We’ve been lied to. We’ve been told discipleship is a thing. That it exists. Look it up in the dictionary. The only thing defined is a disciple.
disciple | noun
dis· ci· ple | di-ˈsī-pəl
1. one who accepts and assists in spreading the doctrines of another
In the Bible, there is no word for discipleship. Why? Because disciple making isn’t a thing, it’s a person making disciples. The Church’s Great Commission in Matthew 28 is not to offer discipleship, to offer programs of discipleship, but to go make disciples. Disciple making is an action with results that can be measured. Discipleship is like the Loch Ness monster. People say they’ve seen it. We have some grainy photos from the past of what it might look like. Books have been written. A lot of people believe it exists. Explorers have invested tremendous resources to prove its existence. But the creature is still elusive at best, if it exists at all.
With the myth of discipleship, and no real definition of what it is, many things are pointed to as discipleship. Church buildings? Well, they are needed as a place for discipleship. Preaching? That’s teaching discipleship. Music? Oh, that inspires discipleship. Tithes and offering? That’s needed to fund discipleship. Kid’s ministry. Sure! That’s little people discipleship. Church itself? Of course. The reason it exists is for discipleship.
But where are the disciples making disciples that make disciples that are making disciples? Unfortunately, for the most part, they are busy volunteering in all the programs and structure required to sustain the myth called discipleship. It’s exhausting trying to support and hold up walls that have no real foundation. Since actually making disciples isn’t the measure of success, people gravitate to those discipleship places with the most people holding up the walls and the most entertaining programs. Who wouldn’t? If it’s all discipleship, “I’ll take easy and convenient for 200 Alex!”
Luke 9:23 (NLT)
Then he said to the crowd, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross daily, and follow me.
Jesus didn’t do discipleship. He made disciples. He didn’t recruit from the crowds that followed Him. Let that sink in a minute. The gospels do not give one account of Jesus giving some kind of altar call to the crowd. He did teach the crowd the requirements of following. But the actual right now challenge, “Follow me” was personal. It was one on one or one at a time to a few. He never said, “Meet Me back here next week to hear more.” It was follow Me. Do what I do. I’ll make you a people catcher – fishers of mankind!
We have it so backward. The majority of what the church does and invests in is for the crowd. How do we draw the crowd? How do we keep the crowd? If we keep talking about it, and offering programs for it, then discipleship will surely happen. So we fish in the crowd. Come join the program! Don’t you love this music and the entertaining message? We will do the same thing next week! Just for you! There’s even a place for you to find purpose holding these walls up with the rest of us. It will be fun! We will even throw in a free t-shirt!
2 Timothy 4:3-4 (NLT)
3 For a time is coming when people will no longer listen to sound and wholesome teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear.
4 They will reject the truth and chase after myths.
Jesus offered twelve people sacrifice, persecution and even death in exchange for eternal relationship with Him and the Father. That small group, changed the whole world by following the example of disciples making disciples that are making disciples. We offer a great show, coffee mugs, free t-shirts and the American dream with a side of discipleship. Is it any wonder we can’t even change our neighborhoods?
I love the Church and understand this may sound harsh. But as long as we settle for the myth of discipleship the Church will never be the force Jesus said would prevail even against the gates of hell. Making disciples isn’t a program. It’s not a message series. It’s not the altar call to the crowd. It’s follow me as I follow Jesus! Disciples make disciple makers!
1 Corinthians 11:1 (NLT)
And you should imitate me, just as I imitate Christ.
Are you following Jesus? Am I? Are you making disciples that make disciples? Am I? Maybe it’s time to stop doing all the things that we have called discipleship and do whatever it takes to just simply make disciple makers that make disciple makers.
What does that look like in my life, in our church? I’m not sure. But I think I saw the training manual laying around somewhere.