This morning, while on holiday in rural Lincolnshire, we were treated to a sermon on discipleship. This got me thinking a bit about what it means to disciple people and what I’ve seen work both in my own experience and while watching others.
It seems clear to me that Jesus expects his disciples to make more disciples:
18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.
19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Two things seem to be key here; baptising and teaching. I guess the baptism is the call to repentance and public identification with Christ and then the teaching is the ongoing business of growing in our understanding and application of all that Jesus said.
So discipleship is then first of all leaving an old life and following Jesus and making disciples is about calling people to do that and then teaching them how to live for Jesus. Nothing too radical there so far, although I wonder if in some circles we are good at the first and hesitant in the second.
But here is where my own experience and observation factor in. It seems to me that the people who have had the most influence in discipling me and the people I have seen discipling most successfully are those who commit themselves to time with people. That is to say, discipleship is more than the presentation of facts but involves sharing a life that is already marked by discipleship itself.
Perhaps this is part of the reason why we are slightly reluctant to get involved in discipling people: we are reluctant to commit the time and we feel our own inadequacies. We perhaps wonder if someone else would be better and fear that our busy schedules won’t allow it.
Jesus was a busy man but he committed himself to sharing his life with the twelve men who travelled around with him for three years (as well as the women who travelled too) and in so doing discipled them with words and more.
In the quest to find the perfect discipleship course perhaps we might be overlooking the simple fact that discipleship is not achieved in a ten week programme but rather in a lifelong commitment to share and talk and pray together. This is not to decry discipleship courses but rather to encourage more.
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