This question, how do we make disciples, is a question on a lot of minds these days.
Some folks believe sitting in church will make people into disciples. Really? One hour 2-3 times a month will make you a follower of Jesus?
Others believe that churches need a “discipleship pathway” in order to move forward. Based on taking certain classes one gains knowledge, that much is true, but does knowledge turn you into a disciple? Maybe yes? Maybe no?
And, if I (or you) have moved forward in our discipleship, could we help someone else do this? Could we help another become a disciple?
And another thing….
Do I (do we) have the tools to deal with the thoughts/behaviors/attitudes that don’t work in our lives? Or do we just look at our “bad” behavior and say, “stop it”? Or try to ignore it, hoping no one sees it, or it goes away on its own. Or have we learned how to just cope with our character defects, no longer expecting to be a new creation?
This too is an issue of discipleship—maybe this where discipleship is most needed. For our following Jesus has to enable us to look at the areas of life that aren’t working and allow us to encounter Jesus’ power to transform us into his new creation.
So, if my discipleship stops at the church doors how can I experience transformation? How can I live out of God’s peace in times of chaos? How can I find joy in the Lord in times of sadness? And how can I find strength in the midst of life’s many challenges?
Discipleship is about being transformed into the image and likeness of Jesus and it is an every day journey. And I think we yearn to do a whole lot better than we do. My experience is that most of us on a serious journey of faith feel trapped by our habits and laziness and find ourselves often anxious that we are not better disciples after all these years.
Recently I listened to a book about the lies we tell ourselves. The author relayed a story of a priest being asked what he had learned after listening to 20+ years of confessions. After a long pause he said, “people don’t grow up.” Is that true? Do we stay stuck year after year?
At the start of Jesus’ ministry he says, “the time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God is at hand, repent and believe in the gospel.”
I think this is the daily call of Jesus as he calls us into discipleship. We are called to notice what time it is and to be about the things of the kingdom. We are called to look within our lives and repent of what separates us from God and to believe that God does seek to transform us and there is hope for who we might yet be.
But transformation that is ongoing requires work. It requires things like observation, reflection, discussion, as well as a plan, accountability and action. We need some kind of map that will enable us to move forward in discipleship and to enable us to help others move forward in theirs as well.
I am wondering, how do we create disciples, real disciples who are dealing with real life issues instead of ignoring them or coping with them and hoping for the best? How do we help everyday Christians grow as disciples and assist them in helping others to grow? How we do become solid disciples who see their lives moving forward?
I recently heard someone say, “We don’t have a leadership problem in our churches. We don’t even have a money problem in our churches. We have a discipleship problem.”
And, you know, I have to agree.