6 Helpful questions for our Christian Lives - question 4
In this series of blog posts I am looking at six questions about our Christian lives that are good for us to think about regularly. Reflecting on them can help provide shape and direction to the three dimensions of our Christian lives: Our life with God, Our life with God's people; and our life with the world around us. Unlike a checklist, these questions are designed to be open ended. Each of us is unique and we will each answer these questions in different ways. In fact at different times we will have different answers ourselves!
It is IMPORTANT to note that
These questions aren't a test.
You aren't going to be graded on the quality of your answers.
It is not about comparing yourself to some 'super Christian'
You will get the most benefit out of these questions if you can identify one or two simple things you can work on in the next few days. This is much better than spending hours creating a long list and then doing nothing!
Question Four - Who am I discipling and who is discipling me?
I think the church has sometimes defaulted to a classroom mode of developing people through sermons, classes and courses. In the process we have often settled for the TRANSFER OF INFORMATION and fallen short of the TRANSFORMATION OF LIVES. This can result in some Christians being educated way beyond their level of obedience.
It is not that the Classroom mode is bad, it just isn't sufficient. We don't allow people who have just read a book or attended a few lectures to do brain surgery or even service our cars. We want them to have practiced alongside an expert before being let loose to operate on brains and service cars on their own. We want them to have had a period of apprenticeship.
It is just as vital to have deliberate apprenticeship in our Christian lives!
Even though we may not have had much deliberate Christian apprenticeship, we have all been involved in apprenticeship relationships in our lives. It is the way we learned to speak, tie our shoe laces, use and knife and fork, ride a bike and drive a car. A person who was better than us at each of these things showed us how to do it, helped us to do it, encouraged us and answered our questions. They weren't necessarily the world expert at any of these things but they were better than us AND most importantly, close enough to us to have an interactive relationship with us. This also happens in church however these relationships are often only focussed on to how to do a particular task - run the data projector, count the offering, lead worship etc.
We need to have more DELIBERATE relationships where we look to pass on how to live like Jesus. Jesus said to his first disciples - 'Follow me and I will make you fishers of people; in 1 Cor 11:1 Paul said 'Follow my example as I follow the example of Christ'; and in Phil 3:17 he said 'Join together in following my example, brothers and sisters, and just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do'.
So look around you and ask God for wisdom about who you can talk to about being in intentional disciping relationships. These will often be people in your Spiritual Extended Family (see question 3).
Start with Receiving (we need to be students before we are teachers - even in just learning how to disciple others apart from any particular content)
Who could you approach to receive modelling and coaching to be more like Jesus? (It may be a range of people who have expertise in different areas of being like Jesus). For example you might know a person who is great at prayer. You could go to them and say 'I have noticed you have a rich prayer life, I want to grow in prayer and I was wondering if you could mentor me in this area and pass on what you have learned'.
Progress to Giving (but make sure you are connected with mature Christians know what you are doing and can keep you accountable - being a lone wolf expert is inviting trouble)
Who could you encourage and invest in by sharing what you have learned? Who could you give access to your life on a regular basis? After praying and asking God for wisdom, you could approach a person and say 'I appreciate your love for Jesus and enthusiasm to follow him, over the journey I have learned a few things about discipleship/mission/prayer etc and wondered whether you would be interested in catching up regularly for a season to talk about some of these things'
Make a plan to spend time with those people in scheduled and spontaneous ways.
Think about Living Examples, not Perfect examples; Access and Explanation; Observations and Feedback.
When we are looking for who we might seek to be discipled by or to disciple we need to take the pressure off ourselves to be perfect - we never will be. If we are discipling others we should say ' the things you see in me that are like Jesus - imitate those things'. If we are being discipled we should look for the life of Jesus in our mentor and not expect them to be perfect in every way. We are looking for living examples not perfect examples.
Discipleship involves relational closeness outside classroom or church service settings. It is talking about how you pray while eating dinner together and they praying together afterwards, it is about going together to serve people in the local community and then reflecting on how you do mission while walking in the park. It is about access and explanation. And it is often about the practical details of things that don't get covered in sermons or classroom lessons. There is a limit to how many people we can give access to our lives in this way. Jesus chose 12 and so for us it will usually be fewer than that and may only be one or two.
Discipling relationship can have a structure in terms of the content that is covered. However even in the middle of that there needs to be flexibility to respond the events in life. When a plumber comes across a particular problem at a house, it is at that unplanned moment that he explains to his apprentice how to fix it. When the disciples had an argument about who was the greatest, Jesus taught them about servant leadership. In discipling people to be more like Jesus, this involves observing what is happening in the life of the other person and providing timely feedback.
Now this can seem alot of detail - but you don't have to be the world expert on discipleship to disciple people. Enter into some discipling relationships and learn as you go.
Two final thoughts:
Discipling relationship ARE NOT about control. It is not about having people who do what you say when you say. It is about passing on what you have to others.
Discipling is about making disciples who make disciples. The discipling aspects of relationships can tend to come to a natural end even though the relationship remains. So as the discipling progresses we need to explain to them HOW we are discipling them so they are equipped to disciple others.