One of the most amazing things in scripture to me remains the calling of the disciples. The fact that they responded to Jesus’ call by immediately forsaking all that they knew/had/owned in order to follow him has always significantly impacted me. Undoubtedly, the grace on his life was immeasurable and it struck a chord with men who had a heart’s desire to seek something far beyond what they knew.
There is no thought of continuous following from place to place in Jesus’ invitation but of immediate detachment from the present sphere of their interest and of attachment to Jesus as their leader. His promise to them was “to become fishers of men,” which places emphasis on the change in their character necessary for success in this new kind of fishing. (Pulpit Commentary; Matthew 4:19) This presents an extreme relational intensity in the art of discipleship that Jesus was (and still should be) involved in.
Despite being “in ministry” and walking with the Lord for most of my life, truly discipling people began for me in 2009. Through a series of life events and Father plainly making it obvious to me, I realized that I had lived most of my life as a believer without ever discipling a single soul. I would suggest to you that is a common scenario among those who call themselves Christians; even among those who classify themselves as “equippers.” The reason for this, in my opinion, is twofold. (1.) We have ‘individualized‘ the Gospel. (2.) We have substituted a religious organization for a spiritual organism based upon proper relationships.
Several nights ago, I sat around a table with brothers whose ages ranged from mid-20s all the way up to upper-40s. Each one of these brothers represent a story, history and relationship that was orchestrated by God. I did not know any of them before 2009 but they have grown near and dear to my heart since then.
As we sat there over our food, we discussed life issues, current events and guy stuff…….like the football season that is approaching. It’s always great fun and extremely enjoyable to experience such fellowship.
Then, as meals were finished, the discussion organically turned to Christ and what certain brothers were hearing, seeing and experiencing. I sat quietly at the corner of the table just listening. During the course of the conversation, I began to hear things that I had taught them. The expressions they were making were not precisely what I had used or the way I would put things. Nevertheless, the Truth that had been shared with them was at the core of what was being discussed.
I had to literally fight back tears because of what I was observing. “These guys are actually getting it!” I thought to myself. “It” being, in this case, Christ!.
They spoke of how they saw themselves being transformed and actually “being” the revelation that they have received, rather than just hearing it and filing it away. They expressed how vital it was to have relationships with one another, as well as corporately and the impact that it has had on them. Man, this food they were dishing out was far superior to the tacos I had just finished!
As if that wasn’t enough, the next day, I received a text from a brother from across the country. He shared with me a revelational thought concerning the Kingdom that Father had spoken to him. I replied with encouragement and enthusiasm as to what he was hearing the Spirit say. I told him how encouraging it was to me and how I appreciated him sharing it. Well, that text got followed up with a phone call where he began to expand on other things that he was hearing.
After I got off the phone, I cried. Here’s a spiritual son, though he lives hundreds of miles away and due to the intimacy of our bond, has been equipped to not only hear the Spirit for himself, but, is receiving enlightened truth that blesses/encourages me due to its depth and significance. Although, they would be extremely valid reasons for our interaction, he wasn’t contacting me to ask what he should do about a certain situation or asking me a doctrinal question. No, he was expressing the fruit of his sonship. Let me tell you, it was some sweet fruit that will not only serve to bless me but bless the communities in which he is involved.
You’ve heard the old expression,
“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”
I have discovered that the “church” system has determined that discipleship can be accomplished by hierarchical organization, programs and teaching, teaching, teaching and more teaching. Did I mention that they do quite a bit of teaching!?!?!?! More times than not, I’m afraid, what winds up happening is that fish is being served on a systematic basis so as to keep the believers dependence on the, ummmmmm, fish supplier. We indoctrinate believers to our doctrines rather than educate them to know Him. Rather than securing an immediate detachment from the present sphere of their interest and assisting them to walk with Jesus in the Kingdom, we attempt to convert them to our particular brand/interests and make them a good (insert a particular denomination or affiliation here). And, instead of placing emphasis on the change in their character necessary for success in pursuit of the Kingdom, we teach them how to navigate successfully within the parameters of that brand.
Perhaps the true objective of discipleship is to actually catch and release believers after having been fully equipped to serve one another; Not teach them to “serve God” vicariously through a religious system.