Ponderings on Discipleship

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Ponderings on Discipleship

Mat 4:19  And he said unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men. The Message Bible puts it this way: Jesus said to them, “Come with me. I’ll make a new kind of fisherman out of you. I’ll show you how to catch men and women instead of perch and bass.”

In the last weeks I have been pondering on the importance of discipleship. The goal of discipleship is telios, or maturity, defined as the ability to function according to the will and purpose of our Maker. This is indeed a primary responsibility of church leadership…that is, through teaching, preaching, counsel, etc., to help a person become all God intended him or her to be.

More specifically, it is the nature and process of discipleship that I am interested in, especially as modeled through the life of Jesus; it intrigues me. For Jesus to have selected his  disciples from a crowd of followers must have required excellent observational skills, knowledge of the culture, an open heart to the Father, and thorough and irrepressible trust in the plan that had been devised in heaven before time began. To boldly call fishermen out, and challenge them to follow him (above all others) is incredible, let alone to state with such confidence that he indeed had what it took, by the power of the Holy Spirit (given without measure) and the wisdom of the Father, to take these oh so common middle class business people and make them (through a relational process and teaching, both theological and practical) fishers of men. Incredible!

I think that much of what we see shortly after the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost must have been the results of Jesus’ modeling, mentorship or discipleship, as

described in Act 2:42-47:

“They continued steadfastly in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread and the prayers.  And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles.  And all that believed were together, and had all things common; and they sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all, according as any man had need. And day by day, continuing steadfastly with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread at home, they took their food with gladness and singleness of heart, praising God, and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to them day by day those that were saved.”

Several important points can be made from this passage, but just a few will illustrate my point. First, we see a daily devotion…to the teaching of the word of God. Second, the teaching was done in community, a community of partners devoted to Christ, the apostles and one another. They shared meals, and no doubt the Eucharist was the center of their fellowship, worship and prayer, which so moved and motivated them that the most important thing in life became their fellowship and the mission to which they were called. The results are obvious, turning the world upside down. Ah, such should be the results of our discipleship.

Of course, most pastors and local churches, in their own small way, are trying to do a similar task, in the power of the Spirit (in our measure), with godly wisdom (we hope); to teach men and women to go beyond themselves and into the calling of the Lord, into a destiny that only the Lord knows, full of adventure and joy. God has given each minister of the gospel (see Eph. 4:11) a mandate that is beyond our ability to manage (raise up men and women to serve the Lord with passion) but by his wonderful grace. There are many tools (books, on line learning systems, etc., that can help pastors/leaders prepare people for life and service; some underutilized, and most leaders were not really prepared to be leaders, let alone with the ability in themselves to disciple men and women to maturity, and for the cause of Christ.

For most in ministry, it is such a joy to have a part in the Harvest of our time, and to participate in small measure in the Great Commission, motivated by the Great Commandment. But really, this is the mandate that the Lord has given to his church; to preach the gospel of the Kingdom and to teach Kingdom life principles so that God’s people will be transformed into the image of Christ, fulfilling their part in the history of the church still being written. More on this in the next article.

Stan E. DeKoven, Ph.D., MFT

Founder and President

Vision International University

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