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
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
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
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!
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.
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.