Is Discipleship Dead?

There is an undercurrent of frustration for many men and women of this generation when it comes to discipleship. Many of us don’t feel like we were adequately discipled by the previous generation. This typically stems from the idea of an imaginary discipleship book that has everything we need to know in order to live life perfectly. We face life as if maybe 30% of those pages are completely filled in-  the parts pertaining to salvation, church membership, and moral absolutes. However, there are so many other pages that have blurred type, at best. We yearn for feeling “fully equipped.” For most of us, discipleship hasn’t been life on life, but rather analogous to a bee gathering pollen from a multitude of plants without knowing how to mix all of these substances together in order to produce honey. If only someone could compile a book that addresses every area of life from a biblical perspective, then one godly saint would take us on as a lifelong project with the goal of helping us process and apply this information – then and only then would we feel as though we have been properly discipled. The fact is that by the time all of this could be accomplished, we would most likely be too old to take on life projects of our own! All of the investment would die with us.

One of the reasons it is difficult to find a great discipleship curriculum is simply because it wasn’t mean to be strenuously codified. The moment you turn your discipleship strategy into a book, you de-personalize it. Jesus’s strategy was the epitome of organic. He simply invited men to, “Follow Me.” That simple statement is packed with insinuations. First, Jesus insinuates that he will be going somewhere. He doesn’t signify the ultimate destination to which they are to follow Him. Perhaps the destination is geographical, perhaps metaphysical, perhaps it is a state of maturity – or mostly likely it is all of the above. The command of Jesus to “Follow Me” also insinuates that He is the personal embodiment of all of the information that the disciples will need to know.

As we consider our role in the discipleship process, we must wrestle NOT with the questions, “Who has invited me to follow them?”, or, “Who is following me?”, but rather with the questions, “Who has taught me to follow Jesus?” and “Whom have I taught to follow Jesus?”. Considering both our personal discipleship and our discipleship of others from this perspective, the following statement is true: if we are devoted followers of Christ, we have been sufficiently discipled. We are equipped to begin, today, pointing a multitude of others Christward.

Personally, a great amount of my learning of Christ came from Christian media. In my youth, it was mostly radio programs. After coming to Christ while listening to Christian radio as a first semester college student, I went through the process of dropping all of my college classes between the hours of 8AM and 11AM, because I wanted to soak up all I could from the preachers of the Word. I had practically no human interaction with any of these men of God; however, each of them served to point me toward Christ and encourage me in His pursuit. Since that time, I’ve met dozens of godly men, most of whom were only in my life for a short time. Each, in their own way, showed me that Christ has the answers. Today, as a 39-year-old man, I am far from perfect, but more convinced than ever that my personal hope is wrapped up in the person and work of Jesus Christ. I turn to Christ and His word for direction in every aspect of my life. I teach my family to do the same. I teach everyone I interact with to do the same.

So perhaps discipleship is not as dead as I thought. Perhaps it’s defined poorly by our generation. If you are following Christ, you have been adequately discipled and are ready to begin influencing others as well. Whether you have been a Christ-follower ten minutes or ten years – you can begin today pointing others to follow Christ! This seems to have been the understanding of discipleship in the context of the early church. Christianity went viral because the infectious agent (Jesus) had only to take up residence within one healthy host (a Christian) in order to begin replicating and transmitting itself (via words) to other potential hosts. So by the time the virus had spread across the Roman Empire, the first followers were still in the process of maturity (Phillippians 3:13).

In conclusion, we do have a book – the Bible, which is the mind of Christ. Our goal is not necessarily to have a group of men following us and learning our personal strategies of Christian discipleship (although that is helpful). Our chief goal is to point as many people as possible toward Jesus with every opportunity. Some will be drawn in to our lives more deeply, but this is not the primary objective. The glory of God through Christ is the objective – follow Him.