Discipleship: The Buzzword
In church life today it seems “discipleship” is the buzzword. I’m not convinced it means the same thing to everyone who uses the word or claims to be doing “it”, but despite the shades of meaning and application it’s probably a good idea to get on board with what Jesus commanded in his last words to the troops. Matthew 28 trumpets the command to make “disciples” of all nations, which literally seems to involve baptizing believers and teaching them to obey ALL that Jesus had taught and commanded His followers both then and beyond.
How could the church have dropped this ball so significantly for centuries? Discipleship is not a trend, although it seems a little like that in church talk today. Discipleship is a lifestyle which should be part of the life course for all believers from the start of their faith life until they embrace Jesus (no Covid worries) after ejecting from this earth. How I wish this would have been part of my “start” when years ago as an adult I began my faith relationship with Jesus. Where were the ones who were farther along in their journey who could help shape my understanding of what it means to “follow” Jesus? (I did learn that being “older” doesn’t necessarily imply spiritually mature) Good“starts” in a person’s faith journey are incredibly important, whether we are talking about introducing a child to Jesus or an adult.
As I have the privilege to disciple or “mentor” others, I cannot impress upon you the difficulty many people have undoing some of their misunderstanding and outright garbage theology which has already firmly shaped their lives and their view of God. Whether it be unbiblical theology, legalism or outright heresy, or perhaps especially the critical or condemning messages from family or significant others, the information people take in from trusted sources about God and the Bible become the truths they build their spiritual foundations upon. Good teaching and biblical truth is essential for people to experience a sound faith and practice for their Christian lives.
For many who have been indoctrinated with erroneous concepts about God and doctrine, it takes hard work to “re-program” their minds and hearts and to experience the transforming power of God’s precepts, commands and principles. They are often crippled by a lack of understanding of their position in Christ, their value to God, their salvation being by grace alone through faith alone and that they are forgiven and need not suffer from guilt and shame. Our God is a good and just God. He is also holy and commands us to observe His word so that we may grow in holiness in the likeness of His Son.
One does not need to be a biblical scholar or theologian to disciple someone. Far from it. But what is essential is a commitment to transfer truth. A discipler/mentor is typically a bit farther along in their spiritual journey than those they disciple, but they must also be aware of their limitationsand be content to research, seek counsel and use the plethora of available study resources to ensure their instruction is in keeping with solid biblical interpretation. Add to this the willingness to say “I don’t know, let’s check it out” and you have a pretty good plan.
God’s word is essential to the healthy growth of His followers whether we are discipling others or for our own personal maturity. Matthew 28 would at least imply strongly that a responsibility which accompanies our maturing is the obedience to help move others forward in their growth. Our faith is birthed initially from hearing the word of God (Rom.10:17) and responding to the ministry of the Holy Spirit. King David both informs us and encourages us that “God’s word is a lamp to our feet and a light to our paths.” Hebrews 4:12 declares “the word of God is living active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”
Our discipleship goals must center on the word of God. It is the source of the truths which we are commanded to transfer to others and it is the only power to cut through the error and deception which is intended to confuse and trap those God desires to groom for His use. Our paths in discipleship will enrich our relationships with others and with God as we grow as fellow learners in God’s kingdom. The enjoyment of experiencing how these growth relationships enable us to sharpen one another is immeasurable. (Prov. 27:17)
So let’s not be shy about seeking out someone to talk this “faith walk” with. If you are younger in your faith experience and feel your foundation could use some strengthening, seek out an older brother or sister. And you who have the years of experience and spiritual maturity, stop hoarding it and tap someone on the shoulder and invite them to take a good long walk with you and learn together how to joyfully and in truth navigate this Christian life. Think About It.