits that haven’t quite passed away. If we live by this principle within our leadership model, we could very well be leading people astray because they will inevitably watch us closely in how we conduct ourselves and they WILL notice our inconsistencies in faith and practice.
2. “Fake it”
“I’m reminded of your authentic faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice..“. (2 Timothy 1:5a)
This is inexplicably linked to the above “wrong way” of discipling.
Discipleship is vital to our pathway of holiness. What I mean by that is: we cannot become like Christ if we do not first long to emulate Him in every way…we cannot simply fake it! A true disciple of Christ is willing to place the great commission of Christ and the needs of others above them self. If we, as leaders, mentors and instructors don’t first walk with Christ in every way how can we expect those that we disciple to walk with Christ? Faking it is not an option. For a time we can fool others, but we again, will not fool God!
Secondly, and quite obviously, we cannot either by word of action teach disciples to simply plod through and fake it. “If you don’t know the answers, just fake it.”, “If you have no faith, just fake it!”, “If you don’t like that person, just fake it!”
Perhaps you think this sets the bar too high, and maybe unobtainable to everyone.
Jesus isn’t asking for our human perfection, just our faithfulness and authenticity.
3. Abuse Scripture
“not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock...” (1 Peter 5:3)
Disciplers and Leaders, be mindful that although you have authority over those you lead that you yourself are also being held accountable to God! Do not utilize scripture for the purpose of making the disciples your servants. It sounds funny saying this, but in placing these disciple under you the temptation is there for you to make them do things for you or by forcing them to lead things in church when perhaps they are not ready to do so.
Another way in which we might abuse scripture is through plucking out specific verses in order to fit our needs. Be aware of the this! Look at the context of verses in scripture. Do not try to force scripture verses to imply something that they were never intended to imply. Also, do not use scripture as weapons against those you disciple. Isn’t it interesting how scripture can be weaponized sometimes? Please don’t do this. It not only serves to make scripture become something its not, but it can and will drive people away from the faith!
4. It’s all about the uniform (Outward Appearances)
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence.” (Matthew 23:25)
Please know that I am not calling you Pharisees today, that is not my intention with the above verse.
What I am implying is that we in the Army can become so “uniform” focused that we can run the risk of being outwardly focused on appearances than about the internal cleanliness of the “cup”. We want to be one Army strong and focused on the battle to win souls for Jesus, but if we skip the sacred step of consecration in lieu of appearances and numbers we will have already lost the war. The uniform, like baptism and communion are merely (or should be) an outward evidence of an inward change. Sometimes we might get the cart before the horse. Many times is this deeply personal and at the same time extremely corporate. If we strive as leaders to just those we disciple into uniforms for the sake of numbers (I hope this doesn’t happen very often) we will have done true discipleship a great disservice.
5. It (Discipleship) should only be taught in a classroom with a book.
“Please turn to chapter six in your work books and let’s finish this fill in the blank section…”
Discipleship isn’t only some class you might take part in.
Discipleship isn’t about filling out sections of a book.
These things can certainly help, and I am not discounting these as elements or tools for discipleship, but discipleship is SO much more than the classroom setting! If there is no challenge outside the walls of the classroom to actively engage and put into practice in daily life what was learned, then it is all for naught.
Jesus took His disciples out into the field. He didn’t do everything for them. He had them put into practice all that they had learned. They (the disciples) were still a work in progress, but Jesus lovingly pushed them along in hands on training with real life situations.
Disciplers, mentors, how do we do this for those that we train to become disciples of Christ?
These are just five wrong ways to disciple, I am sure there could be more to discuss.
The key is to recognize what a privilege and responsibility that we have been given.
Let us disciple with sober intentions, love, compassion and grace…
Something more for Army to ponder today.
To God be the glory!