The Cat out of the Bag :: Discipleship

The word that started it all: discipleship. A couple months ago, I heard someone talking about a discipleship issue they had in their small group. I had thought about this word, but hadn’t been confronted in the world with the idea of discipleship.

The people I overheard were discussing how to get more people into discipleship groups and how they could grow the groups to impact more people.

I have come to know discipleship in an entirely new way. I will try to articulate my experiences as well as I can.

Let’s start with a definition. Everyone knows the definition of a disciple, right? Easy answer: a pupil of a teacher or an apprentice to a master craftsman.

Let’s define the suffix -ship.

A native English suffix of nouns denoting condition, character, office, skill, etc.

Here is another definition of the suffix -ship:

-Quality, state, or condition: scholarship. (workmanship)
-Something that shows or possesses a quality, state, or condition: courtship. (stewardship)
-Rank, status, or office: professorship. (dictatorship, apprenticeship, leadership)
-Art, skill, or craft: penmanship.
-A collective body: readership.

My Journey to Here

Previous to pursuing being in Christ and expressing Him in a corporate Body, I have had a pretty deep commitment to Christianity.

I am a preacher’s kid. My family has been heavily entrenched in the doctrine of a major denomination. We have many stories that show our commitment to the doctrines and practices of this particular denomination. We have also experienced massive condemnation from certain denominational heads.

As I was on my own two feet I discovered more than what I had seen as a child. As I matured as an adult, the Lord showed me more of Himself through the story of my youth as well as what He was actively teaching me through the different churches I was attending.

I began to attend a rather large service geared towards the young adult community. Hundreds of young adults would come to this thing and leave, every week. No further connection. No further growth except what was said on that evening. It fed a lot of young adults…and still does.

In that environment, I knew, deep down in my innermost parts, that there should be something more than just one night. A friend of mine and I started a sports and adventure event connection program through this young adult connection point.

It thrived. Others were looking for and believed what I believed in. The Lord was showing me something more though.

It got to a point where the hosting church of this young adult connection hired me part-time to do what I was doing. With a little more. They wanted me to have connections outside of sports teams and adventure events.

I studied books about affinity groups. And presto! Common connections outside of the evening young adult connection. There was also the sports and adventure connections happening. Numbers were booming. People were getting connected. But the Lord was showing me more.

I was hired full-time and became the Associate Minister of this young adult connection. I brought in leaders that saw the benefit of the same thing I saw. People were getting connected. But there was more.

I was then asked to create a spiritual road map for our young adult community. This would be something that anyone who came in on a night could connect with through a document or some online interactive connection. They could look at the document, make some obvious decisions, and if they wanted to be at a certain point on the road map they would choose either ‘a’ or ‘b’ or more to get there.

I was now the Discipleship Minister.

My brain really tried to figure this out. I feel like I’m a pretty outside-the-box thinker. So I got to thinking.

What is discipleship?

My brain couldn’t figure out a program that would fit nicely into a document or online method that would connect someone to a road map of sorts. That church then began a missional pursuit.

“Does a missional movement have something to do with discipleship?” I thought.

But the Lord was showing me more. A pursuit of just Christ began shortly after my termination from that church. As I began to pursue just Christ, he showed me Himself in ways I have never seen.

You see, I thought I had pursued just Christ. I was mistaken. I typically heard Him through a speaker, or a worship leader, or a band, or a choir, or a bible study, or a sin.

He was now showing me the reality of discipleship. It’s important though to understand what discipleship is through another lens.

The other lens is simply this: the person of Christ disciples His followers, or those who accompany Him.

That’s it. That’s discipleship.

Discipleship is accompanying the Great Conductor

Scenario One: going to the concert

Tap-tap-tap.

The conductor taps his stand with his baton. He has your attention. You listen and applaud the performance of his tapping. You leave.

Scenario Two: playing music at the concert

Tap-tap-tap.

The conductor taps his stand with his baton. He has your attention. You play your note unto him.

Testing. Testing. One. Two.

A hum of notes fill the air. You exhale your notes up and down your scale, catching each note for only a brief second. The noise shakes the room. You begin to play Mary Had A Little Lamb on your oboe.

When you finish, you pack up your instrument and go home.

Scenario Three: discipleship

Tap-tap-tap.

The conductor taps his stand with his baton. He has your attention.

He lifts his baton and silence fills the room. All eyes are on him.

He drops his baton and begins to orchestrate the piece that he has in front of Him. You look to him for your call. He notions you and your section to play. And play you do!

He calls off the woodwinds and asks the brass section to display their sound.

Then the percussion, even the triangle.

And all of a sudden, the call to all is given. The ensemble reaches a crescendo like nothing heard or seen before.

He crashes his baton down and the room falls silent again.

With only a brief pause, the room erupts into applause and ovation. People stand up all around giving praise and honor to the glory of the mighty orchestration the conductor has performed through his ensemble.

You well up with pride for your conductor. You are glad to be a part of his ensemble.

Discipleship is freedom.

We get the opportunity to discover our gifts. We step away from the concert as consumers, or as single artists playing our own song. We accompany the Great Conductor. He shows us our part of His piece and His plan.

We are free from practice, learning, doing, performing. He, in and through us, accomplishes His will by giving us the gifts we need to play our part of His orchestration.

This is freedom, brothers and sisters! This is discipleship!

I vividly remember the first time I can honestly say I had experienced discipleship. I am part of a group of believers looking to Christ to express Himself through each of us and to build His Church.

As we gathered one evening, it happened. The Head empowered His Body to function. And function we did. It was a beautiful scene. A song of Christ. A word from scripture. A personal story revealing the reality of Christ experienced in a brothers life, and then another, and then another. And some more singing.

This expression of Christ settled. And we knew. The Lord had expressed Himself through each of us, and our portion of Christ that we each brought to the gathering was food for all!

Beautiful. Humbling. Glorious!

Christ.

God’s purpose was tangibly seen by all and His was established. We were all encouraged by Christ, in Christ, for Christ, through Christ, to Christ. We had accompanied Him in His orchestration. We were immediately more like Him. We had been discipled.

Discipleship happened. Christ’s discipleship program was in full swing.

The place He brought us, discipled us to, and continues to disciple us is:

We detoxed for a period of time. We left all that resembled anything we thought was “right” and looked to Christ for His leadership.
We looked for Him prior to gathering as a Body. We did not come to consume. We came to feed others. In turn, we were fed. Christ gave us more of Himself, which allowed us to be more like Him.
When we tasted Christ and Christ alone, we chased harder after Him. And when you taste of Christ alone, you can truly never taste of other again.

I have an encouragement for you if you are trying to discover what true discipleship is. Don’t look to what you think it might be. Step away from all that you know to be “right” about becoming more like Christ.

That is not the question to ask. If you are asking what is right about becoming a disciple you are eating from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. But more about that in a later post!

The question you should be asking is, “How can I accompany Him in His Orchestration?”

We must remember who we are. We are in Christ and are a part of His plan. We are a member of His Body, the Bride. We are a living stone in His Temple that possesses the presence of God. We are brothers and sisters in His Family accomplishing His will.

That is who we are. Remember.

When we remember, we can ask for Him to show us His Light. For His Word is a lamp to our feet and a Light to our path. Christ shows us His way, His reality and His life.

Wherever you are, He knows and has set before you a path with Him. And who He is is who you are. Be in Him. Be built up in Him.

And remember.

Discipleship is from the Rabbi…not from the disciple. You are free from doing anything. He will show you Himself as you accompany Him.

There is a peace beyond understanding when we rest in Him alone. If others are on this journey with you, rest in Him together.

Allow Him to rid you of all of your notions of spiritual growth programs.

Allow Him to show Himself to all of you as all of your foundation…together.

Allow Him to build His Church in and through you all.

He is faithful to complete His will. Jump in!

Be a part of His discipleship program for His Church.

For more reading on this topic, click here for a link to an article by Frank Viola in regards to Reframing Discipleship.

35 comments

  1. Mike Kesselring · April 16, 2012

    This was very well-worded and a joy to read!
    Thanks for articulating this sometimes-confusing point.
    Fave part “You begin to play Mary Had A Little Lamb on your oboe.”

    • marklchampion · April 16, 2012

      Thanks for reading Mike. Do you play the oboe? I play the kazoo! Perhaps we could get together and get on a smash-up session of the old nursery rhyme? 🙂 His Blessing is yours!

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  3. I totally understand the import of what you are saying here, but there is a caveat. Jesus himself told us to Make disciples. (Discipleship) Yes, it may be an anemic word, but we are still to “teach them all that Jesus commanded,” and baptize them.

    Jesus received all authority and immediately delegated discipleship to his creation. The apostles knew full well what that meant, and we should too. It is evidenced by Acts 14:21 – “When they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch.” mathēteusantes – “having discipled.” Discipleship…

    Peace

    • marklchampion · April 16, 2012

      Hey Miguel,

      Thank you so much for reading and commenting! I appreciate your willingness for dialogue. I have also read “the great commission” as a responsibility for everyone on the planet. I used to feel quite a bit of guilt for not witnessing or making disciples or not soul winning.

      Where I see “the great commission” today is that Jesus factually told the Apostles to go. He told them that as they went, the Church would be built, disciples of Christ would be made. We have a record of the making of disciples. However, Christ work in and through them by the Holy Spirit. When the Holy Spirit expressed Christ through each of these Apostles, thousands were added daily. This was not because of the responsibility of discipleship for the Apostles. This was because of Christ being expressed to the world!

      And the verse you used in Acts, I would submit the same perspective. “Made disciples” in this passage means “to be (a.) or to become (b.) a pupil” Because of the Gospel, Christ being expressed in that city, Christ built the Church, which is a group of believers who are in Christ and are looking to express Him. When expressed, people become disciples of Him.

      Same word in Matthew 13:52. There is a call considered with this word. A call is given to the upcoming disciple. This is not a responsibility that we should all go out and create them even though some of us have given our lives to this project. That is the work of the Holy Spirit. When we abide in Christ, we move and act and speak Christ. When Christ calls people into His Church is when disciples are made. He may use us for those purposes in His plan as an apostle, prophet, etc. These are the giftings that He gives to express through us.

      There is Peace in knowing our “responsibility” is being in Christ. Discipleship is up to Him. He is the Discipleship Minister. He is the Rabbi. He is the Teacher.

      I am thankful for Freedom in Christ! Aren’t you!? PTL! Thanks again for your comments. You are fully blessed in Christ!

  4. Trevor Honeycutt · April 16, 2012

    Good word bro. Remove the programs and insert real relationships, and meaningful discipleship will organically happen.

    • marklchampion · April 16, 2012

      Amen brother! Nothing like real relationships through the focal point of Christ!

  5. mtbaptist · April 16, 2012

    The orchestration illumination offers a clarity when referring mentally to the scriptures about the body of Christ and the various parts. Great ministry Mark!!

  6. Jim Puntney · April 16, 2012

    my brother your post is so uplifting, filled with experience on both sides of the “works & grace” equation.

    there is beauty in how this all developed, from pre-dawn this was ordained, your message is founded in hope, truth, and love, this is living.

    thanks bro!

    • marklchampion · April 18, 2012

      Jim, your comment is very encouraging. Thank you for your words. This pre-dawn, ordained purpose will be the focus of another post soon. I appreciate your support and brotherly love. May He continue to lift you up!

  7. Laurie Norris · April 17, 2012

    Thank you for this. I feel welcomed even without an oboe. Grace and peace.

    • marklchampion · April 18, 2012

      Laurie, you are welcomed warmly into His orchestration! Whatever part the Lord has gifted you with! Thanks for commenting.

  8. Mark,
    Great article brother. This line really jumped out at me…

    “I have an encouragement for you if you are trying to discover what true discipleship is. Don’t look to what you think it might be. Step away from all that you know to be “right”
    about becoming more like Christ.”

    This is essential. Thanks for writing this post. I’m honored to be on this journey with you:)

    • marklchampion · April 18, 2012

      That’s right, brother. No “right,” only Christ! What a splendid journey this is. Praise the Lord!

      • Jim Puntney · April 20, 2012

        Came back for a second helping. The point that jumped out to be this time is do or be.

        We are so task, performance, works based. All of our per Christ “existence”reaffirms this posture. Yet this is not the case “in” Christ.

        Our dear sister Kat Huff has posted about the difference of I and in. This is applicable to your post Mark. We fail at all points when we try, when we desire to be “like” Christ.

        Yet is is so simple, so beautiful, so restful to be in Christ. He is our strength, our rest from our works, the living water, the bread of life. In Him we move and have our being (not doing).

        I tip my hat to you bro, thanks for loving contribution to our fellowship!

      • marklchampion · April 20, 2012

        To be Like and to be In…big difference. Praise the Lord for His inclusion of us. Thank you for your contribution as well. The Lord be praised!

  9. Shane Ocon · April 18, 2012

    Amen Mark! As Christ lives out his life in us, we are disciplining one another. The great conductor leads us!

    • Shane Ocon · April 18, 2012

      We are his instruments. Let’s face the conduct so we will play in sync with the orchestra and make music that brings glory to the King!

      • Shane Ocon · April 18, 2012

        Pardon me, Conductor. Face the conductor! Focus on him, not ourselves. Thank you Jesus ! For it is by your righteousness bestowed on us we have freedom!

      • marklchampion · April 18, 2012

        Thanks for reading and commenting, Shane. He is the great Conductor! Thankful to be in the orchestra with you.

  10. Lenny · April 18, 2012

    Great article. I loved the phrase you used “Discipleship is from the Rabbi…not from the disciple.”

    • marklchampion · April 18, 2012

      Amen, Lenny. He calls us into His discipleship plan! We are thankful for the gift. May you continue to experience and be shown His love and His Church.

  11. Tommy Holt · April 18, 2012

    I enjoyed the post, thanks for sharing. It’s inspirational and motivational all in the same.

    • marklchampion · April 18, 2012

      Thanks for reading and commenting, Tommy. I am thankful for the journey you are on as well. Your hunger for the Lord is evident! It would be great to connect with you over coffee if you would be interested. The Blessing is yours!

  12. Nate Pruitt · April 18, 2012

    I believe what you are saying here aligns with Paul’s assertion to the church in Corinth to follow/imitate Paul (only) as Paul imitates Christ. There has to be an openness to the Spirit in these things. Paul’s seeking of Christ was of great encouragement to others to do the same. I also feel your resistance to church discipleship being a form of homogenizing behaviors rather than creating a symphony of believers who have specific instruments and notes to play within the greater whole, the head of which is Christ.

    When dealing with youth one difficulty they have is the thought that they could disciple others. They are like most of us, seeing shortcoming and weakness in themselves, and therefore an litany of excuses to not live out the Great Commission until they are perfect. However, it is Christ who is first perfect and drawing us in. We don’t offer others imitation of our perfect obedience, we offer them an invitation to obedience of Christ in their own lives, all walking together as an edified body in Christ.

    Keep teaching what you’re teaching. Keep being transparent about Christ’s overcoming nature in your shortcomings (and I will do so with mine) that Christ’s GLORY (that word seems familiar) be seen shining greater than our shortcomings- which, sadly, are often what the “honest” in the church seek to glorify and hold up. As for this and your next post- I truly believe the waiting is over, it’s time for that coffee! (I’ll find an alternative beverage that suits my tastes, haha.)

    • marklchampion · April 18, 2012

      Nate, great articulation of your perspective on discipleship. Thanks for adding to the conversation. Not sure I can speak on all your points from an educated point of view. But I definitely appreciate your words and the meaning.

      Seeing the difficulty of getting adults to go about the great commission, I can only imagine how difficult it is to get youth to engage in “making disciples” as well. I wonder what the disconnect is with youth? Do you have any insight into that from your point of view?

      Also, I wonder if having community that is multi-generational might provide an arena of opportunity for your youth. Have you seen that successful or unsuccessful in presenting Christ to your youth?

      Thanks again for engaging. I’m looking forward to that coffee!

  13. david bolton · April 20, 2012

    Mark, this was very encouraging, and I love your orchestration analogy. It brings to mind for me two words: “symphony” and “cacophony”. “Symphony” comes from the Greek “sumphoneo” which means “to sound together”. When Jesus said, “Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven.” He used the word “sumphoneo”, “to sound together” for what we translate “agree”. It is powerful when we “sound together” as a “symphony” in Christ; not each doing our own thing, as an orchestra tuning up, but following the conductors lead together to His tune. An orchestra tuning up is a “cacophony”. The prefix here “, caco-“, means “bad or evil” and it is derived from the word, “caca”. Yep, you guessed it, the word for “excrement”. When the body comes together, if we are all just playing our own tune, and not following the Conductor it is a cacophony, and akin to caca-ing on each other. Sorry for the strong analogy, but it is just kinda true. May we learn, as you have said here, to symphonize together so that the sound is the sound of heaven, the melody of Jesus, the Song of songs!

    Blessings!

    • david bolton · April 20, 2012

      Again, my apologies if I used too strong or graphic of an analogy.

      • marklchampion · April 20, 2012

        No worries! Good example. Thanks again for providing that perspective, David.

    • marklchampion · April 20, 2012

      WOW! What a great thought. Thank you for sharing this. I have not heard about Cacophony, but have always wondered what that part of the symphony was. Now I know! Thanks for bringing that to the table! Praise Him for His symphony!

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