It started in eternity past, when God would raise up a leader, there would be followers… Moses had Aaron and Joshua. Understudies, hungry hearts needing to absorb all of the truth and wisdom of the elder.
Ultimately we say Jesus select disciples to follow him, and all but one of them followed Jesus to death for their faith. But during the time he was alive there were so many teachable moments. And growth came not in those large gatherings like the sermon on the mount, but in those quiet meals with a few men, or walking through a city. It was that daily rubbing shoulders, observing, growing, asking questions, gleaning all you could gather…. It was witnessing how and what Jesus did, how he reacted in a crowd when a desperate woman touched him; or a blind man believed so much that he pursued him; or a short tax collector just wanted to catch a glimpse of him as he passed by so he climbed a tree.
Discipleship has been the method of transferring knowledge and wisdom. From the first moments of life in your family, to the last breath, God ordained us to be in small groups, and to observe and do.
Discipleship has seemed to be given lip service, but the actual activity of encouraging one another in faith is best seen in those small one on one times, or those small groups where the purpose is to learn, and grow, to be iron sharpening iron.
Yet so many people in church get caught up with programs – events for the masses… and the game of numbers – thinking they are more effective at knowledge transfer as the numbers climb higher. But the data does not validate that…. In the average church the average of people active in their faith, and active in some outreach or ministry is about 10%. In mega churches that number drops to about 4% according to Barna.
I have been watching this for a few years, wondering why it seems that we a re moving from the model Jesus handed down to us for programs, and large group events. Here is what i think might be some reasons why the shift in method:
1. Discipleship takes time – It is not an instant change, an instant growth… it takes slogging it out, often for years. Steadfastly praying through, growing together, seeking each others highest good.
2. Discipleship is a vulnerable thing – When you bear your heart to another, and they are watching your life there is a vulnerability, a transparency that is required to be effective…. and i am not certain everyone is comfortable with that.
3. Discipleship is best done in small groups – And it seems like a lot of people don’t want to come out of the anonymity of large groups. Small groups grow to know each other, develop bonds of friendship, and begin to learn each other’s personalities.
4. Discipleship requires the disciples (and one disciplining) to take action and respond to God’s word – It requires change, guided by the Lord. It may be controversial because sin may be exposed, confessed and forsaken.
5. Discipleship is a lifetime of processing God’s word together, and building one another up… not just knowledge, but action.
6. Our culture embraces instant, and their attention span is shortening.
7. Our culture is enamoured with big results, large numbers, quick visible outcomes – not lifetime growth
8. Past generations have not modeled discipleship, or abandoned it for programs and activities.
9. Fear -whether fear of failure, rejection, people or the fear that the change brought by discipleship may be too much to live with.
10. Vacuum of leadership
11. Lack of knowledge – it is easier to teach something but so much more difficult when someone challenges you for why you believe or act, or say, or think something. It requires the discipler to be a life long learner… not have all the answers, but