Often people talk a lot about “discipleship”, but I wonder if this is one of those terms, like mission, which is used a lot but everyone means different things about it.
Shane Claiborne talks about the massive difference that exists between a believer and a follower and for a long time our language in Church has been about being a believer.
A follower is someone who follows Jesus, so discipleship I believe is defined by movement, it’s a journey, things are changing, Jesus is not a static God standing still.
Yet for too long we have made discipleship all about our minds, about what we know, Christians bickering playing ‘top trumps with (often out of context) scriptures’.
Often we have made discipleship really passive come along and hear someone talk about the Bible and you’ll become a disciple through lots of listening passively.
The word that really annoys me is “so and so doesn’t feel fed”, firstly we all have responsibility for our own discipleship, Church together is meant to encourage each of us in our walk with God, but its the consumer mentality that says “what do I get?” rather than the more Christian “what do I bring?”
I don’t think the real problem with Church is a lack of teaching, we have Christian books published by the thousands, blogs -like this one- clog up the internet, there is always some great and good minor Christian celebrity doing the rounds -we have more information at our fingertips than any other generation, and yet we aren’t becoming more and more Christlike.
Sadly, it seems as though Christians just loop around their favourite Christian cul de sac, only buying books of people they already agree with, we don’t have real discipleship, just gathering people around us who reinforce our views.
I used to run an under 18’s nightclub, with a lot of young people who were Christians who helped run the club, I didn’t do lots of teaching, but they did have lots of conversations, I remember seeing one of the young people mopping up some sick once (completely unasked) and thought she had understood something deep and profound about the Kingdom of God, doing those blessed but unnoticed things for the sake of the Kingdom. we did share testimonies at the end of the evenings and some evenings were challenging (we were reaching out to some challenging young people) and we saw together highs and lows of ministry -which I think is more like the discipleship that Jesus had in mind, we learn by doing.
we grow by being self aware with the Holy Spirit and those we trust, those who are least spiritual mature are normally those who are least self aware and humble, because unless we can reflect upon ourselves authentically and honestly, we will keep doing what we were already doing.
I believe too we need more Godly mentors too, when I did youth work in Poole, most of us who were youth workers had either come from being schools workers led by this guy Danny Brown, or had come from a Youth Movement called the Farside led by this guy Simon Harwood. Often much of the outreach that we did neither of these guys were about for, but their investment, time and energy probably underpinned most of the positive youth work in this area.
Yet on the whole the question I want to ask is where are the mentors? A question I often ask is “who is mentoring you?” and also ask “who are you mentoring?” Sadly too often the question is “no one”.
Sadly too often even when discipleship groups happen or people come to Church they hear a great load of Church history, or power-point maps, all of which has some interest, but often we lack the application, to our normal everyday life.
Too often our heads our filled, but what about our hearts?
Shane Claborne talks of Churches that come/sing “Just as I am” but leave “just as they were” and behave like they always have.
Often too, with peoples behaviour is often the elephant in the room, we never have the courage to say, even gently -is this how Christians are meant to behave? (Unless it is about sex and then suddenly everyone seems to have a vocal opinion!).
So, lets re-discover real discipleship, discipleship where we are changed and transformed, where our lives don’t stay the same, and we learn through doing rather than just gorging on another podcast or having some lengthy theological conversation which is just self indulgent… Lets do it differently, and in doing so, I believe we might discover, we look, sound and act a lot more like Jesus.