“Have you been discipled?”
I asked over 100 leaders this question as a part of my thesis project. The questionnaire and interviews involved many more related questions, but I was curious to hear their answers to this question. Most said no, “not like Jesus discipled His disciples.”
Why Church, when this is Jesus’ final word to us in Matthew’s Gospel, are we not expert disciplers 2000 years later? Or, did you know that John Wesley’s idea only 250 years ago, was that in order to be a member of the “society” (a particular church family), one needed to be in a class or band meeting; something like a robust Life Group today? Don’t miss this: Wesley’s very methodical approach to discipleship involved participation in a Life Group (or small group, or connect group) in order to become a member of the society because discipleship moved one into church family. Discipleship was not a program one chose to take if one had a free evening.
For Wesley, these intimate groups were an essential and distinctive commitment for the “people called Methodist”. When did this stop?
More importantly, for Jesus, discipleship was the method and essence of His new covenant: a disciple-community: (disciple-making, and disciple-being. When did this stop?
My working definition is that discipleship is an intentional, organic and transformative relationship that Jesus modeled for each of us, that we in turn would live. It is a relationship, wherein two or more people meet regularly for the purposes of: i) nurturing church family; ii) learning God’s Word; iii) worshipping / prayer; iv) and participating in God’s mission in the world (discovering, developing and using our gifts).
In my last two pastorates, we actually changed the definition of small groups to be “two or more people getting together” for these specific purposes and we didn’t do this to beef up our small group stats! We did this because it seemed to be more Scriptural, and more natural. The new definition that shift workers and busy single parents could be part of, and small groups were an important ingredient in our discipleship plan. Playing sports, drama, clubs, special events, Sunday services, mission trips, etc were other ingredients…
Pastors, leaders for sure this is a part of your mandate: to disciple. Everyone else, for sure this is part of what it means to be a follower of Jesus: disciple-making, disciple-being.