Our higher education model is having a detrimental effect upon how we do discipleship. So much of how the church does discipleship is modelled on a failing school system. I don’t say that to offend any teachers, but I am trying to shake up the church. The way we have done schooling in recent years is failing many of our young people who aren't ever going to be university professors. In school, every child is heading for a PHD unless they choose to opt out. Which means school has become a place to learn theory rather than learn to navigate life. I would agree that many school are trying to adjust this but across the board we have created an academic system that is focused on knowledge.
In church, we have taken this model and applied it to discipleship. We come to church to learn the theory of the Bible. The sermons are one way training for people to be historians of Jesus.
If we look at rabbinical discipleship we will see a very different model for equipping people for a life with Jesus. Jesus calls us to follow him and copy what he does. Jesus’ model for discipleship is apprenticeship. It was about spending time with the rabbi and then being sent out to do what the rabbi did. Jesus’ primary place for discipleship was on the road, it was around tables and it was on his knees washing feet.
Being a disciple of Jesus is about becoming the mirror image of Jesus. I was asked this question recently: if you were face a mirror, how much of your life would be accidently seen to be the life of Jesus? Sadly, we have created a Christian world where we are able to be ‘Christian’ and not be a disciple. I regularly meet people who describe themselves as Christians and look nothing like the one they claim to follow. In Mark 8 Jesus calls this kind of person a crowd. Mark 8 says Jesus calls the crowd and his disciples to him. Crowds are people who were fans of Jesus, they wanted to be where he was because his teaching made them feel better. They felt good for hearing it. But Jesus challenged them to do to self if they wanted to be one of his disciples. They had to die to their own life direction, their own status, their own pride, their view of their recourses. Jesus called the ‘fans’ to become ‘followers’.
So much of modern day discipleship is focused on the church or on church leaders. Discipleship is not leadership development or mentorship. It is something completely different. Discipleship is apprenticeship to Jesus.
Looking at rabbinical discipleship we see within it four basic goals. These disciples or followers/students apprenticed themselves to Jesus in kingdom living.
Four basic goals of discipleship
1. Be with and follow the rabbi closely; watch her every move.
2. Watch and learn his teachings and ways of seeing God, this was called his ‘yoke’.
3. Become like and copy what the rabbi did.
4. To carry on your rabbi’s teaching and carry her passion.
We see Jesus doing exactly this with his Disciples...
- Jesus calls the disciples to be with him and follow.
Mark 3:14, “He appointed twelve that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach”
Luke 5:27, ‘Follow me, Jesus said.’
- Abide in me. Learning to live in relationship and awareness of the spirit. Jesus
says in John 15:4, “abide in me”. He is inviting us to come and spend time tapped into what I am tapped into.
Jesus says in Matthew 11:30, ‘my yoke is easy and his burden is light.’ In other
words his way of understanding the scriptures wouldn't be heavy but light, or
- Jesus gets them involved in the problem solving. In John 6:6 we find Jesus with 5,000 people needing to be fed. Jesus asks Philip to help solve the problem with him even though Jesus already knows how that he is going to do it. We also see him encourage the disciples to do as he did when he got on his knees to wash feet.
In Luke 6:40 ASV, we read, ‘the disciple is not above his teacher: but every one,
when he is perfected, shall be as his teacher”. Disciples were to become like their rabbi.
- Carry out Jesus’ work. Jesus commissions the disciples in Matthew 28 to ‘go and make disciples.’ In Acts 1 Jesus says that ‘the Spirit will come upon you and you will be my witnesses.” Jesus gives them authority to cast out demons in his name and heal the sick.
I would challenge us to use this model for discipleship. Its intentional not accidental. It means opening our lives up to people to see how we do life with Jesus. It means all of us are able to make disciples. If you think your life is a mess, the good news is a mess can become a message. All life experience is a teaching experience for Jesus. Being a disciple who makes disciples doesn't mean you have to be perfect but you need to be honest.
Can you open up your life to allow others to follow Jesus with you, to watch, copy and carry what you carry? Can you make disciples that are less historians of a book based Jesus and make apprentices of Jesus learning, from him and from an encounter with him?
Modern day discipleship doesn't need to be any different.