Although discipleship itself has been around a long time, in the past 6 to 8 years the term has been a catch word in the Christian Arena. Many have had a hard time not only defining the term, but also nailing down what it consists of. There are some common misbeliefs about what it means to be a disciple, that are not based in scripture and could actually be holding people back. I would like to address a few of them today.
Myth #1: A Disciple Maker must have a great deal of Biblical knowledge
This is such a common theme I hear from people. “I’m not ready yet” or “I need more knowledge before I can lead someone else” “How can I disciple someone when I don’t even know all the answers?” and “I haven’t been discipled myself!”. One of the things I like to say is that “disciples don’t start out ready, we become ready as we start out.” We have the perfect example of this in the New Testament accounts of the first disciples. Jesus didn’t exactly pull them from Bible College – in fact he pulled some of them right out of their boats. They also did not have what we would consider a “formal” education for the next 3 years, much of their education consisted of watching Jesus model ministry and joining him in it. You can disciple someone to whatever point of spiritual maturity you yourself are at in your discipleship journey. If you are asked a question you don’t know the answer to, you admit that, but let the person know you will find out and get back to them. Seeking out answers for others is a great way to grow deeper in knowledge ourselves. This is one reason it is always a good idea to be connected with someone who is a little bit farther on the journey than we are that can help us dig into God’s Word.
Myth #2: Discipleship requires an exorbitant amount of time
Dietrich Bonhoeffer said: “Salvation is free, but discipleship will cost you your life.” When it comes to debunking the myth that discipleship will require a large amount of time, the response would need to be No.. But yes. When we are disciples of Jesus, we give our lives over to that. Discipleship needs to become who we are, not just something we do. Because of that, it doesn’t take up a lot of extra time in our life – it is something we do as we are living. As we go through our day we are connecting with God, reaching out to check on the people in our relational sphere, looking at new people we come in contact with and finding out if they know Jesus. When we have activities in our week we think about who we can bring along to either deepen our relationship with or model an aspect of discipleship for.
Jim Putman, author of this blog, is writing a new book called The Death of Discipleship about the dynamics of pride and humility in the discipleship process. Download the free primer for this book here.
Myth #3: I’m not gifted in disciple making, my gifting is ….
If you have read my books or my website posts at all, you will know where I find the definition of the word disciple. It comes from Matthew 4:19 “And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” This is where Jesus calls his disciples – and from this passage we see that a disciple is:
One who is following Jesus (Come and follow)
One who is being changed by Jesus (And I will make you)
One who is on mission with Jesus (fishers of men)
Discipleship is not a gifting and it is not just a good idea. It is a command given by Jesus to all of his followers. In Matthew 28:19 Jesus says: Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
So, if we are disciples of Jesus, and we are following him and being changed by him, we become disciple makers (fishers of men). It is not something we can just opt into if we are interested – making disciples is the progression of following Jesus.
Myth #4: Discipleship just happens naturally
Sometimes we think that if we live the way Jesus wants us to live, discipleship will just happen organically with the people around us. Now, I won’t completely dismiss this out of hand, because there is an element of truth to it. It is true that when people see a difference in our lives they may be drawn to it, or at least curious about it. And this may be enough to begin having a dialog with them about Jesus. It may even be enough to make a convert – but it isn’t enough to make a disciple. If you look back at the great commission, it says “teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you”. Discipleship is a process of growing and learning that requires time and relationship. It happens through intentional behavior on the part of both the disciple maker and the person being discipled. Jesus went out and invited his disciples to follow him. In his three years on earth he was in proximity with many people – he spoke to the crowds, he healed many people, he walked the streets of many towns and areas, but out of all those contacts only 12 disciples were made.
These 4 myths are only a portion of the myths and misconceptions that exist when it comes to discipleship and disciple making. If you have believed one of these myths or allowed one to hold you back from making disciples, I pray you will break free from it now. You have heard me say this before – Discipleship is simple, it’s just not easy. But it is worth it – and it is the life we are called to.
Written by Jim Putman
This was originally posted on Jim Putman’s blog here. Used with permission.
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