For most of my life, Christianity was summed up as “go to church.” No one ever really ever taught me that, but it’s what I caught over the years. As I left college and entered ministry, my goal was very simple… Get people to come to church as often as possible. Because the more sermons we hear and the more songs we sing, the more we’ll resemble Jesus, right?
But over the past few years, God has been working on my heart to completely shift my thinking on discipleship and the church. Because of that shift, Jason Galley and I make weekly conference calls with a group of men around the country where we are intentionally discipled in how to disciple others. And… because of that shift, in the past year or so we have created a couple of “huddles” for men and a “huddle” for older teen guys. Between the three huddles, 24 young men are meeting at least every other week in a focused environment.
But even with everything God’s doing in us as leaders and the shifts that are happening in my perspective on discipleship, I still occasionally struggle to help people understand the “why” of our huddles and phone calls. Just the other day, though, I ran across a blog post by Chris Brooks that hits the nail on the head. There’s an excerpt below, but if you would like to read the entire post, you can find it here.
“Well, the reason your church is not making disciples is probably because you have never been discipled yourself.”
Oh my, I think that’s me. I don’t know if I have ever been discipled by someone.
I tried to shake it off, to justify it, to excuse it.
…I had been taught the fundamentals of faith by many wonderful Sunday school teachers.
…I had been invested in (more than I deserved) by great youth workers and ministers.
…I had been taught by some truly great men and women of God in college and seminary.
…I had worked in ministry for more than 15 years and was trained and led by great men and women.
…I was a fairly competent teacher, communicator, and student of God’s word.
…I had been immersed in several committed communities where intense vulnerability, learning, and growing took place.
I felt so guilty for even questioning whether I had really been discipled.
But the question simply would not go away.
Have I been discipled in any shape or form similar to the way Jesus discipled?
What it boiled down to for me was this: no person had ever looked me in eyes, said, “Follow me,” and then challenged me to go and do likewise. No one had ever invited me intentionally into to his life and said, “Imitate me.”
I have been in plenty of Bible studies.
I have been in more worship services than I can count.
I have a graduate degree in theology.
But no one had ever called me to be their disciple.
Maybe it is just semantics. But maybe it is not. As I processed this devastating and humbling conclusion with one of my oldest friends, he helped show me that many teachers and friends have all played important discipleship roles in my life, and that is true. I am grateful for the diverse, quilted pattern of my spiritual formation.
But the truth still haunted me. I had no spiritual father at that time in my life. I was not intentionally being discipled by anyone, nor was I personally discipling anyone else with the clearly defined goal of them going on to disciple someone else. Sure, I was teaching, preaching, leading, and investing in people, but I was merely hoping some of them would go and do the same.
I was modeling what had been done for me — teaching, preaching, leading at a distance or from a stage with no intentionality or expectations but instead just a hope that somehow, in the end, it might help produce a mature follower of Christ.
First Corinthians 4:15 puts the discipleship dilemma that many of us face this way: “You have 10,000 teachers, but very few fathers.”
I have had many great teachers (and/or guardians/guides) but very few fathers who were willing to say, “Follow me; Imitate me,” and then commission me to go out and do the same. Lots of people were willing to disperse information, but very few invited imitation.
So I did the same. I became a teacher to many but a father to few. And with the select few I did let in, I was too scared to say, “Imitate me,” and even more scared to challenge them unapologetically to go and do likewise.
How can we expect leaders to disciple if they have never been discipled themselves?
Who is your “spiritual father?”
Who have you specifically called to be your disciple?
In 10 years, my deepest prayer is that the people around me will look back and be able to clearly say these two things…
1. I was discipled.
2. I made disciples.