This weekend in our ladies Bible study, while we were discussing living like Timothy we got into a big discussion on discipleship. On being disciple makers, and being a "Paul" in the life of someone. On being a disciple, and being a "Timothy" to a "Paul". Discipleship is a hot button for me, it is something that Jeremy and I have always felt a strong call to, perhaps because our lives have been so dramatically impacted (for the good) by the people that took time to invest in us, and therefore we see value in doing the same for others.
Years ago, when I first started feeling a call to discipleship I resigned from a ministry that I was involved in at my church to wait and see where God would lead me, to do what He had showed me He wanted to use me for (discipleship). I was surprised by the reaction of my ministry leader, she offered me an opportunity to teach a new Believer class at our church that was just starting up. Then I realized our miscommunication, her impression of discipleship was learning, teaching, and knowledge based, it was something most effectively done in large groups, especially with a church body as large as the one that I was attending. It certainly fits the model of our society to conduct discipleship in groups, trying to get the greatest return on investment for our time, "building into" numerous people all at once. And I'm sure God uses this model of discipleship.
But that isn't what I think of when I think of discipleship. That isn't the model that has so deeply impacted my life. When I refer to discipleship I refer to a one on one relationship with another Believer. Sharing life together. Studying the Word together. Praying together. Serving together. Seeking the Lord together while navigating the ups and downs of life.
Lately I've been shocked to realize just how many of my friends have never had any type of discipleship relationship; whether that be them being discipled, or doing the discipling. Since they've never received it, they don't know how to give it, or think that they are incapable of discipling another. And while I appreciate this humility, in that they understand that they aren't perfect, and don't have all the answers figured out, I know that no one does. I know that imperfect people disciple other imperfect people, and we invite God into our weaknesses while we humbly share them, so that through that He may be glorified. I know that discipleship isn't about having perfect theology, or having all of the answers, it's about walking with God, hearing God, and teaching another person to do the same. It's not about telling another person what they should do in x,y, or z situation (although sometimes we do need to admonish each other with Truth), it's about searching the Scriptures with them, praying with them, and holding them accountable to not acting or moving forward until the Lord is guiding them to do so. It's not about conforming them to laws and rules so that their lives reflect what a Christian life should. It's about teaching them to seek the heart of Jesus, to be known by Him, while He transforms their life, and guides, and convicts them with His Spirit.
This was modeled for me, in multiple discipleship relationships that I've had, and although it may sound like a laid back approach, God used it. Someone didn't have to point out my sin to me, show me the areas that I was out of line with God's will, and play the Holy Spirit in my life, God did that. He spoke to me, through His Word, and cleaned me and transformed me. As the saying goes "Jesus cleans His fish, it's not up to us to do it for Him". In my experience, any time in my life when I have taken action under the advice of a Spiritual elder, and obeyed them (even though I didn't have peace or agree with it) I have regretted it. I have wrestled and wrestled with the way that the situation was handled and ultimately come to the conclusion that it either wasn't the right decision, or that I made it too early, before the Lord had really brought my will in line with His.
And please don't misunderstand me, I am not saying this is an excuse to keep on living in sin that the Holy Spirit is convicting you of. I'm not saying that discipleship and community don't require accountability, admonishment, and us pulling the plank out of our brother's eye (after having removed our own log).
I guess where I was meaning to go with all of this is... Why isn't discipleship happening? Why aren't mature Christians being formed? What is stopping us from doing it? Receiving it? Recognizing it? Giving it?
Are we to proud to realize we need it? Too scared to approach someone and ask for it? Too fearful of being humble and vulnerable? Too proud to seek it out and admit that another person is more spiritually mature than us? Too uninformed of what spiritual maturity looks like? Are we believing the lies of the enemy? Are we not realizing it if we've entered into a discipleship relationship just because we haven't defined or labeled it? Are we too busy to invest time in others? Too self-consumed to notice who in our lives we could invest in? Are we so compartmentalizied in our fellowship with each other that we only associate with those in the same place spiritually as us?