Saturday, August 19, 2006

Do we do discipleship the way Jesus did?

I'm currently working on a long-term development plan for a discipleship ministry. In the process of thinking through key directions, I feel God challenging me to examine our whole approach to discipleship, generally asking... why we don't disciple people the way Jesus did. I have been in ministry for over 30 years, but I have been stopped in my tracks over this, and I'm having a difficult time identifying any present day examples of discipling as Jesus did. Most church-based discipleship is classroom oriented. Even those more relational, one-on-one approaches are still quite formal, didactic, cognitive, or curriculum-based. Some mission-based approaches add experiential components, but could they be proposed across the board and effectively applied to all Christians in all walks of life?

I have four questions:

1) What were the essential qualities in the way Jesus discipled others?

2) Do you know of good, present-day examples/models in use?

3) Could we suggest a truly biblical model for today based on the clear example of Jesus in the four Gospels?

4) Is there any justification for our wholesale abandonment of Christ's own example?

For me this is not simply an academic exercise, since I am working on a plan that could impact the direction of a ministry. So I do hope there are some good answers to be found.

Here's one way to get at it... What if we first took what might be seen as the basics of good mentoring: 1) provide essentials and key principles, 2) dramatize and demonstrate in real life, 3) commission them to do it on their own, 4) provide evaluation, support, affirmation, and guidance to perfect, internalize, and integrate with personal life and calling.

And if we would say that the core ingredient of the enduring disciple was loving God (with a whole heart), then what could the discipleship process look like? Would the process look like anything we presently see? And how would you provide experiences that impart an authentic, enduring love of God?




  1. We're trying to flesh this out in a setting where we lack classrooms. So, then what do we do? Home seminars and courses work to educate (and that's important), but not to disciple. I'm looking at Neil Cole's book Organic Church and we're working at developing spiritual partnerships . . . 2 or 3 gathered together to discuss their mutually agreed upon Scripture reading and to pray together. No curriculum but the good book and prayer. The hands-on mission aspects of discipleship are already pretty strong for the church.

    Another possibility is to consider the blue collar, working class model of tradecraft -- much more akin culturally to what Jesus knew and practiced. Tex Sample has an interesting two page article in the most recent Circuit Rider mag for UMC pastors (Jan/Feb 2007).

    JP Bohanan, CrossWalk Community UMC
    York PA

  2. JP,

    Would you possibly have a link for this...

    "Tex Sample has an interesting two page article in the most recent Circuit Rider mag for UMC pastors (Jan/Feb 2007)."

  3. Thoughts?

    You make my head hurt Michael. Some gut responses to your four questions:

    1) I would say He was the authority, that is, He had answers for the people's unspoken questions. He was relational, approachable, and honest. There were times of teaching, practice, mastering, and correction.

    2) Not really, but I like something Granger community church does in following a "next step" format of leading people into maturity.

    3) Is there only one Biblical model? Could there be a Biblical model that no one has discovered?

    4) I am not sure there has been wholesale abandonment, but if there has been it is because we follow rumors of God (what we believe to be true about God) rather than what is true about God.

  4. Larry Kroh, The London Freedom Church12:48 AM, May 01, 2008

    Mike I've been thinking the same thing. I don't have any answers but what strikes me is we have adopted a hellenic paradigm where discipleship is done in the class but Jesus did discipleship in community. If we're going to do discipleship the way Jesus did we need to follow a hebraic paradigm. I wonder if anyone has developed a Messianic discipleship approach?