I’ve been thinking a lot lately . .
about writing a succinct blog post on what is discipleship since the majority of the time that I talk to a few other missionaries or pastors, I find myself clarifying — almost defending — that what we’re doing here in Peru is biblical.
I recently found myself in a discussion with someone who wouldn’t let me finish any of my sentences as we discussed what the Gospel and making disciples of all the nations entails. This friend seemed to have the impression that I’m a part of some kind of G12 network that is planting churches in order to create tithers who provide an upward cash flow to us.
I just squirted milk out of my nose saying that last sentence out loud since I’m hardly living high on the hog nor is that even what we’re doing.
As I sat down to write this, I realized that this conversation confirmed that for many different people the word “discipleship” can dial up any number of different reactions, (mis)understandings and definitions. Since many pastors and leaders believe standing in front of a pulpit and having people listen to them once a week is “making disciples” and fulfilling the great commission, it can be easy to falsely gauge our success in making disciples by numbers of people in a meeting. Or that numbers of people completing a program that consists of attending meetings is the same thing.
As I prepare to go to the jungle of Pucallpa next week to accompany Mark Burgess, Shaun Wissmann and our team of students in a conference where we’ll be teaching local pastors and leaders about a tool we use called life shapes, I thought I’d hash out some of my thoughts on my blog for the rest of this week in an unofficial series of posts on what discipleship is and isn’t, rather than some kind of single definitions blog.
In my next post I’ll talk about information, imitation, and innovation. As a result I realize I may be using vocabulary in today’s post that might not make too much sense until then and I realize that, but please bear with me.
DISCIPLESHIP IS NOT ATTENDING MEETINGS
It can include that, but meetings can’t replace discipleship nor can it be our only method or strategy of accomplishing it, since discipleship involves lifestyle imitation which can’t happen through hearing sermons.
Early yesterday morning I read this post by Ed Stetzer on Churchleaders.com called 5 Broken Views on Discipleship & How To Fix Them. I could have written it myself it, but that’s beside the point. I’m glad when I see more and more visible leaders with the clout and authority he’s got coming out and saying that what we call discipleship in the Church is not really discipleship but something else altogether.
He rightly states that discipleship is a daily process and not a once per week event. I’ve said before that Jesus preached the sermon on the mount, but that doesn’t mean he discipled all those who heard that sermon. He fed the five thousand and taught them, but that doesn’t mean he discipled them, considering that in John’s Gospel the crowd abandoned Him the next day when He challenged them to eat his flesh and drink his blood (see John 6:56 in context). Discipleship is not a transfer of knowledge alone. It’s not just a transfer of the DNA (information), but a cultivating and forming it (through imitation).
Discipleship is a lifestyle, not a class or a program.
There’s not just information shared, but space for imitation to take place. As Stetzer says in his article,
While I don’t think one can appropriately grow without seeking more biblical knowledge, many times believers reduce the discipleship process to, “Read this. Study this. Memorize this. Good to go.” This is unfortunate.
Indeed it is.
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