Last week I pointed out that Jesus spent a significant amount of time with those he discipled. He began with his first five followers by spending several days together with them. I reckon he spent more time with them in the first two weeks than most church leaders spend with those they are charged to disciple in a year.
What do I mean by this? Time when a leader preaches or teaches a room full of people is not discipling. It is preaching and teaching. This is undoubtedly part of the responsibility of those called to lead in the church, but it is not discipling. It is the dissemination of knowledge, and hopefully solid biblical knowledge, but it will not make a man or woman who sits in the pew into a disciple-making disciple of Jesus. To make a disciple-making disciple (our definition in the NAMS community—always—of the word “disciple”) requires that someone pours their life with Jesus into another person, until that person looks only to Jesus.
Modern life in the developed world has changed much from the first century, but the principle that Jesus illustrates is still the same. Those who are called to love and serve God must be discipled by others who have gone before them. New believers must see what it looks like when someone puts God first. They must watch others as they strive to put God first in all things. They must observe what it looks like when another man lives by and obeys the Holy Scriptures. And they must be in a relationship of trust such that they can ask honest questions.
My first real encounter with this discipling pattern of Jesus, in an intentional way, came when I was taken under the wing of a wise old pastor who lived thousands of miles away from me. He suggested we talk each week for an hour by phone. At first we just got to know one another, and he answered some of my pressing questions. But as time went on I realized that he and I were in a different relationship than any I had had before. He wanted me to only seek for Jesus’ guidance. He only wanted me to seek for Jesus’ affirmation. He only wanted for me what God wanted for me.
My life in the institutional church had not been like that. Though many in authority would have said otherwise, the general relationship I had with my ecclesiastical superiors was all about organizational accountability and performance. Was my church growing or shrinking? Was the denominational assessment being met? Was I doing my duty to the judicatory? In my forty-four years of ordained ministry, I was never called to talk for an hour about my life and ministry as a disciple of Jesus.
A disciple-making disciple cares about those he is discipling. He prays for them, and loves them, and gives himself to them. All he knows of the Lord he shares with them. And perhaps the most important thing he gives them is time.
New Blog Series Fall 2016 – 2/5
— Jon Shuler