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Is our school system destroying our discipleship?

Is our present church system is killing discipleship?

Cris Rogers

I have to admit I am not someone who thrived in the school system. As someone with lots of creativity and imagination I often found it uninspiring. In recent years I have been challenged by Ken Robinson’s TED talk on the education system ( He argues that the present school system kills creativity. I would argue the present church system is killing discipleship.

Ken would strongly state, and I would agree, that at present the school system is fundamentally about training university professors. Essentially everybody is being equipped to be an academic until they choose to opt out. The same could be said by the way we do discipleship. Sermons are often academic monologues. We are taught one way so we therefore teach this way. We tend to use the sermon to train people to be theologians and not disciples. 

I was talking with a newly retired electrician about how his business has changed over the years. He noted that many new electricians were coming out of college with certificates but had never done a day working with the wires. They were classroom trained and not workplace ready.

Discipleship is not about learning the theory of Jesus but learning through apprenticeship and embodying the way of Jesus. Many theological lecturers would think this a fair statement or at least true in part. I’m being purposefully provocative. 

Some theology works well in the classroom but does not work on the streets.

Until our gatherings focus more on equipping the saints with Christ’s toolkit, we will continue to struggle to make disciples. If we focus our time on shaping a mind but not connecting the heart and hands we are missing the whole life of a disciple.



1. Come and learn from a monologue by a ‘Yoda’ figure. 

2. Equipping people to be mini academics not mini servants.

3. De-skilling people by leaving them thinking there is too much more to learn.

4. We elevate the preacher and devalue the homeless shelter volunteer.



1. Walking with me and see how I did it.

2. Intentionally inviting people into a deeper apprenticeship relationship.

3. Learning theology on the road and seeing it in practice.

4. Taking what you have seen and doing it yourself.


We need to reimagine how we equip people to be disciples. We need to shake off failed educational formats and move our learning to the streets, workplaces, schools and homes if we are to ever truly equip Gods people. We must make apprenticeship our mode for teaching the ways of Jesus. This must happen by driving our discipleship from the classrooms to the streets.

Come and follow is Jesus’ call and should be our call too. Let’s reimagine discipleship.

Cris and his wife Beki lead All Hallows Church Bow in East London and have been in church leadership for many years.


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