Over the past few months, I have done much studying on the topic of discipleship. I have finished one course on discipleship and currently in the midst of another. I have done additional reading and studying of the Biblical design of discipleship, specifically Jesus’ paradigm of discipleship as well as the Apostle Paul’s.
And I believe I have found the point of disconnect between the Biblical paradigm of discipleship and how it is often practiced in the church of today.
And declining discipleship, both in numbers and quality, has been the result because of it.
What’s the disconnect that I found?
That discipleship is all about me and my growth, and nothing more.
Because of that, the number of people becoming disciples has declined and the true endpoint of discipleship isn’t achieved because a different goal is substituted for it.
Jesus’ paradigm of discipleship, as he demonstrated, is described by the following: “I do.” “I do, and you watch.” “We do together.” “You do and I watch.” “You do.”
Many disciples have no problem going through the process themselves as a disciple. That’s not where the disconnect is. Where the disconnect is, is this; “You do” means that you then become a discipler of disciples, and there are so many disciples who have not taken that step. The process of being discipled by someone culminates in becoming someone who now disciples others. It culminates in a discipled-person calling others to him/herself so that s/he can disciple them.
And that just does not often happen in the church today.
But that’s exactly what Jesus did and that’s what the apostles did. A very important part of the discipleship process is the one being discipled understanding that s/he will become a discipler of others who will then in turn become disciplers of others themselves.
What often happens within the church today is that it is the pastor or another congregational leader who is supposed to be the person doing the discipling and no one else. Many in congregations are truly passive. Oh, they may be involved in some type of physical ministry (these are important), but that involvement should not be a replacement for actually discipling others. But this is often the case. That’s why I said, “passive.” This model is doomed to failure because it is growth by addition, but that addition is unable to keep pace with the subtractions for various reasons.
The model that Jesus lived, as well as the apostles, is that each of their disciples would eventually disciple their own group of disciples. And as those who were being discipled were ready to begin discipling others, that discipler would select someone to take that disciple’s place in the group in order for another to be discipled. Growth is through multiplication and is geometric: 1 to 2 to 4 to 8 to 16 and so on.
If a person has been a follower of Jesus for a number of years and is not actively discipling others, there is a problem.
In my experience, there are many followers of Jesus who are not actively seeking or currently discipling others. The disconnect is real.
The disconnect is real.
And it’s a death sentence.