Discipleship is a thorny and difficult to discuss issue in the Body of Christ. First of all there is argument about the actual meaning of the word “discipleship.”
- Some people think of it as a state of personal total submission to God. You have “discipleship” when you are a sold out believer. This is generally what’s meant by the book by Dietrich Bonhoffer “The Cost of Discipleship.”
- Additionally people may think of it as a personal process of submission to God.
- On the other hand others think of it as some kind of mentoring process. You are embracing “discipleship” when you are either mentoring or being mentored by another believer.
None of these fully satisfies though. On the one hand, we really are to be Christ’s disciples, so to talk about discipleship as mentoring, I believe confuses the issue. It always tends to imply that you as a person make a disciple of another person. It’s never that simple and you should not become the focus — Christ makes them a disciple through a variety of experiences, and people, but you may have a particularly important role, but the focus has to remain on Christ.
Paul says, “follow me as I follow Christ.” Now this is a principle we can latch onto. He does not say “submit to me as I follow Christ” but “follow me.” In other words, I’m going somewhere in pursuit of God and I want you to come along, because in the process we’re both going to be transformed into God’s image. Mutual Pursuit I believe is a key principle of Jesus that transcends the desire for foundation laying or being sold out, per se. So perhaps it’s something in addition to a definition of “discipleship” but I believe that Christians are supposed to see their activities as initiations. By bringing others in who are less mature/less able/less passionate in a certain area, we spread our God given gifts to others.
In the Christian life we are supposed to have an additude of inviting others into whatever Godly pursuit we are in. If we do it alone, only we benefit, but if we do it with someone else, we create a virus of growth. For example, Jaime and I are pursuing a Godly family. Now it’s not enough to just do that for ourselves, but we should look for opportunities to invite younger people into the fruit of our labor by staying with us or hanging around us. This might involve very little explicit instruction on our part, but leaves an eternal deposit in the other person. The same if you are running a ministry, etc. Instead of telling people to “join” things all of the time, you bring them along into it. “Follow me, as I follow Christ” not “Go and do what you are supposed to do for Christ.” It’s love and leadership, not lordship.
Now do people need to learn to follow, and learn to submit, and be corrected in order to truly be disciples? Absolutely, but I might argue that generally speaking the best context to learn these things is in the corporate body, not a one on one relationship. Thoughts?