I was at a conference recently where many leaders were sharing prayer requests about their desire to raise up disciples. To be involved in discipleship. And I think that is a great prayer. The question that came to my mind however was, is the discipleship they are requesting discipleship or something else.
Let me explain. I think for many years we have looked at discipleship as a sin management or behavior modification process. I know in youth ministry that was often the underlying hope of discipleship. If I meet with this student and encourage him, he will stop smoking, drinking, chewing, having long hair and wearing skinny pants. Sure that wasn’t the only reason we met but it was an underlying assumption that if they start following Christ more fully they will look more like a Christian is supposed to look.
Oddly that is not the method of discipleship that I see in Scripture. Let’s take a look at Peter. Seriously, if there was any one disciples that doesn’t fit the mold of what a disciple should look like it would be Peter. Brash, bold, impulsive and often found with his foot in his mouth. He seems to be the type of person we would not want as the front face of our ministry. We wouldn’t point him out to the next generation and say, “I want you to be like him.” Yet that is what Jesus does. “You are Peter and I will build my church.” He doesn’t say “You are Peter and soon enough you will have it together enough to begin to build my church.” Peter is a mess and God uses him. I am a mess and God uses me. You are a mess and God uses you. (sorry a little finger pointing there) Yet when it comes to discipleship we tend not hand over the reigns to the next generation if that next generation doesn’t live up to the standards that we think they must. So we hold onto power and control when we should have handed it over. Or we forget the value of authenticity and ask them cover up who God created them to be in the disquise of calling it discipleship.
I am starting to rethink discipleship. I am not sure I have it all figured out. But I do know that The only thing I will call people to is the same calling the Jesus called. “Follow Me.” Not to follow me but to follow Christ. What if discipleship took a rag tag group of people and said you with you unique talents, gifts and quirks you are going to follow hard after Jesus. We are not going to meet together to sand off the rough edges. We are going to meet together to draw close to Him who draws close to us. We are going to do that in the midst of serving and leading and growing and going and loving. But I am not expecting you to be me and you are not expecting me to be you. I will be me, you be you and we will get this discipleship thing figured out.