The Trouble With Discipleship

By DiscipleshipJournal • Discipleship • 6 Nov 2012

The trouble with discipleship is this:

There is no one-size fits all discipleship program

Yet so often that‘s exactly what we are looking for.

Discipleship should honour diversity
Everyone is different, and that’s part of the beauty of creation.  Some people are extremely brainy, others learn slower.  Some love to read, others have dyslexia and want to read but can’t.  We have different talents and abilities, skills, spiritual gifts and passions.  Our discipleship has to reflect that diversity, and it will be significantly hindered if we don’t take it into account.

Discipleship should be a tailor made program
Churches like programs.  But God didn’t hand us a program.   And while discipleship “programs” (like a 6-week discipleship/membership class) serve a purpose, it is not the most effective way to grow someone’s faith.  This doesn’t mean you can’t reuse material, or take several people through a resource or study together, but it does mean that we have a Biblical obligation to get to know the people we are leading.  I have a ministry philosophy that undergirds my thinking and processing about discipleship:

 “The closer to one-to-one, the better”.

This is hard!  (Especially when we don’t have the people, time or resources for it!)  Classes allow us to minister to a large group of people in a short amount of time, but that’s only a small portion of what Christ demonstrated.  While there are times He teaches large crowds, He had a distinct group of people who He was intentionally invested in.  Then within His group of 12, we see a number of instances where He takes one disciple aside to interact with specifically.  These were not just students, but friends who He knew and cared about.  The closer to one-on-one we can get with our discipleship, the better.  Our classroom-style teaching will have a greater influence when we take time to truly know the people we teach.  Our small groups will grow more intimate as the people in the group place their trust in you, trust that is most easily earned one-on-one!

Discipleship involves our passion/gift bias
When we disciple, whether we know it or not, we disciple with bias.  Each of us leans towards who we are.  We feel most confident discipling people with tools we’ve used, in areas that we’re strong at, trying to develop our passions, gifts, and abilities in the other person.  And we use the kind of material (books, audio, studies, videos) that we prefer!  We project.  We project who God made us onto someone else when the goal of discipleship is to help someone else become who God made them to be.  We hold over them expectations that work for us, but are much more difficult for them.  We’re not trying to make mini-me’s, but help the Spirit as He makes mini-Jesus’s.  Our job is to encourage people to stand on the Truth of His Word and to operate out of who God made them to be, even if that means they believe something differently to us or aren’t as passionate about an area of ministry that we are.  We need to be self-aware, making sure our discipleship is honouring to the person we are ministering to.

Discipleship is best when it’s inspired!
Discipleship happens best when you’re sitting one-on-one with someone who you’ve invited into your life (not just you into theirs!).  You have a toolbox that’s full of useful books, studies, dvds, audio messages, conferences, project ideas, and an idea of what you might do with them… but you keep them in your back pocket, come alongside the person and LISTEN.  What is God doing in their life?  What do they want to grow in?  What gifts/abilities can I help develop?  What can I challenge?  And then we support and encourage their growth.

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