Most spell checkers, in different programs I use, don't recognize the word discipleship. They know disciple, but not discipleship. Even some definitions in dictionaries refer to disciple, but not discipleship. Is this a sign of the times?
Older dictionaries show discipleship as something you do. But things have changed. Language is dynamic. It changes. These changes reflect current culture. Culture indicates what is valued and believed.
Who influences who?
I'm not so concerned about popular culture itself, but its influence on followers of Jesus. (Click to Tweet) Why? Followers of Jesus are to be leaders. People who influence culture, not the other way around. (Click to Tweet)
The first-century believers who followed Jesus lived in a demeaning and oppressive culture. Most of these early believers were slaves of varying degree. Their time was not their own, nor their life on earth.
You would not expect them to have much impact on the pagan-Roman culture around them. But they did impact it. Their influence was perceived as a threat, and they were persecuted because of it.
They were considered cannibals for their practice of communion, and atheists because they didn't hold Caesar as their god. They were persecuted for such things.
Did persecution accomplish its intended purpose? No! It didn't snuff out this maligned and misunderstood following, but spread it throughout the world.
Persecution helped this fledgling spiritual movement to expand throughout the Roman Empire, but what caused it to flourish?
It's been said the common trade language of Greek and the road system developed by the Romans were key factors. True, but there was more to it than persecution, language, and roads.
What would keep a seemingly unorganized group of people, following a martyred and resurrected Jewish carpenter turned rabbi (teacher), true to their faith?
If you only look at easy to observe elements, you might miss what's essential.
These believers weren't unorganized. They had leadership. Human leaders under the influence of God's Spirit.
If you study methodologies, in order to replicate this movement, you'd still miss it.
In the days of the early Jesus Movement (late 1960's and early 70's), groups of leaders and seminary students showed up with clipboards and notebooks in hand to study this spiritual phenomenon.
They went to churches experiencing a huge surge of young people responding to the gospel to follow Jesus. Intent on discovering the special dynamics of this movement, they looked past the obvious.
First of all, it was a move of God, not man. It's origin and source of leadership rested in this one man, Jesus. I'm not only talking about the Jesus Movement, but every revival that preceded it, and the early church, as well.
This wasn't a soppy, sentimental reverence for an innocent man who was unjustly executed. Indeed, He was innocent and His was an unjust death. But it was something deeper, and at the same time more simple.
Spell-checkers aren't the only ones who have trouble with understanding discipleship. (Click to Tweet) Its essence eludes qualitative analysis.
There are discoverable elements to discipleship, but they defy clinical observations. (Click to Tweet)
Want a hint?
Jesus spoke of these elements (Luke 9:23-27; 57-62), as did Paul (2 Tim. 2:1-2).
Next week I'll explore a few of these elements that are key to this way of life. Until then...
How would you define or describe discipleship in your own words? (Click to Tweet)
Leave a comment (on topic please!)... get some discussion going. We just might learn something together!