Monday, I stopped after sharing some thoughts about the subject of what discipleship is and what it seems to be in many places. As I thought more about my words, I want to clarify that I’m not an anti-program type guy, just one who wants to make sure we don’t huddle all the cattle into the pen and think one way is the only way it’s going to get done. If we want a fast-food discipleship program, then be my guest but I think it’s so much more than that and for the depth of what I think churches should be, it has to be more than that.
One of my favorite books on this subject was written by David Ping titled “Quick to Listen Leaders”. The basic premise of the book is to learn to spend time listening to others in order to more effectively minister to them. This applies to discipleship also. Many times, we are ready to trust a willing person with a “mentor” to disciple and lead them through the ten followup lessons we have after they make a decision to follow Christ. These are not bad at all but to think we can copy some lessons with bible quotations and expect the other guy to “get it” shows an extreme lack of concern for the fledgling Christian’s faith journey.
We must learn to understand the other person better in order to see to it that they are properly ministered to. This does not happen unless you stop to get to know the other person. There are many ways as a church body we can make this happen. Among my peers, I am best known for my ministry to several Wal-Mart employees. This didn’t happen as a result of a program but because I was asked to perform a funeral remembrance for a well-loved employee at my local store. After the event was complete (We did this in full view of customers in the back of the store near the baby area!), I was asked to stay to console many who were crying and upset by their loss. To be honest, it would have been quite easy for me to walk out of the store and let management know I had another commitment to attend to. But instead, I made a phone call and moved the commitment and wound up staying the better part of the morning to talk to some of the employees. This hasn’t been forgotten in the years since. I still shop at that store, employees that know me stop and share their struggles, ask for prayer, and some even ask to meet with me at the local Starbucks nearby so they can just talk (and I can just LISTEN). Several families from that store have attended or are still attending our church plant as a result. Discipleship can happen anywhere.
What does discipleship look like to you? For me, it’s about relationships and building up others with the truth of scripture. But, I cannot pass along those truths unless I know exactly what that person needs in order to give the right words. Think of it this way: You go to a doctor because you are not feeling well and instead of him taking the time to listen to you he asks a few general questions, makes a reasonable diagnosis based on your answers, and then gives you a medicine that is common to all. He doesn’t ask if you are allergic to it. If you are, tough! You are in a minority and need to go elsewhere because the group approach is treating many others who are less concerned than you. Is this what you want in medical care? Than why would you settle for less in spiritual care? Many do and don’t even know it because their needs haven’t been diagnosed properly and they are thrust into church life without having shared their struggles, needs, questions, and wonders.
My greatest joy as a pastor is spending time with my families, my elderly folks, my young newlyweds, and my kids. When I can see a life changed for the better by the healing balm of Christ, I know that we’re doing the right things. It’s a little messier this way. It’s not always as easy as a program, but it’s the only way I see that Jesus ministered to others. He not only did this but trained others to do so. That’s our task! To multiply discipleship amongst the gifts of our diverse congregation to make them disciples and teach them to do the same with others.
Let the journey begin!