What Discipling Is Not?
In my last post, I posed a couple of questions to you; ‘What is discipling?’ and ‘What is not discipling?’ In this post, we are going to discuss what discipling is not or as I like to call it these days, disciple making.
Basically, disciple making is not participating in large study groups where one person speaks and others listen. It is not attending various men’s conferences or even attending an activity designed for men to gather and fellowship. Disciple making is not necessarily exhibited with a group of men gathering to read a book and then talk about it; this is a book reading club. All of these are good and can be beneficial; but, they are not necessarily disciple making and rarely fosters a discipling relationship.
Those Sunday School classes we attend each week is not a sufficient metric to gage discipling either. Jeff Christopherson, North American Mission Board’s Vice-President of the Send Network, in his article What Discipleship is Not states;
Small group involvement as a single discipleship metric is a mistake. You are making a lot of assumptions when you say that someone is growing because she (he) is going to a small group. This can be a faulty accusation because of three pivotal reasons. The first is that the small group may not be good at making disciples. The second is that you are assuming that the person connects with the small group. And third, you have to take into the account the people who will not attend a small group for various reasons.
Another defective metric of disciple making is measuring one’s ability to be fluent in Bible-speak or has a good grasp or understanding of theology. Christopherson, in the same article mentioned above states;
Jesus agreed about the importance of accurate beliefs and truth. “…For if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.” But how is the truth setting the disciples you are making free?” (John 8:32). Truth was never meant to be an end in itself, but truth applied to the life of a disciple has an amazing transformational affect.
A healthy diet of biblical preaching and Bible study is important to build healthy believers. But strong interpersonal coaching and accountability are also critical to help disciples hear God and live out what they are learning. After all, discipleship is living daily with Jesus.
I hear individuals talk about being in a discipling group and they are studying theology, I would caution one on doing this unless the individuals involved decides as a group to delve deeper into theology. Oswald Chambers in his book, My Utmost for His Highest, states that;
It is possible to know all about doctrine and yet not know Jesus. The soul is in danger when knowledge of doctrine outsteps intimate touch with Jesus.
A mentor of mine once told me, “Don’t let your theology get in the way of your disciple making.”
Mary Magdalene of whom Jesus exorcised seven demons out of her (Luke 8:2) in all likelihood would not have been able to debate even the least of the Pharisees on doctrine; however, she knew Jesus’ voice. When Jesus rose from the grave Mary was distraught as she thought someone had stolen His body and didn’t know where they may have laid Him. But Jesus called her name, “Mary,” and immediately she knew it was Jesus because she ‘knew’ Him. It wasn’t a result of theological studies, book reads, attending conferences; but, it was because she had an intentional relationship with Jesus. She knew His voice.
In these groups, many will come away with a better understanding of the Word of God, full of head knowledge but will not understand how to apply God’s Word into their lives. Very few of these groups I have found do not allow one to pour their lives into another. We must understand that disciple making is not a program, it is a ministry. Every person will respond differently and you must be willing to allow your disciple making ministry to be flexible to meet the needs of the individual you are discipling. Here’s a better way to think of it-in a more organic way, similar to the process Jesus used. When God puts someone in your path who is stuck, discipleship means finding out why and then helping them solve that problem.
Recently I heard a well noted speaker state that Jesus did not say study theology (though there is nothing wrong with that) or the tenets of Calvinism; Jesus said, “Follow Me” (Mark 1:17). A review of the scriptures will show that Jesus spent a large majority of His time pouring his life into those men he chose to be in his inner circle teaching them and being an example to them.
Now I encourage individuals to be in a small group such as a Sunday School or Home Group Study. I feel it is essential to gather with others to study God’s Word and to perform acts of service together. I encourage men to attend Men Conferences. I would even encourage you to study theology as you grow in Christ to help understand the God you serve. But don’t confuse these as disciple-making.
To put it simply, disciple making means intentionally partnering with another Christian in order to help that person obey Jesus and grow in relationship with Him—so that he or she can then help others do the same. And this is what we will look at in the next post,
Next Post: What is Discipling Making?
Together in the challenge and adventure to disciple men – Mike