Begin With The End In Mind
Discipleship has two goals. The first is the transformation of our character from the inside out. The second is serving others as Christ served others. Our Lord expressed these two goals in this way: Love God with your heart, soul, mind, and strength (the components of our character or inner selves) and love your neighbor as yourself (desiring and doing what is good for others).
However, when people are asked about discipleship, what first comes to mind are prepared studies by authors such as Beth Moore or John MacArthur. These studies help us understand our faith better. But to define discipleship by the study materials we use in our churches is a misguided starting point. It’s putting the cart before the horse. Jesus began with the goals of discipleship in mind.
Church leaders who know that there is a discipleship gap in their churches may be tempted to begin with study materials. And that’s the easiest thing to do. Doing a 13 weeks course or in-depth study, will not necessarily achieve the desired goals of discipleship: to become Christlike in our attitudes and our actions. At best they increase our knowledge of Scripture and help us in the process of discipleship. Savvy leaders, however, like Jesus, begin with the end in mind and train disciples to have a transformed character and a serving heart. Wise leaders must invite people to come along with them on the road of discipleship.
How did Jesus do this? How did the Good Shepherd, the Chief Disciple Maker, our model for shepherding and discipling people, disciple his disciples? Did he have some intentional plan in mind for discipleship? What process did he follow? Should we follow the same model?
Here is what Jesus did. First, Jesus began with praying for the selection of disciples. Traditionally disciples came to teachers and asked them to be their apprentices. But Jesus followed his own pattern and thus set the pattern for us. He selected his own disciples but not haphazardly. He did so with prayer. After all, wasn’t he going to pour his heart and mind into the lives of his disciples? Will he not train them to be godly? Will he settle for the character they had? No! He was going to make them imitators of him. Much was at stake. The task was demanding, the requirements grueling. He proceeded with care and wisdom. He selected by prayer. He prayed all night seeking discernment from the Father. Should I select Mordecai or Nathanael? Is Peter ready? What shall I do with Matthew? How do I train John? Father knew best. In prayer he discovered who was ready and who was not.
Today, we reserve discipleship to those who are already converted or saved. Could the process of discipleship begin even with those who are outside the gate but are looking in to see what’s on the inside? If discipleship is a relationship rather than a program, I believe there is ample room for making disciples of all kinds of people, whether they are in or out.
The implication of this is that we mustn’t take glibly what Jesus took seriously. He would give his life to protect these disciples, to invest his life in them, and to bring glory to God through his training of them (See John 17). Bathing discipleship in prayer ensures that God is guiding the whole process and that his will is being done on earth as it is in heaven.
Are we willing to pay the cost of discipleship by investing prayer in selecting those whom God is selecting for discipleship?
Second, Jesus invited disciples to do life with him, to be with him, to live in his presence. He expected them to live their lives as if he were living it in their place. What he did, he trained them to do. When he fished for men, they were listening. He knew the proverb from the inside out: A disciple is not above his teacher, but when the disciple is formed, he will be like his teacher (Luke 6:40). Jesus modeled how to teach and commanded his disciples to pass on his teachings (teach them whatsoever I commanded you). He healed by the power of God, and they healed by the same power (Acts). He proclaimed the good news or the Gospel of the kingdom. And so they also did. He saw misery, he felt the brokenness of the broken hearted, and he made a difference by doing what he could for them (Luke 7:11-17). He treated the poor and needy with dignity and they followed suit. He befriended sinners and tax collectors (the unwanted). They eventually adopted the same practice.
We invite the disciples we pray for to keep our company as we demonstrate to them how we are training to become imitators of the Master. We don’t make them our disciples. Rather we show them how we walk with the Master and are becoming disciples of Jesus.
Showing what we do and how we do it is the heart of the discipleship process Jesus used and we must use. He did not give his disciples a study to do and pronounced them disciples and gave them a certificate of completion. No! Far from it! He took them into the inner workings of his life with God. He showed them his struggles. He acted and reacted in a godly manner. He brought them into the orbit of his prayers, his understanding of Scripture and the will of God. He invested his life in them. Jesus knew that imitation is 3 parts caught and 1 part taught.
May we be faithful in doing discipleship as Jesus did!
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