Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The Discipleship Dilemma (Part 2)

Because of our misunderstanding, misuse, and misapplication of discipleship, many Christians have shunned away or been turned away from this very biblical and necessary process. If you were to ask 10 different Christians what discipleship was, you would most likely get at least 6 different answers. Here are a few:

It's reading your Bible.

It's praying every day.

It's going to church.

While all of these answers are involved in discipleship, none of them are the total picture of what discipleship IS. Discipleship is the process of becoming a disciple. Note two things:

1. It is a process...
it's not a place to be, a thing to do, or a group to belong to.

2. It is voluntary...
you can only be discipled to the extent that you submit yourself to it.

If you were then to ask the same group of Christians how discipleship works... you probably would get a lot of the same answers. Read your Bible... Pray everyday... etc.

I would like to submit a different view of what discipleship could be. Knowing that the discipleship is a voluntary process of becoming more like Christ, let's look at how it should work.

In my opinion, there are three main elements to the discipleship process:

1. Character

Before you ever speak, your character is there. Many people you will meet have already heard about you or have interacted with someone who knows you and you character has made an impression on them. Godly character is not up for debate, we should all have it, but we don't automatically get it just because we call Jesus our Savior. We must work to make our character more like Christ's if we are to reflect Him to our world.

2. Discipline

Without the discipline, there can no be real growth. (thank you fortune cookie guy) Discipline is not a very popular or common word in Christendom today, but it is a very necessary one. Jesus was a very disciplined person. He disciplined, corrected, and rebuked His disciples, so did Paul.

3. Knowledge

This is probably the most misunderstood element of discipleship. We do need to grow in our knowledge of the spiritual matters. How can we be expected to grow if we don't know anything about growth. It is the knowledge that guides our growth in Christ and helps us to avoid dangerous pitfalls.

There is also a symbiotic relationship between these three elements that must be addressed. Growing in one or two of these areas without the the other is still of little use. Let me illustrate:

You can not grow in character without the discipline and knowledge to correct it.

You can not grow in discipline without the knowledge and character to hold to it.

You can not grow in knowledge without the character and discipline to learn it.

To only grow in one or two areas and ignore the reality of the other is both naive and detrimental. I'm sure we have all met men and women who claim to be very knowledgeable but have poor character... or who have close to impeccable character, but don't teach the Word of God correctly. You are left with sour taste of spiritual maturity, not because they weren't truly knowledgeable or had good character, but because you weren't given the whole picture of true spiritual maturity and discipleship.

If we want to grow and become more like Christ, we must evaluate ourselves on all three elements of discipleship. Because, like many other things in life, we are only as strong as our weakest area.

- Just a thought.

Monday, March 2, 2009

The Discipleship Dilema


Just hearing that words makes most of us a little weary.

"Another great lesson on how I'm not a good enough Christian..." is usually the thought that runs through most of our minds. The concept of discipleship that we have at work today is very far from the original concept that Jesus taught. I believe this is for three reasons:

The first is misunderstanding.

Discipleship is not meant to be chore, it's meant to be a choice. You do not have to be involved in discipleship any more than anyone forced you to become a disciple. We must get out of our minds that discipleship is a chore that all Christians must do in order to be "holy" and begin to realize the simple truth that becoming a disciple is not an instant process, but a progressive one. At the moment of salvation, when we first accept Jesus as our Savior, we are His. We require nothing more to enter Heaven and spend eternity with Him. However, this does not also mean that we are also at this moment made perfect and no longer sin. It is at the point of salvation that the journey of faith begins. Each and everyday we are faced with opportunities and choices... it is what they do with them that determines what and who we are.

The second hurdle is misuse.

Often times in discipleship teachings and circles the process has been relegated to a system that everyone must follow. Step A, then step B, so on and so forth. Each and every believer is thrown into the same mechanical machine in order to come out exactly the same on the other side. This is flawed for two reasons:

(a) we are not the same; yes, we are all to reflect Christ, but all one must do is look at the early church throughout the gospels and acts to see that there was a wide diversity of personalities within the Body of Christ.

(b) we aren't really trying to make followers of Christ, we're just trying to make followers... Sadly, there are many ministries and teachings that take the "follow me as I follow Christ" principle and neglect or negate the latter half of the concept. "Follow me" is much easier to say and apply. However, without the balance of following Christ, (and being held accountable for it) we can get very far off topic and away from Jesus desire for His church.

The third problem is that of misapplication.

Most of us have been taught about discipleship from people who have fallen into either one or both of the previous errors. Because of this, we then misapply the concept and practice of discipleship in our lives. For example:

Young Christians are usually taught to read the Bible, pray daily, and go to church... and somehow in that magical formula God will begin to grow your faith. However, if and when it doesn't work out right, or you get discouraged and tired, then it's YOUR fault for not having enough faith.

Does anyone else see the blindly obvious contradiction here!

If it works... it was all God...
if it doesn't... it's all your fault...


No matter what your thoughts or experiences with discipleship are or have been, it is an integral part of the Christian life that can not be ignored or discarded. We must fight for correct understanding, usage, and application of Christ's teaching and mindset if we are to make a difference in our world.

- Just a thought.