-I’ve spent much of my life thinking about discipleship. After all, the Great Commission Jesus gave to his own Disciples was to “Go out into all the world and make disciples of all men”.
Jesus didn’t say to His followers, “create men’s groups” or “create nice suburban social clubs”, He said “make disciples”. Specifically, for Jesus and the first century church, a disciple of Christ was something far more deeper than a student in a class.
Ultimately, a true disciple of Christ was someone who not only believed the teachings of Jesus, but followed Jesus’ example in how He lived. This is a difficult truth; because living like Jesus rocks the very bedrock of our day-to-day lives.
Jesus was not a professional professor.
Jesus was not a professional lecturer.
Jesus did not get paid to preach on Sunday morning and lead a bible study on Wednesday.
Jesus did not clock in a forty hour work week doing church related busy-work.
Being Jesus was a 24/7 way of life.
One of the reasons the Disciples of Jesus grew to be such men of amazing love and grace, is the sheer amount of time Jesus gave to His disciples; He lived with them, ate meals with them, brought them with Him when He ran errands, prayed with them publicly and privately. Jesus treated the 12 Disciples like they were His very own family…..because in following Christ, they became His family!
Making disciples was not something that Jesus scheduled at particular church meetings throughout the work week. Making disciples was a way of life for Christ.
Of course, depending on the country or culture we live, elements of discipleship will take on aspects of the region we live. We wouldn’t expect Christians living in London, England to look exactly like Christians living in an indigenous tribe in the Amazon. However, no matter where we live, the key element we want to be on the watch for, is the type of Pharisaical professionalism that tends to infect Christianity throughout the globe, just as it infected the covenant people of Jesus’ own day.
The Pharisees were the religious leaders of Jesus’ people. They knew theology and matters of the Jewish religion better than anyone of their day. They were prayer warriors and obeyed the law right down to dotting their I’s and crossing their T’s. Sadly, just as some professional pastors of our own day, they focused so much on the professionalism of their religion, that their hearts were far from God. Repeatedly Jesus called them out for their hypocrisy, “a brood of vipers” he called them.
When we turn our Christian life and our churches into a corporate set of meetings and rules, our hearts begin to lose connection with the Creator.
I have talked with ministers representing countless Christian denominations; from Presbyterian, to Charismatic, to Baptists, and it saddened my heart when each time I was repeatedly told that “Discipleship is what occurs when my parishioners hear the sermon each Sunday”.
Jesus’ example of 24/7 discipleship has been interpreted by many Christian leaders as a Sunday morning sermon and congenial conversation at the monthly church pot luck.
Sadly, for many Christians, these observations are difficult to receive. A litany of objections form in their mind as they read these criticisms. Yet, when we survey the congregations of the churches around us, we are faced with rampant divorce, joblessness, infantile Christianity among their congregants, and throngs of covenant Children who have abandoned their father’s faith.
Whatever this type of discipleship that has been practiced in the Christian church during the past few decades, it is safe to say it has utterly failed. Not only has the Christian church made very few ‘new’ disciples, the people the church has been given charge over have not experienced any proper discipleship; otherwise half of the marriages would not have ended in divorce, nor would the majority of covenant children be pursuing the things of this world.
The church has done well when it came to organizing meetings, teaching theology, arguing doctrine, and preserving a form of the ancient church traditions. Yet when it came to the Great Commission, and by “Great” we mean it supersedes all the other commissions the church has been given, the church has utterly failed.
This isn’t something new to the world. God’s people fail Him more often than not. It is odd when Christians and churches get upset at being reminded at how badly they are failing God. Such Christians have perhaps never immersed themselves in the Old Testament prophets. For Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and other prophets, it was literally a full time job telling the people of God how much they were failing God, because the people of God are always better at failing God than serving Him!
Any church or Christian who immediately wants to excuse the criticisms leveled against them, are almost always at risk of being a Pharisee. Being told we are failing God is how the Holy Spirit creates unity among His people!
When discipleship is replaced with lectures, is it any wonder that our covenant children, or the children of this world find our brand of Christianity a bit less to be desired? True discipleship is far more than a lecture; it is a deeply intense personal relationship, akin to that which Jesus practiced between Himself and His disciples.
Lectures inform, discipleship transforms.