I've been so away from blogging during the month of December as there were many, many activities going on. But, nevertheless, blogging has still been on my heart. I just never had the time to get to the computer to write my thoughts down!
I wrote a blog yesterday on 'how not do to evangelism' and today I want to write one on 'how not to do discipleship'. This topic is what we are studying in church right now (http://www.metrolife.org) so it is a hot topic around here. We also talked about it last night in home group. Four questions were presented, but we only got through the first question, which was, 'were you ever discipled by anyone, and if so, tell your experience'. Most of the home group had not had someone that discipled them. Many were discipled by reading books and listening to sermons by outstanding Bible teachers or attending a class that taught the person how to do evangelism or just a basic Bible study they learned from.
I had the privilege to have had a woman I called up continually, to ask questions. We were in a tiny church and I had just come to Christ about two to three years prior to that. The person who sat behind me in homeroom was the one who pointed me to Christ. She had just become a Christian and was filled with the joy of the Lord. When she talked about God, she wasn't just giving a bunch of facts out of the Bible, but she talked like she knew God personally as if He were right there with us in the room. I had never seen anything like this before, and for sure, I wanted to go to the church she went to.
I wasn't really allowed to drive, but my boyfriend at the time (now my husband) took me to his little church that he went to. It was nice, but there was not much deep teaching or relationships there. I tried to ask questions, but my questions were evaded for some reason. But, God in His mercy allowed me to get in touch with an older woman (she was my mom's age), so she was older than I was, in more ways than one! At the time, I was only 19 or 20, and I would call her on a regular basis and talk about the things of God with her. I really enjoyed my talks with her, but they ended when we moved away because neither of us could afford to pay for a long distance phone bill.
But here is what happened: I really wanted to be a part of the church that my friend in homeroom went to. We started going there for the 5:00 services, but then we moved away. We went to the church that they recommended (was supposed to be like a sister church), but the church there was nothing like the one I wanted to go to! We looked around and never found the church we were supposed to be planted in, so we moved back and started going to this church that I wanted to go to since I was 16!
While we were in this other city, we tried to be involved in this 'sister' church, but never fit in. We went there for several months, but no one reached out to us or ever even greeted us. We were like invisible to everyone. In spite of this, we met a couple who were a few years older than we were. We got to know them a little bit. They were also studying about discipleship under the teachings of Juan Carlos Ortiz, who is credited with bringing the idea of home groups to the church in America.
Back in the 70s, there was a lot of wrong teaching on discipleship. There were groups who lived like there were living in communes. Some had cultish features that were kind of scary. I remember one group and they called their leader 'Dad'. There were some though which didn't know their limits on those they were discipling and treated them as if they owned them. There was a lot of control in some of these groups that isn't warranted in the Bible.
We got to know this couple in the church in the new city we were living in. After a couple of weeks of interacting with them, the man told my husband that he felt like he should be discipling my husband. That seemed weird. Of course, we needed discipling, but is that how it is supposed to take place? How do we go about discipling people anyway?
My husband didn't feel comfortable with that idea, and probably, rightly so. I didn't know them very well at all. Perhaps if the man and his wife would have just continued to be friends with us, over a long period of time, the relationship would have turned into a discipleship relationship. I don't know.
We were talking about that last night, specifically how are we to approach people who we want to disciple or who we want to disciple us. I think it sounds weird to go up to a person, even someone we know well, and tell them that we want to disciple them. Wouldn't it be better if we just go to know people on an intimate basis, and those who we are drawn to, or who are drawn to us, would form that natural relationship that would result in discipleship?
I think there are a lot of people I can draw from, and I want to be intentional on taking the time to learn from them. We can learn a lot from listening to sermons and reading books by good Theologians, but, learning from other people who are our friends can be the most helpful way of being discipled.
When Jesus gave the Great Commission, He did not tell us to just make converts of people. There are explicit instructions to disciple people. We put into practice, God's word, activated by the Holy Spirit in our lives, and we give what we have received from God, to others. They in turn, will do the same.
I could go into all the reasons why the church in America is not really doing discipleship well, or at all, but, that would take too long and perhaps will go on another blog sometime. But for now, there are good books and videos out on discipleship. Two I recommend are 'Not a Fan' and (I think) 'Mulitiply' by Francis Chan. I have not read the one by Francis Chan, but I have heard good reports on it. 'Not a Fan' will make you cry, but the point is so very clear as you go through the series.
One more thing: Discipleship goes both ways. I learn from you and you learn from me. Or, I am learning from someone or from certain people and I can share with someone else what I have learned and incorporated into my own life. There is no 'I am above my disciplee' or, 'My discipler is above me'. We are all learning together, how to live a new life, in a new way.