I may be rocking the boat with this one. Heck, I may very well capsize the boat and get myself in some very hot water. I happen to be very passionate about this subject. I also happen to consider myself very lucky (blessed if you want to be super spiritual) that I had the opportunity to learn this from a great influencer on my life. If you don’t agree with me, that’s ok. We can just agree to disagree. You can’t be right all the time anyway.
Sunday and Wednesday is not really what was intended by discipleship. There, I said it. Hopefully I haven’t ruffled your feathers so much that you refuse to read further. I think if you will, you’ll understand my perspective. I just look at what Jesus did in the short life He had here and I don’t see a twice-a-week, 2-3 hour total commitment of time each week as the example He set. If you can find it, please share with me. I don’t pretend to be a Bible scholar. I can barely remember a reference. I can repeat scripture to you, but half the time I can’t recall where it’s located. Shame on me. But, I really don’t see a Sunday/Wednesday, and maybe once or twice a year at a retreat weekend or camp as what really makes up discipleship. It feels cheap and empty to me to call it that.
I think those “church” times can be a doorway to discipleship. In fact, I’ll go a step further and say that’s exactly what they SHOULD be. I just know that, for most people, it usually ends there. We are human and created for relationship with God AND with each other. And Jesus modeled this in his relationship with His disciples. Just look at the gospels. They are story after story of the twelve men living daily life with Jesus. Going from place to place, doing what they did. They shared more than just a couple of hours a week together. They shared their lives. They broke bread. They loved each other. Oooh. That’s a scary word, love.
In John 15, as Jesus told the disciples to love one another as He loved them, He exclaims that they are His friend, no longer slaves, but friends. They are “in the know” of all that the Father has said to Him. Not only that, but they are so invested in Jesus’ ministry, they are following Him everywhere and doing His work. The idea of being a friend of Jesus has probably been a little diluted because of how we handle our friendships in modern times. I’ll get into that in another post, I’m sure. What comes to mind is the Israel Houghton song, “I am a friend of God.” It doesn’t exactly paint the same picture as a disciple doing the nitty gritty work of ministry alongside Jesus. That’s what His friends, the disciples were doing. And they were learning everything from Him along the way, living life by His side.
You can also see this type of relationship example between Paul and Timothy. When Paul meets Timothy in Acts 16, he takes him along on his journey. Paul mentored Timothy as they worked side by side, living life together. In 1 Timothy 1:2, Paul calls Timothy his true son in the faith. That most certainly paints a picture of more than a Sunday/Wednesday thing. In 2 Timothy, Paul expresses that Timothy knows, basically everything about Paul. He knows his teaching, his faith, his purpose, love, patience, etc. Flip over to Romans and you’ll see Paul talk about Timothy as his fellow worker. Timothy isn’t just a student or the childlike character in the story anymore, Timothy has become his colleague, his friend. Friends are friends forever, if the Lord’s the Lord of them… and a Friend will not…. Sorry, drifted off there. If you can’t tell, I love music.
Here’s how this relates so personally to me. When I got saved at the tender, not so innocent age of 17, I had the overwhelming privilege of having a youth pastor and his family that were very much a live your life in discipleship mentality. Granted, we didn’t live in the same house. Or the same community for that matter. But, the relationship was more than Sunday/Wednesday. I cherish that experience. I think it shaped who I am today more than just about anything else outside of my salvation. I learned from his relationship with his wife, his children as they were born, his relationships with other staff, other students, other adult leaders. I learned from all of his successes and his mistakes. I believe that was, and is what Jesus modeled. I believe it is the expectation of discipleship.
I’ve tried to live that out in my life too. I’ve been described as a relational leader. That probably stems from my view of discipleship. I’m not going to make every decision perfectly. I can be incredibly impatient. I can be incredibly blunt. When pushed too far, I could be likened to the ferocity of a cranky badger that hasn’t eaten in days. I can also be incredibly kind and understanding. I can be gracious and forgiving. I believe people around me, especially those I wish to disciple, can and should learn from everything I do. Including my mistakes. I don’t just want them to see this picture perfect, nearly unattainable, unrealistic holy-man persona that I can easily paint for a few hours each week. That does mean respect can become an issue if I’m not living my life the way I should. If they see more of me than Jesus, I’m the one that needs to get a spiritual checkup. Jesus didn’t have the same kind of flaws that we do, but He modeled what discipleship should be and I don’t want to do anything different. I also don’t want us to sell discipleship as something else. I believe it falls short if we do.
Don’t just seek out a mentor either. That can also be very misleading and somewhat lacking. Usually mentoring is occasionally type of thing, or when I need advice, or every other week, or… Again, I think that can be a doorway to discipleship, but it’s not the end. I said it earlier, we’re built for relationships. Become part of something bigger than yourself. Become a disciple. Find someone to help you live life fully in Christ. Learn what you can from the person discipling you. Let them into your life and become a part of theirs. Maybe you are the one that should be discipling others. (really, when we are mature, we should be doing both) Don’t try to be your best, be real and chase after Jesus. Let those you’re trying to teach see your journey and witness your pursuit. Be genuine and real. Live life together. And not just on Sunday and Wednesday, otherwise I fear we’ve missed the boat.