Posted by: The Simple Guy | June 2, 2011

Random Thoughts on Discipleship

I have been watching a couple of discussions lately about discipleship, being a follower of Jesus, and church body life.  This post combines my own random thoughts on the subject in hope of sparking a discussion.  Not that I want to argue, I would just like to bounce some ideas around in hopes of clarifying my own thoughts and coming closer to the truth.

It is my belief that the “Great Commission” has been largely misunderstood.  If you asked most church goers to sum up the Great Commission in as few words as possible, I believe most would only need two letters.  “Go”

I, on the other hand, would need to use two words.  “Make disciples”

I am not a Greek scholar, but it is my understanding that at the core of Matt 28:19-20 is the instruction to make disciples.  The instruction could be stated, “As you are going, as you are teaching, as you are baptizing, make disciples.”

So I believe that the essence of what we have been told isn’t as much go, teach, baptize, but make disciples.  Of whom?  Of Christ.  This is for every believer.

It seems to me that we make at least a couple of mistakes.  First, we think of evangelism and discipleship as two separate things, when in fact evangelism is part of the discipleship process.  Both the beginning of one’s discipleship, and an activity we participate in as we continue our discipleship.  Person A evangelized person B.  This was the first step of person B’s discipleship, but it was a continuing part of person A’s discipleship as well, since person A was following Christ’s example by inviting another to “follow Me”. (Me is capitalized for a reason, we will get back to that)  Then person B is brought along to the place where they are also issuing invitations to follow, so they continue to participate in evangelizing others.

This is different from the typical “evangelize, then disciple” model I have watched in process repeatedly.

The second mistake that we make is that we don’t capitalize the “Me” in our invitation.  You see, the true invitation is an invitation to follow Christ, not me.  So it is a quote – “Follow Me”   These are Jesus’ words, not mine.  I am not inviting others to follow Craig.  I am inviting others to follow Christ.  We will follow together.  1 John 1 is a prime example of this invitation.

1Jn 1:1-4 ESV
(1)  That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life–
(2)  the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us–
(3)  that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.
(4)  And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.

Notice, John introduces a fellowship triangle here.   In essence: “We want fellowship with you.  Our fellowship is with Christ. We tell you what we have seen and heard so that you can have fellowship with the Father and with Christ.  This makes our (both yours and mine) joy complete.”  So John was following Christ in restoring people to fellowship with the Father, by relating his own experience.  This is the same thing that we do.

I was challenged to begin making disciples a while back.  I found that it was quite intimidating until I realized that I was not supposed to make a disciple of myself, but of Christ.  I don’t have to have it all together to make disciples of Him.  I just have to engage in provoking one another to love and good works.  The dynamics change when we realize this.  You see, we are disciples together of Christ.  This is different from: I disciple you, someone discipled me, he was a disciple of so and so, back to Calvin, or Luther, or Augustine, or Peter, or Paul, and then finally 30 levels back we have Christ.

This frees me from the need to defend my theological heritage.  All the heritage becomes ours to share as we (Calvin, Luther, Spurgeon, etc included) are disciples together.  Now we can look at all of the rich heritage we share as followers of Christ together, and glean from them all.  Some men were great men of prayer, others men of conviction, others bright theologians.  We should focus on following them as they followed Christ, but we can also learn from their mistakes.

Also, it frees me to be taught by the person I have entered into discipleship with.  I may be better at “rightly dividing the word”.  He may be better at showing hospitality.  We may both be schooled in child like faith by our own children, etc.  The older ones contribute the wisdom, the younger ones contribute fresh energy and excitement.  The strong support the weak.  So now we all follow Christ together, rather than “I’m the leader, you follow me”

This does not negate the authority structure Scripture points out, but we need to be careful not to add more structure than is there.  I believe that the added structure results in “pedestals” for people to fall off of.  And you know what?  James says we all stumble in many ways.  I’m pretty good at falling off of pedestals.  This fear kept me from being involved in discipleship until recently.  Now I am involved in following Christ together.  This has been a rich experience for me.

Finally, I think that our lack of understanding of the Great Commission has caused many of us to leave it to “the professionals” because we didn’t have it all together yet.  Then we sit in our false modesty and throw rocks at ‘the professionals” because after all, they must be claiming to have it all together if they are “professional”  but even I can see they aren’t doing it right.

Contrast this with the tone we see in the epistles of how we are servants together who are to bear one anothers burdens, how each is gifted for the building of the body up into maturity under the Head. . . I keep seeing this theme of what being a disciple looks like in shoe leather.

Just a side note: I think the instruction to wash each others’ feet is another living example of this same idea.  (we all help one another in cleaning the road dirt off – forgiveness in action)

Get my drift?

Any thoughts?

Craig

P.S.

So when we work together, there is harmony rather than discord.

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Responses

  1. So I wonder if “the church” and disciples are the same? Not sure why it would be different, just never put them together before.

  2. I think they are. Actually, Lyle’s post was part of what had me thinking about this subject
    http://themostexcellentwayblog.blogspot.com/2011/05/disciple-or-believer.html
    He discusses whether there is a difference between disciples and believers. I don’t think there are 2 groups, just one. I don’t see a separate set of instructions. I think the core of who we are as believers is to be disciples, and makers of disciples. This starts in our daily lives, and works out in every part of out lives.
    Seems to me that we compartmentalize these things, and it is part of why we are ineffective. We have evangelism crusades, discipleship classes, and the like, and they are just part of our programs.

    Thanks for stopping by Lance!!

    Craig

  3. Hey Brother,
    The greatest weakness, that I have observed over the years, with the common mentality regarding evangelism is the propensity to “get people saved” and then in practice, leave them to fend for themselves!……I believe that this is one of the reasons that we see so many bloated “church rolls” in many of our main line denominations that don’t accurately reflect the actual health and growth in grace of that local body. So yes, I do think that you are hitting on a particular point of failure in our modern day attitudes toward biblical evangelism with respect to our “get quick visible results” and move on to the next “conquest”!

  4. Hey Tom!
    Great to hear from you. We have been praying for your new church. Sounds like you understand the essence of what I am seeing. I pray that God will enable you to make disciples in your daily walk. Blessings,
    Craig

  5. Thanks again for your prayers for us Brother Craig!……God is blessing and giving me liberty to teach with clearness of thought and we have a very faithful core group of folks who are attending!……Thanks be to God, who always causes us to triumph in Christ Jesus!!


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