Monday, February 25, 2008

Discipleship - Formulas Ditched

What makes a Pharisee a good Pharisee?
A) Following a good set of rules, practices and formulas?
B) Following a bad set of rules, practices and formulas?
C) Either of the above

The idea of discipleship has been on the front screen of my radar in the past two weeks. Backyard Missionary talked about it one day and that started me thinking. I have picked up so much from many of you this past few months.

As I posted in my post last week we had discipleship honed down to a fine art of 7 disciplines, practices and formulas: Journaling, Bible Study, Prayer and Meditation (Scripture Memory), Giving and Tithing, Ministry, Rest and Teaching (taking notes of sermons). It was reasoned that we could quickly take our notebook with these 7 sections and teach someone in a very little time how to do each discipline. These disciplines would produce Disciples.

The other day when Hamo posed a question about what really works in discipleship I looked back at my life and reviewed it and asked myself some questions: When did I grow because of discipleship and where was the fruit in my own life that actually resulted in disciples being made?

The answer was shocking to me. I realized it was only by living life with people that discipleship occurred - Having them in my home - Me being in theirs. - Dealing with situations as they came up. Living in close relationship with someone and talking with them about how being a follower of Jesus impacted their lives as Father was bringing about opportunities to learn something new. For the most part it was actually people that lived with us for a few months or a year or two that I can look back and see discipleship having taken place. There were a few others that did not actually live in our home but even for most of them, our food bill was impacted when they moved away. In other words we lived alongside our 'disciples'. It actually looked a lot more like friendship and not so much like what I envision discipleship.

That's not much of a formula huh? Vague at best - and in fact no formula at all because it was at the whim of Father as to what part of the Christian life we were to focus on – depending on what he was doing in ours and their lives for the moment. It was all up to Him. Some got a crash course in family life and potty training kids. Others were all about studying the Word. Others got a ‘signs and wonders’ kind of discipleship model. We did heal the sick, cast demons out, teach the word, do what Jesus taught kind of model but not like you would expect. The “heal the sick” could be lived out over a flu bug that ran through the family. The “teach the word” might have been in them helping a 10 year old understand how God could allow bad things to happen to a family pet. And the signs and wonders training may have been in helping someone determine the gifts that God had given them to use in the kingdom. Mostly it was lived out in encouraging those around us to love God and love each other.

And you know what? We were “discipled” right back. It went both ways. Maybe if I were Jesus, I wouldn’t have been discipled by those around me. But I wasn’t. I was just me and these people around me discipled me just as much as I did them.

So you want to hear my Discipleship Formula? Here it is:

Discipleship = Time spent over a period of time between two people, talking about how God was impacting both of our lives and learning how to live as followers of Jesus.

Not very fancy. Not much of a formula or set of rules or practices. But then we want to raise up disciples – not Pharisees. Right?

By the way, I think the answer to my first question is “C”


co_heir said...

I think you're right about how discipling is done. Nowhere in Scripture do I find Jesus or the disciples giving out "steps to being a disciple". Jesus followed the custom of Jewish rabbis of the day. He gathered a group of followers who lived with him, listened to him teach, and watched him in his relationship with the Father. Through this they became like him, eventually getting to the point where they could go out and make disciples.

As we follow Jesus more closely and become more like him, then we make disciples who, in a sense, follow us. The reality is that they are following Jesus (if we are following him).

traveller said...

I agree the answer is 'C'. Your description of discipleship is exactly correct.

One of the reasons we prefer rules and formulas is that going through those is actually easier and we can blame the person for not following them if they are not truly becoming a disciple. To actually live in a discipling relationship with each other means a lot of messiness and struggle. Most of us do not want to live with that messiness. It is a great deal more work than rules and formulas.

Great post!

Barb said...

co-heir. Exactly. Jesus knew that Acts was going to happen and he didn't give them a new strategy for discipleship.

Traveller, I think too that it is hard to brag about your disciples when you realize that it is the Father directing everything and you are just working along with him. You are also able to see easily how you messed up things here and there because it is relationships! They are always messy. Formulas are hard to mess up and produce numbers.

Dave A. said...

I love your "formula"... how you see these "principals" play out in everyday life... just living with and loving others. As soon as one attempts to put Life in into a program it becomes a formula for disaster. I've got a bookshelf full of such stuff (actually I've tossed most of those away).

Thanks for sharing this.