When I was a young pastor grappling with the responsibility of shepherding God's people, I knew discipleship was key to doing it well. Buy I had no plan or program to do so.
I told a good friend who assisted me in the church that I needed to find out how to disciple people. His response? He laughed at me!
Discipleship as a way of life
Why did my friend laugh at me? He told me I was already discipling people. Because I was discipled, I naturally discipled others. It was how I came to follow Jesus.
Because I was discipled, I naturally discipled others
I can trace it back to one of my good friends in high school who became a believer ahead of me. He was young in the faith, but he shared about his life since following Jesus. Since I knew him from before ("BC"), I could see the change in his life.
He was gracious with me as I touted my own spirituality. I was caught up in the philosophy and morality, or lack thereof, of the times (late 60's/early 70's), but he shared his faith in Jesus along with the love of Jesus. It was simple, relational, and intentional.
My friend was not a pastor, nor is he today. He was a follower of Jesus. He has remained faithful and still follows Jesus. Though we are separated by a few thousand miles and time, we're fellow disciples of Jesus who disciple others.
...we're fellow disciples of Jesus who disciple others
Everybody's got an opinion
Recently, I read and reposted an article written by Seth Barnes. I saw it in a leaders blog I'm subscribed to and went to his site. I'm funny that way, I like to know something about the person writing the article.
I read and liked the post (appreciated, not just social media "liked" it), so I reposted it. I also read some of the comments. Several people also appreciated his article, but quite a few took exception with it. They thought he should include their view of discipleship.
Here's the thing. It's easy to have an opinion, but opinions are cheap and not always true. The question is— If you think discipleship is important, are you doing it?
From what I see of Seth, whom I don't know personally, he's doing it and doing it well. He has what Jesus says is important in John 15:16 NIV—fruit that will last.
The question is— If you think discipleship is important, are you doing it?
Discipleship is something you do
I'm not a program type of guy. I don't have a grid for discipleship that people need to fit into. I am committed to discipleship. In 1995, I started up a Bible college in the Philippines. The crazy thing is, I never finished Bible college myself.
I developed a curriculum of study through the Bible that was inductive and text-based. It was simple. I realized a few years later that the key ingredient wasn't the curriculum, although it was important, it was the personal involvement with the students as they studied.
As I mentioned in an earlier post, I learned how to teach while in the Philippines. Of course, as a church planter and pastor, I thought I knew how to teach. I'm still learning today, as I disciple and mentor others.
Discipleship is done, not taught, per se. Yes, it can be studied, written about, and curriculum can be developed for it, but it must be done to bear fruit—lasting fruit. This is what Jesus did and we cannot improve upon it.
Discipleship is something that needs to be done, not talked about or studied.
Here are some more questions and thoughts to consider
Do you talk about discipleship, or do it?
Do you intentionally and relationally disciple others?
Discipleship is more about life example than doctrine or theology.
Jesus discipled in a very personal and intentional way.
The question is— If you are a follower of Jesus, who's following you as you follow Jesus?
I would encourage you to read some of Seth Barnes's articles (see links above). He's got some practical and proven things to say about discipleship—things he's done throughout his life. It rings true to me and lines up with my own experience with discipleship.
I'm not a well-known expert on the subject of discipleship, but here's some thoughts I have on it— Thoughts-Discipleship_2014 [Feel free to download it by clicking on the link]
But here is what's more important than my thoughts—
- Learn about Jesus and follow Him (Matt 11:29; 16:24)
- As you follow Him, be mindful of your example and influence on others, and...
- Develop gracious relationships with people who need and want to follow Jesus
That's what my friend did for me, and what Jesus did with His first followers.