3 misconceptions about discipleship
A few months ago, some leaders from Highland Park Christian Church entered a space of vulnerability with each other. We were discussing discipleship (the process of helping someone follow Christ – not just initially but continually, becoming more and more like him, throughout their whole life).
We confessed that at different times in our lives, we had been disobedient to Jesus’ command to make disciples. We talked about some of the factors that had caused this: fear of failure, feeling inadequate, discouragement, busyness, apathy and laziness.
To add to the struggle, I have recognized that there are a number of misconceptions about discipleship.
Misconception 1: Discipleship is only for the “experts.”
Perhaps we need to be reminded of the cast of characters in the Bible who did God’s work. Not very many of them would have graduated seminary with honors. The ability of people to effectively engage in discipleship has much more to do with their obedience than it does their skill set.
If the church leaves discipleship to the experts, we create a funnel effect, which is not effective. If the potential of hundreds of people gets funneled into only a few leaders who carry out the ministry, that is a wildly ineffective model.
But if leaders equip hundreds of people to use their gifts in their surroundings, maximum impact can be achieved.
Misconception 2: Discipleship is all about the transfer of information.
Pause for a moment and do a helpful excercise that I learned from Greg Nettle.
You have 30 seconds to list each of the following:
1. Sermons or books that have really transformed your life to be more like Christ
2. People who have transformed your life to be more like Christ
3. Experiences (like a week of camp, a trip or major life experience) that have transformed your life to be more like Christ
I’ve asked people to do this in a number of settings, and the majority of people list 1-2 books and sermons, about 5 experiences and more than 5 people. So what does this tell us?
All three are important. Information is still incredibly important, but it lacks maximum impact when it comes void of relationships and experiences.
Jesus spent three years with the disciples. He did not neglect the components of relationship, experiences or information.
Misconception 3: Discipleship depends fully on my own effort.
When we read of the disciples meeting together after Jesus’ assension (Acts 1), they are constantly praying. What else were they to do? They knew their shortcomings, but they had seen the power of the Divine. Pleading with God was all they could do. Plus, they had learned from the best.
Chuck Booher from Crossroads Christian Church offers some inspiration in this short clip.
Not only will dependence on God drive us to prayer, but it will also prevent us from beating ourselves up when our discipleship efforts are rejected by the very ones we tried to disciple. They actually are not rejecting us, they are rejecting God.
Do not forget that Judas heard the same stuff that the others did, but he did not follow. The perfect disciple-maker did not have a perfect success rate. God still lets people choose.
So it is our job to stay engaged in discipleship, it is the Spirit’s job to convict, compel and transform, and it falls on the shoulders of others to respond.
Will you be faithful on your end of the bargain?