Is There a Better Way to Disciple?

Is There a Better Way to Disciple?

When I was in college, I went through a very well-known discipleship program. I met with my discipler once a week and we went through these huge notebooks of information. We would check off lists and tasks. A friend of mine was my leader. There were a couple of issues I had with the program. One, I began to dread going every week. I hung out with my friend weekly, if not daily. I enjoyed spending time with him, except the discipleship time we spent together was BOR – ING! There was no life in it – just going through a notebook and to-do items. (Snoozer!)

  • Did I read the passages and answer the fill-in-the-blank questions?
  • Did I memorize the scripture for the week?
  • Did I witness to at least one person? (The answer was usually NO – since I was at a Christian university, who wasn‚Äôt a Christian? ūüôā ).

There were 3 of these notebooks you had to get through in order to complete the program. These were not your ordinary 2-inch binders either. They were ginormous, 5- or 6-inch beasts that would put a large-print KJV Study Bible to shame.

My second issue was that it really didn’t seem to make a difference in my life or the life of my friend. We hung out together all the time, yet, his faith didn’t really seem to grow much during our time together. It just felt like something we did, checked off, and moved on. More life and relationship growth happened outside of that time – not during it.

I never finished the program. I didn‚Äôt even get through the second mega-manual. In some ways, I felt like a failure. Honestly, though, there was more life in a prayer time that another friend and I shared twice a week. I found his faith and trust in the Lord inspiring, and our time together¬†wasn‚Äôt dry at all. I even experienced a major healing during this time. That was the kind of faith I wanted (and still want) to pursue. Not a checklist-based faith, but a living faith that learns to listen to and hear the Lord’s voice.¬†

That’s why many so-called discipleship programs are flawed. They are based too much on what we do, and not enough on hearing from the Lord and following His lead. I’ve tried¬†a number of programs and read about a few more. They may have had life at one point, but many seem ineffective in creating life-long followers of Jesus. The issue comes when we try and box up what the Lord wants to do through His Spirit and His people and put it into a system of checklists and principles. He’s a living God that wants a living relationship with His children.

 I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth.  So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth. (1 Corinthians 3:6-7)

It is not the system or structure we use (or even the person leading us) that causes us to grow in the Lord, but it is the Lord Himself. So why do we settle for a system created by a person to help us grow in the Lord? How about we connect with the source of growth first? And then share what Father is doing in our lives to help each other mature in the Lord?

What kind of discipleship would that look like? One that seeks to encounter a living God and to live where every day is a new challenge of faith and listening and learning both from Father and from each other?

What is your experience with discipleship? What have been the most encouraging times helping you grow in your faith? What funny stories do you have about attempts at discipleship?

It’s Not About Punishment

“Go to time out!”

“Do you want a spanking?”

“Wait ’til your father gets home.”

These are typical sayings and thoughts when we think of discipline. ¬†Maybe we’ve been on the receiving end of some of these disciplinary actions, or maybe we’ve said some of these things as we doled out some discipline ourselves. ¬†More often than not, we associate discipline with punishment. ¬†Even when it comes to our relationship with God.

“Uh oh. ¬†You just lied in church – better not stand too close. ¬†I might get taken out with you!”

True discipline, however, is an act of love.  It has nothing to do with punishment.  Punishment creates fear.  Discipline is different Рmuch different.  At least it should be.

I love Matt Chandler’s¬†definition of discipline: ¬†It’s a vision of something in the future that results in action in the present. ¬†Therefore, everything that we do with our children (and everything that God does with His children) falls under discipline and not punishment. ¬†1 John 4:18 tells us, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” ¬†Discipline involves a shaping of something now with a vision of how we want it to look at some point in the future.

It’s like a sculptor who sees what he wants to accomplish and begins to chisel away at the marble. ¬†It’s a slow process. ¬†A painful process¬†at times. ¬†But it’s not about the sculptor punishing the marble. ¬†The sculptor has a vision for what he wants the marble to be. ¬†Something beautiful. ¬†A work of art. ¬†Something that people will look at and take notice.

What is God shaping us for? ¬†What end does He have in mind for us? ¬†Hebrews 12 is a great passage that deals with God’s discipline. ¬†If you read it, here’s some of the things that you’ll begin to understand about discipline:

  • God disciplines those He loves
  • Those that aren’t disciplined aren’t considered legitimate sons/daughters
  • The purpose of God’s discipline is for us to¬†share in His holiness
Just like the sculptor wants others to notice his work, so God wants those who don’t know Him to look at those of us who do and exclaim, “Look what God has done in their life! ¬†What an amazing God!” ¬†Our holiness results in His fame.¬† We are the representation of God in this world. ¬†Discipline is part of that process.
Don’t believe me? ¬†Then, go to your room! [And read Hebrews 12 – you’re not in trouble. ¬†It’s for your own good.]