Does your mind hit snooze the minute you hear the word Discipleship? What does the word mean, and is it perhaps just a phase?
Fads come and go, leaving little to show for it, except perhaps nostalgia. The Adventist church has done its best keeping up with the fads… slide projectors in the 70’s, satellite seminars in the 90”s… As texts give way to tweets, doorknocking is losing ground to discipleship. Almost every new initiative, poster, flier, vimeo or facebook post proadcast from official church channels sings the anthem of discipleship. But what is Discipleship?
Two thousand years ago, discipleship was not a fad, but a way of life. It remained so for almost 1800 years until the industrial revolution spawned education into an assembly line for the masses.
The Greek origin of Disciple did not mean a follower of Jesus. It was a common word commonly used for the common apprentice in and common trade, profession or philosophy. In case you blinked, it was common. The apprentice journey was an endless cycle involving the master inviting a protégé to follow, the protégé apprentices to the master, the master trains the apprentice, the apprentice becomes a master and we are back at the beginning.
An apprentice or intern is synonymous with the Biblical disciple. There is no magic or mystery to the word which is why it needed no explanation or definition in the Gospels. The locals knew what it meant.
Today it may be a trending buzzword in church circles but it should be as common as Weet-bix and hay stacks! It is something that our children should associate with normal everyday life. It is a culture new believers should experience as natural, when they encounter Jesus. Finally it is the heart of Jesus’ Great Commission. Go and make disciples.
Why? In a nutshell, life is better and eternity a possibility, with Jesus. Disciple-making involves the same basic elements that the common apprenticeship (discipleship) involved 2000 years ago, whether learning to fish for sardines or souls.
How do we reclaim the lost art of discipleship?
To make disciples who in turn, make other disciples, we must first have some knowledge, experience and success in the Christian journey. You need to know how to use a fishing line before teaching someone else to do so. This by no means implies having attained perfection. But it does involve continual daily steps toward a closer relationship with Jesus.
A person can begin making disciples as soon as they take that first step with Jesus. Simply inviting others to walk with them, one step at a time. Keep stepping forward with Jesus in your spiritual, personal life, family study or work life. Ask God each day how you can know, experience and share Him more.
Who will you invite to follow you? This is one of the biggest challenges we face in our church and community when it comes to discipleship. We don’t know anyone… much. Why would strangers follow someone they don’t know?
You are not going to catch any fish if you are not at, by or in the water.
We will never make disciples if we are not genuine in our relationships with fellow church members and others. It is through authentic interactions with our friends that they will see Christ in us and want to know more. Spend time doing things you like with those who like them too. Find reasons to celebrate, eat and share life together. Authentic, effective lasting Biblical discipleship occurs in doing life together. From that starting point, friendship and trust develops. And from that point of commonality, our faith experiences can bless others.
An experienced minister once told a young person considering pastoral ministry not to answer if he wasn’t called. While not all are called dto full time paid ministry, all ARE called to discipleship. The only problem is for most of us the call to discipleship gets lost in the spam folder, our minds auto-filtering it as junk mail.
Jesus was focused (“Yes Peter, I mean you!”), He was direct (“Follow me!”) and He was clear (”I will make you fishers of men”) in making disciples. And after taking one step with Jesus, we are equipped to invite someone to join us, to follow us, to come fishing with us. But remain focused and clear. Be intentional about mentoring a young person in your church. Offer to support and be an accountability partner for a new believer in their devotional life. Take church members with you to visit and pray for each other. Pray with a non-believer going through difficult times. Invite non-Adventist friends to experience a Sabbath with you. Or to share a healthy home cooked meal with you.
And all the while bring your children, youth and fellow believers on the discipleship journey with you.
Apprenticeships or internships are not passing fads but a part of every day life – as should be discipleship.
Follow Jesus, be an authentic friend, invite your friends to follow you.
Why? Anywhere with Jesus is better than everything without.
What will you do today to share your faith with others?
Director Personal Ministries
Australian Union Conference