Jesus Had a Better Idea–Let’s Try it Ourselves

Thursday is for Discipleship

Discipleship, Dare to beMention the word discipleship in the average church and the mind will rush to thoughts of deepening–deepening believers in the grace and knowledge of Christ. Great goal.  Great thought.

Pretty soon, the conversation will move to questions of how to do it and what to use to do it. Often the next step is the design or selection of some curriculum that it is hoped will yield a better, deeper disciple who brings both greater glory to Christ and has a greater impact in the world.

Eventually, a series of topics is decided upon; then a class, a seminar, a course of study, a series of books to read is agreed to and the process is initiated. We have done this “forever.”  I have done it. I was trained to do this. I have trained others to do this. And to be honest, I have seen some good results.

But a nagging thought for me is that I see nothing that looks anything like this pattern in the pages of the New Testament.  It just doesn’t look anything like what we see Jesus doing with the disciples or what Paul does with his.

In fact, Jesus’ pattern is decidedly non-us.

Jesus never put on a seminar on how to preach.  He never conducted a class on how to do evangelism. He never put together a school to train disciples how to pray.  Paul doesn’t either.  

In fact, there is a total absence of any of our typically Western forms in the disciple-making process of the New Testament.  By the end of the first century, we know that the early church was beginning to move in a catechetical direction for new disciples but even this is absent in the pages of Scripture. So how did Jesus do it?

Discipleship pictureMark 3:13-15 (ESV)

13 And he went up on the mountain and called to him those whom he desired, and they came to him. 14 And he appointed twelve (whom he also named apostles) so that they might be with him and he might send them out to preach 15 and have authority to cast out demons.

This inaugural call of the first disciples is stripped-down basic.  The savior makes his choice.

  • He calls them.                                 He is the initiator
  • He appoints them                         He is the director
  • He names them apostles            He gives them purpose  (named for the purpose of sending out)

Now to the process. The second half of verse 14 as well as verse 15 give us a hint as to what that process was. “…so that they might be with him and he might send them out to preach and have authority to cast out demons.” Jesus’s process seems to be more relational than curriculum driven.  

I think the most descriptive way to explain it would be “INTENTIONAL WITHNESS.” Jesus’s process was to spend purposeful time with his disciples. He had a goal in mind. His purpose was to send them out to preach.  For now, I am going to leave “casting demons” out of the discussion.  We can all debate that at another time.

Here’s the question and the challenge:
How do we shape our discipleship process in ways that look and feel more like the “intentional withness” of Jesus and Paul?


8 thoughts on “Jesus Had a Better Idea–Let’s Try it Ourselves

  1. Paul,

    Good comment. Yes, I think you have it right. Jesus’s “intentional withness” model was highly relational and heavily dependent on observing him and his ways. It is surprising how early in the process Jesus sends the 72 out with minimalistic instructions on what they are to do (Luke 10:1-16).

    But they had been with him in his moving about the countryside, from village to village. They heard how he preached the gospel, they saw how he handled distractions, they experienced and watched his prayer life. They lived with him as a man “who had no place to lay his head” at night. In other words, they experienced what he was willing to endure for the cause of preaching the gospel.

    And the effect was powerful. It caused them to desire more of what they saw. Case in point, prayer. Here’s an exercise to demonstrate this:

    Get a concordance and look up all the variants on “pray” (pray, prayer, prayed, praying, etc.) in the Gospel of Luke. Put those passages in columns. Down the left side of your paper, put the following interrogatives:
    who, what, when where, how, how long, with whom.

    Now go back and look up the context and fill in your grid and answer as many questions as the text of Scripture gives information about. By the time I got to chapter 11 of Luke, the disciples are going to Jesus and asking him to teach them how to pray. This is exactly what was happening in my spirit as I did this exercise myself.

    Seeing the model of what motivated Jesus powerfully drew my heart into a deeper value of prayer. Jesus knew this would happen. He knew that if his disciples spent enough time with him they would begin to desire to be like him.

    [This exercise is not original with me. Campus Crusade for Christ, for one, has been training its staff to value prayer by doing this simple Bible study for over 30 years.]

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  2. Just a few quick thoughts. The apostles were called, followed Jesus for three years, saw amazing miracles and heard Jesus preach and teach many times, lived through his death and Resurrection and it wasn’t until Pentecost that they really became evangelizing disciples under the power of the Holy Spirit. Although it could be argued that they were out preaching and driving out demons before Pentecost while Jesus was still alive.

    Luke 10:17 “The seventy-two returned with joy and said, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.” ”
    Also, Luke 9:6 “So they set out and went from village to village, preaching the gospel and healing people everywhere.”

    Although, they were not always successful illustrating they were still learning. Mark 9:28-29 After Jesus had gone indoors, his disciples asked him privately, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?” He replied, “This kind can come out only by prayer.[b]” or (b) Some manuscripts “prayer and fasting” Bottom line is that we need to spend time with Jesus in the Word, in Fellowship with other disciples, in His presence in prayer listening and even in serving the poor to keep learning and growing. If we are not doing what the first disciples did, we need to do more praying and fasting. Easier said than done, right?

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  3. I feel perhaps the issue at stake rests in the nature of Western church to only empower a limited amount of believers, whereas the responsibility and therefore the gifting to make disciples is taken away from the community at large. Generally a church environment contains saints of various maturity levels, who are in a wonderful position to not only disciple someone, but even discover more of the Lord themselves through the beauty of relationship and the presence of he Spirit of God within them. This way we have the best of both worlds. The elder believers impart to the younger and the younger discover for themselves the Ministry of the Holy Spirit. In the end it must still be Jesus that does the disciplining as we seek and share Him.

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    1. Dennis,

      I don’t think it is the intention of churches “to empower a limited amount of believers” but it certainly seems to be the effect of whatever method, materials, atmosphere and process that we are using.

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