Then Jesus came to [the disciples] and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)
Jesus spoke these words (above) before He ascended into heaven- imagine that, His last words to the disciples before leaving them on earth. Just these three sentences have sparked two profound movements within the Christian tradition- global missions, and discipleship. Today we are going to talk about discipleship.
What We Have Known Discipleship To Be
For good reason, discipleship has played a prominent role in many expressions of Christianity. When we think discipleship from a 'what' perspective we generally think teaching, mentorship, apprenticeship, shadowing, and other similar concepts.
When it comes to a 'how' perspective we generally think about coffee shops, kitchen tables, and living rooms. We think one-on-one, one-on-two, or other small group settings. We think in terms of disciple-er and disciple-ee.
But it is the 'when' piece of the puzzle that I think we can take a fresh perspective at. Not because we are 'doing it wrong' or because 'the Bible says something different,' I just think there is more going on- or, more that could go on- than we are used to.
"What happens WHEN the disciple-er and the disciple-ee get together?"
Generally the person with more time walking with Jesus, the person older in age, or the church leader- the disciple-er- invests their wisdom and knowledge into the newer Jesus-follower, the one who is seeking, the one who just got baptized- the disciple-ee. This is a traditional formation, and I truly believe there is a place, space, and need for this in the local church! I have, and still do, fill both roles in this format.
But I think there is more for us.
An Invitation To Mutuality
In two different letters, the Apostle Paul talks about the what-could-be of relationships between brothers and sisters in Christ (discipleship!).
Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification. (Romans 14:19)
I pray that your partnership with us in the faith may be effective in deepening your understanding of every good thing we share for the sake of Christ. (Philemon 1:6)
Mutual edification...partnership...everything we share- are you hearing this? Do we see what can happen here?
Paul is showing us that there are things we can do and words we can say- perspectives we can hold- that produce mutual fruit (Romans). Paul is showing us that everyone sharing what they are learning and experiencing- even a former slave (hello!)- produces an understanding that perhaps would not have been gleaned had not everyone had the chance to share.
One person sharing their insights with one person, turns into two people sharing their insights with each other, and two people (instead on perhaps just one) grow closer to Christ as a result- come on now!
Discipleship, For You, Going Forward
I would encourage all Jesus followers to identify a person in their faith community, if they haven't already, that they feel they can ask questions to, bounce ideas off of, and learn from. That is discipleship. If you don't have a person like that in your life right now, please, find one. You will grow as a result and journey into a deeper and more life-giving relationship with Jesus as a result!
If you are a seasoned disciple-er (and I'm talking just as much to myself as anyone else) and are currently in a discipleship relationship with someone, remember that there is an invitation for you to learn from the person you are there to teach. You, too, will grow as a result and journey into a deeper and more life-giving relationship with Jesus as a result!
May more and more people enter and inherit the Kingdom as a result.