The practice of having disciples didn’t initiate with Jesus’ earthly ministry. It was something created within us since the Garden of Eden. Being created in the image of God entails that we are created with the need for relationships. When God wanted us to know him, he always brought people as his messengers. His Scriptures didn’t come absent of people delivering them.
In the Old Testament, Elijah discipled Elisha as a prophet of God (2 Kings 2:1-3). In the New Testament, John the Baptist discipled hundreds of individuals who came to him for baptism into his message of repentance (Matthew 9:14).
Amongst Roman philosophers, Socrates discipled Plato and Plato went on to disciple Aristotle. In Judaism, The Pharisees would travel across sea and land to make disciples (Matthew 23:15).
Carpenters, painters, electricians, mechanics and others have not learned primarily in classrooms but have rather been discipled by those further along in their trade in the workplace.
Even the family unit is set up with a discipleship model. From birth, children are intended to be born into a stable family with loving parents that disciple them into adulthood.
Even broader than the immediate family, believers are given a spiritual family of older men and women to disciple us into spiritual maturity. Older women are to disciple younger women (Titus 2), Paul discipled Timothy and Timothy was commanded to disciple faithful men (2 Timothy 2:2).
We aren’t intended to be discipled primarily by books, conferences or church services. People are intended to be discipled by people and thus God always gives us those who are further along in the journey that we can learn from. We are created to learn and grow in community, not in isolation. This is why frats, gangs, clubs, and sports teams are so appealing. We naturally want a place to belong and a place to grow.
So why does the discipleship of many of our churches look so different? Why have we moved from discipling through life on life relationships to discipling through programs? Why have we strayed from using the method that is most natural and in line with being created in the image and likeness of God? Have we found a better way to expand the Kingdom of God than God himself? Or have we simply found an easier way with less of a call on ourselves?
It is relatively easy to teach a Bible Study, lead an outreach event, put on a service. It is hard work to allow someone into your life, to receive calls in the middle of the night, to open up your home, to bear with one another's weakness. It gets messy. It costs. People hurt us. People let us down. Yet, it was the method God designed because it is the method that grows not only the disciple but the discipler. It is the method that removes the top down leadership style and puts us all at the same level- a level of need. As I disciple people, God is discipling me. He is revealing my lack of love, my lack of patience, my lack of grace, my lack of knowledge, my lack of strength. God is accomplishing exactly what He desires- reminding us all how much we are in need of His love, His patience, His grace, His knowledge, His strength.
Let us all look to Jesus Christ, the ultimate Shepherd of our souls as we invite people to journey with us. Let God sanctify both the disciple and the discipler.
Legacy Conference Director