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A rant on discipleship

A few week’s back Joel Mayward asked if I’d participate in his blog series on discipleship. He asked some great questions and really got my mind churning, plus I was in one of those pre-lunch moods. Here’s a taste of what ended up being a holy rant on the topic.

What is discipleship? 
I’d like to start off with two push backs on your question itself.

First off, discipleship is a made up word. Let’s acknowledge that for what it is. Every time I type it in Microsoft Word or on my blog it always pops up as a misspelled word. Because it isn’t a word. More to the point, it’s a made up word because we don’t really even have a word to describe what discipleship is.We are trying to smash the relationship that Jesus had with his disciples into a modern construct of a ministry model. The very problem of a lack of discipleship comes from trying to make it a quantifiable process that is replicable so that we can point to a person as church leadership and say, “This is how I know people are growing in their relationship with Jesus.” It’s a McDonald’s-style phrase that just falls flat in the face of what Jesus and the early church actually did, as documented in the New Testament. So I want to start off by pushing back on the very word, discipleship. Jesus told us to make disciples, (Matthew 28:19) not create a process whereby all people can follow 6 easy steps or run the bases or complete a wheel of discipleship. Those are modern simplifications which have proven to have horrible impact on the life of our churches.

What is the greatest barrier to this in youth ministry?
2. As I opened this with, we are living in a day where we’ve tried to create a process called discipleship as a replacement for how Jesus and the early church actually did it. So when we talk about making disciples we think of programs when Jesus never had that in mind. The disciple-making process is a lifestyle, not a program. So a major roadblock we hit as leaders is that our adult volunteers think they’ve been “discipled!” Moreover, we have a culture which is so “easy” focused that very few have the stomach to get involved. Decades of crappy “discipleship models” have created undiscipled, undisciplinable followishers of Jesus.
And these are just two excerpts! You can read the rest on Joel’s blog.

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3 Responses to A rant on discipleship

  1. Sam Halverson May 9, 2012 at 6:34 am #

    Thanks, Adam. In the wake of our United Methodist Church’s General Conference I hear your words and recognize how we Methodists, in particular, fall into this trap of trying to create a “method” for discipling (dang, that’s not a word, either). We are currently trying to develop a “vital congregations” process which reeks of coming up with a McChurch plan of making disciples. 

  2. kolby milton May 9, 2012 at 6:26 pm #

    love this statement, “The disciple-making process is a lifestyle, not a program.”  Why does everything in the church need to be a method, program, or system.  Great post adam! 

  3. Vincent Lombardi's Ghost May 10, 2012 at 7:35 pm #

    Discipleship doesn’t have the red squiggly line under it when I type it, thus you are wrong. lol

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