Discipleship, Part 4
by Jared & Laura King
“Good Leaders Ask Great Questions.” This is the title of John Maxwell’s popular book on leadership. It’s also the foundation for many framed statements hanging in offices around the nation reminding people to try to speak less and listen more. That is, afterall, what asking “great questions” is trying to get us to understand, isn’t it? That often in leadership we speak too much and listen very little.
Growing up, I thought discipleship was being attentive in Sunday School Class as the teacher spoke for an hour about all the things they knew about the Bible. The more I listened the better I would absorb the information of the teacher who was helping us become more like Jesus. As if sitting in a classroom where I listened and the expert taught was turning me into a disciple.
But that’s Bible class…not discipleship. There is a fundamental difference between sitting in a lecture and discipleship. Lectures tend to be one sided transfers of information from an expert to a learner. Discipleship is two people together growing closer to Jesus. Lecture requires the expert to do most of the talking while discipleship requires the one discipling to do most of the listening.
Listening is not just critical, it will often be the difference between success and failure in discipleship. Questions require thoughtfulness followed by prolonged moments of listening. Asking great questions mandates that we then listen as people provide us with their answers. In other words, questions lead to listening. And discipleship is all about meeting another person in the midst of their story to then connect them to Jesus’ story. This requires knowing people’ stories and discovering who they are as people. Asking great questions and listening to people creates deep connections that will often lead to unlocking and opening doors that were previously closed.
Think about the way evangelism has traditionally been discussed. Most of the time when people talk about why they don’t participate in evangelistic moments as much as they know they should, they will often express fears of not knowing enough, of not being equipped, of feeling afraid or unsure about how to get people to talk about God. While these feelings are certainly valid for a lot of us, they reveal a misunderstanding of the starting place of evangelism.
We have often been trained to hone in our elevator pitches for sharing the reasons for our faith. We are asked, “if you only have 3 minutes with a person how will you share the gospel with them and share your testimony?” Now, I am not opposed to people knowing what they would do if asked the reason for their faith. However, this fear and hesitancy with sharing faith and engaging in conversation with people who do not yet have faith stems from a place of feeling obligated to share our perspectives and our positions before we ever give the other person a chance to speak.
What if we reversed the script and instead of feeling an obligation to get our 60 second pitch dialed in, we started with great questions that lead to great listening. I believe discipleship is less about me getting other people to see my journey of faith with Jesus and more about me helping them discover where God has been in their story all along. But we can’t do this without learning to become the best listeners on the planet.
Now, that may sound like an over inflated expectation of the power of listening. But in our post-Christian world, where people are less and less likely to be convinced of the truth of Jesus through argumentation, we have to develop the skills of listening and seeing within their story the fingerprints of God. And after having spent lots of time listening to their doubts, their fears, hesitations, questions, joys, adventures, their heart, their life, we can begin to piece together the activity of God in their life for them to begin to see. This piecing together takes a great deal of highly intentional listening to create.
Over the past year and half I have been a part of a group that my friend Drew Dixon invited me into based around developing the skill of listening. Every month we come together to simply invite one another to share something specific, around a predetermined topic, to simply listen to the other person share and to listen to God as he speaks to all of us. This listening group has been an unbelievable place to learn the power and necessity of listening. We live in a world where the value of listening is rarely utilized. We are trained to speak into the void in hopes that people will hear. Which is a bit ironic to me. The world of social media has taught us that we all live in a deep constant longing to be heard in a world where no one is listening. Which makes groups like the one I have been a part of with Drew so important as it reminds us that listening empowers change and life-giving inspiration in understanding one another.
This past month in our Listening Group, Drew mentioned that he has started a new group online with people who have had a negative experience with church and faith. This new group is built around the idea that most of the time there are no spaces for people with this kind of story to process their experience, ask questions, and be heard. Drew, a trained Spiritual Director, asked the question, how do I carve out space for people to simply have the opportunity to have their stories heard in order to process their past?
The need for creative spaces like this for people to be heard is only going to become more and more important in our post-Christian world. No longer will people be satisfied with TED Talk Sundays where information is passed along with no means to engage and dialogue with it. People want to be listened to and they want the opportunity to share. Which means our church and personal spaces will require a shift to meet this ever increasing demand in Post-Christianity.
So how do we listen better? One of the strangest things about living in our modern world is this constant feeling like we have forgotten how to have human relationships. We have forgotten how to have meaningful conversations with the people around us. We have forgotten how to take a genuine interest in the things other people are interested in. I am sure there is a blog or two to be written concerning the cause of this phenomenon. But It seems like a lot of the work we do is to remind people simply how to form relationships with the people around them. The things we are teaching our children is what we are trying to teach an ever increasingly disconnected adult world. Here are three simple ways to become a better listener in our discipleship of others.
First, ask 3 categories of questions. Stan Granberg did a lot of work developing these 3 questions for his “Sharing Faith” workbook.
The first question is the polite question that is targeted at the surface level information. “How are you today?” “Are you having a good day?” These Polite Questions are to break the barrier to get to the second category of questions called the Interest Questions. These are questions that are relevant to the context or situation you find yourself in with another person. If you are attending your kids soccer game you can ask another parent which kid is theirs. This helps establish an interest in what is happening beyond the neutral polite question. Then finally you can begin asking Caring Questions. These questions signal to the other person that not only are you interested in what is happening but that you care about them as people. These questions often get to how the other person feels about certain things. You could ask, how does your child enjoy being in soccer? It takes the conversation one step deeper and establishes a foundation for further meaningful dialogue. So first, ask good questions from the 3 categories above.
Second, “be quick to listen and slow to speak….” as James 1:19 tells us. It seems like the more common life posture is the opposite of this verse. We tend to be people who are quick to speak and slow to listen. But in discipleship we have to be willing to sit in the midst of people’s stories with them. Which requires that we be quick to listen and slow to speak.
Finally, take a genuine interest in the interests of others. It frustrates me that this is on this list. But it seems like more and more we are quick to ridicule people for their interests rather than taking an interest in what they are interested in. If you are not into musicals that is completely ok. You don’t like sports? Totally fine. Not into history, math, or science…I get it. But what if we decided that we would become interested in the things we may not be interested in for the sake of connecting with the people around us?
Several weeks ago I stood in front of my church and admitted that I am the least artistic person that I know…and I am pretty sure the least artistic person you know as well. I don't have that ability to see what artists see. But we have numerous incredibly gifted artists at our church and I have learned to fall deeply in love with art because I deeply love the artists in my church. I was never super interested in Crossfit until Laura became super interested in it first. And now we both are passionate about it. The quickest way to kill a discipleship relationship is to be actively uninterested in the things the person you are discipling is interested in. Learning why they love what they love, asking questions about that interest, and engaging in the interest with them is often one of the greatest ways to create trust and connection that will unlock vulnerability and dialogue.
Listening is critical in discipleship. If we can’t listen we can’t disciple. I am convinced that discipleship in a post-Christian world will require that we become some of the best listeners on the planet as we then, through our listening, find ways to connect people’s story to the story of Jesus.
Discipleship Part 3
By Jared & Laura King
Discipleship is one of the most important parts of the Christian life. Remember, discipleship is an intentional relationship where two or more people are working together to be WITH Jesus, to BECOME LIKE Jesus, and to DO what Jesus did. This is inherently the point of our churches, our relationships, our service, and all the things we choose to be a part of as communities of faith. If what we do is not leading people to look more like, act more like, and sound more like Jesus, then we need to really ask the question, is this about Jesus or is it about something else?
I really don’t like talking about or writing about the failings of kingdom work, particularly the failings of discipleship. I love sharing the inspirational, the parts of walking with Jesus that will change us and shape us for good. Those are fun things to discuss and share about. But there is a part of Church work and discipleship that we have to draw attention to if we want to be the best disciplers we can be who help people genuinely grow closer to Jesus. And that is the failings that can happen in our discipleship work, or more generically, our kingdom work.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone reading this that the church world has had some pretty egregious failings over the past couple decades and, specifically, the last few years. Things like sexual abuse, sexism, racism, toxic leadership environments, and so much more have been called to light. Some of what has been discovered has been called “rumor” or “divisive” by people who believe bringing these types of things into the open will damage the church.
I believe this urging to “unity” by refusing to draw attention to detrimental systems and structures has often caused us to ignore or explain away things that should be addressed in the Christian world. If being WITH Jesus, becoming LIKE Jesus and DOING what Jesus did is what we are striving toward, then we should not ignore or cover up the things that cause us to do the opposite.
The 2 Most Common Failings of Discipleship
In the past 7 years living and working in Seattle I have seen both failings first hand. They are Narcissism and Burnout.
Narcissism often leads to abuse, toxic leadership, sexism, and personal fundamentalism that, when challenged, is met by anger and vitriol. Burnout is most often seen in people wanting to give up.
In March of this year, the Barna Group reported that 42% of pastors had considered quitting ministry in the past year. There are many culprits of this alarming statistic, however, one of them is undoubtedly an unhealthy view of needing to be the one who disciples and leads everyone on their journey with Jesus. “Going it alone” is often seen as a value of Christian virtue that allows the pastor or leader to be on a moral high ground above his lay-people. However, it is killing people’s ability to remain in places of leadership long term.
I want to start by discussing the most egregious and difficult failing…narcissism.
Some of you may have listened to the “Rise and Fall of Mars Hill” podcast put out by Christianity today this time last year. This particular podcast chronicles the story of Marc Driscoll and his church in my backyard, Seattle, WA. This was a painful podcast for me to listen to. I have sat with and listened to countless people who walked away from faith because of a man who saw his brand as more important than the kingdom. I also found it disturbing to read Facebook posts or comments on other platforms from people, a lot of them pastors or leaders in churches, from around the country, who called the podcast out as divisive, speaking poorly about the church, or only out to gain some kind of moral high ground.
The problem with these is that the people who said those things didn't live in Seattle or know anyone personally who had experienced the atrocity of Driscoll’s legacy. When we hear from people in this city, we feel the weight and the pain of narcissist leadership in the kingdom.
When the Kingdom of God and the discipling of others becomes about “my brand” over helping form people into the image of Jesus, we have shifted the purpose and intent of discipleship off of Jesus and on to ourselves. This is what most often leads to narcissism.
In the top/down model of discipleship, narcissism, or wanting people to be with YOU, become like YOU, do what YOU do, can become very tempting. As I have lived and worked in Seattle, I have seen first hand the desire of narcissistic pastors to shape their churches to look more like themselves. It can be difficult to recognize because these same pastors and leaders will say they are living like Jesus, but define living like Jesus in a way that there is no space to live or act in a way that contradicts the person in power.
If you are unfamiliar with Marc Driscol or others like him, let me shed a bit of light on his story for you. Driscol imposed a way of living faithfully that mirrored his personal brand and harsh style. He sought to build churches that were highly aggressive toward non-masculine Christianity. As soon as someone questioned his leadership, they were fired, excommunicated, and cut off from the entire church. Forever.
This is obviously an extreme narcissistic tendency in leadership. However it rings true in smaller ways as well. In smaller examples, narcissism creeps its head up by making leadership and discipleship about the personality, brand, prestige and popularity of the one in charge. It becomes about power and control. Longing to see people loyal and subservient to you as the leader rather than to Jesus as savior. It almost always is masked by drawing people to “Jesus.” If you were to head north on I-5, the closer you get to Snohomish (a suburb of Seattle) you would see a giant billboard with the words “Sin Bad, Jesus Good, Come to Church” on the far right side of the billboard. The rest of the billboard is a giant image of the lead pastor holding a microphone as if speaking to a crowd.
When our image replaces the image of Jesus we have fallen into narcissism. (The photo above was pulled from that church's Facebook Page)
How can discipleship minimize narcissism?
The most obvious solution is to demand that people in leadership or discipleship roles actually be disciples themselves. One of Marc Driscol’s famous statements, which was also in the “Rise and Fall of Mars Hill” podcast, was of him saying that he couldn’t be subservient or discipled by certain national Christian leaders because those leaders had smaller churches than he did. The moment we determine our own ability to be discipled based on the human and earthly success of our ministries is the moment we will fall deep into our own savior complex, believing that we are Jesus’ gift to the nations for their benefit and spiritual formation.
Second, we must constantly hold the truth and intent of discipleship before ourselves. Which is an intentional relationship where BOTH parties learn to BE With Jesus, BECOME LIKE Jesus, and DO what Jesus Did. The more we keep this intention in front of us, the more we will realize that WE are not the goal of another person’s discipleship. Jesus is the goal.
Finally, discipleship has to be paired with a deep sense of humility. None of us has completed our growth and discipleship with Jesus. We all have areas of our lives where we look less like Jesus than we should. As leaders, we must enter into discipleship relationships with a great sense of humility, believing that we have something to learn on the journey that will further shape our own hearts.
The second failing of discipleship is burnout. Probably a more common problem than narcissism is the feeling that “we can’t do this anymore.” It’s the feeling of being stretched so thin by caring and leading others that you throw your hands in the air and declare, “I’m Done.” Burnout is a very real problem created by a culture of top-down discipleship where the pastor or leaders are the only ones pouring themselves out and who never receive back from the people they are discipling.
If you remember the blog on discipleship as a web of relationships, we mentioned that discipleship is a horizontal line with Jesus in the middle pulling both people closer to himself. This model demands that we create vulnerability in our discipleship so that we are also, at moments, being filled and led by the people we are discipling. The web of relationships also sets you up to visually see who you can go to in order to be filled and cared for when things are difficult in your own life. You cannot and should not feel responsible for every person’s spiritual walk with Jesus. You are a guide who is going to train others to be people who disciple as well and help carry the burden. Paul talks about carrying one another’s burdens in Galatians 6. You cannot disciple every person you see or know. So teach other people to become disciplers as well.
I recently heard a pastor say that he and his wife have had no friends for 14 years. He was telling this to a church who was supporting him, as if it was a badge of honor to show how sacrificial they had been. When we see ourselves as “above” our people who can’t be discipled or cared for or friends with our people, we will almost always look around at a room of our friends and find ourselves standing alone. This should not be a place of joy for us, rather a place of deep failing. Friendship in ministry and life is critical. Discipleship can and should lead to deep friendships.
When both you and the person you are discipling are growing closer to Jesus, learning how to be WITH Jesus, BECOME LIKE Jesus, and Do what Jesus did, then friendship will be a natural outcome. And burnout will be far less frequent.
Guarding against burnout means that you will constantly be looking to hand off discipleship of others to the people around you. This can sound like you are skipping out on people’s discipleship. Isn’t it your responsibility to disciple them? No. It is your responsibility to help people get into discipling relationships, which often means passing the baton of their discipleship to someone else. The Church should be a place where we work to develop a culture of discipleship, a culture that trusts the people around you to help the people around them grow toward Jesus. This is certainly a place of vulnerability and great trust because it releases our control and empowers others to lead. This is exactly what we want for people, though: discipleship that intentionally creates opportunities for people to disciple and lead other people. It is the greatest way to create a culture where everyone is carrying the burdens of everyone else. This will help to minimize the burnout we experience from feeling like we are the only ones discipling the people in our church.
Discipleship is the key to forming deeply connected churches of people all growing toward Jesus together. But if we are not intentional, it can lead to these two common failings of narcissism and burnout.
Let’s be people who are intentionally working to grow closer to Jesus alongside the people we are discipling and who are actively working to minimize the pitfalls of narcissism and burnout in ourselves.
Discipleship, Part 2
By Jared & Laura King
Have you ever heard the song “Jesus is the Answer”? It goes something like this.
“Jesus is the answer for the world today, without him there’s no other, Jesus is the way.” If you grew up in church or have had any long term experience in churches that sing hymns then you know this song quite well. I love the simplicity of what it communicates. That our guide for life and faith is found in the person of Jesus.
When looking at what it means to “disciple” and to “be a disciple” there have been numerous methods and strategies developed for explaining what we are envisioning. Most of these strategies assume we are trying to look more like Jesus, which is the wrong order to start the discipleship process.
In the previous blog we mentioned John Mark Comer’s “Be WITH Jesus, become LIKE Jesus, DO what Jesus did” method for discipleship. We love this framework because it puts things in their proper order. A lot of discipleship strategies start with what we are supposed to DO and hope that will lead us to be WITH Jesus and become LIKE him. However, Jesus’ model begins with who we are as God’s children, being invited into God’s presence, and then as a result of that closeness with Jesus we are moved into the activity of Jesus.
When Jesus was baptized by John, he came out of the water and immediately heaven opened up and God declared that Jesus is his son, whom he loves, and in whom he is well pleased. Then the next section begins in Matthew 4:1 saying, “Then Jesus was led up by the spirit into the wilderness to be tested by the devil.” After Jesus’ testing, he began his ministry to humanity.
This sequence is important. God’s declaration of Jesus as his son whom he loves shows a deeply connected Father WITH his son. The season in the desert helped further form Jesus as the savior of the world. And as a result of who Jesus is WITH God and his forming as savior, he then stepped into the activity of God for the good of the world.
This WITH, BECOME LIKE, DO sequence is Jesus’ method for discipleship. He invited Peter, Andrew, James, John, and the others into closeness with him. He taught them, forming them into people who could carry the mission of Jesus, and then gave them moments to step into that mission before fully handing it over to them in Acts 1.
The sequence is critical because it seeks to form our character before our capacity. Too often we have leaders in the Christian world whose capacity far outpaces their character. In the next blog we will talk about the damage that takes place when this is the order.
But in this blog we want to show what it looks like to be WITH Jesus first in our discipleship and how that forms us into his image.
First, being WITH Jesus will cause us to be deeply shaped and motivated by love.
In John 13:34-35 Jesus says, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
Paul honed in on the simplicity of Jesus’ love. In 1 Cor. 13 he wrote, “If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.” Without love as a starting block for discipleship we will miss everything else along the way. Discipleship begins by being shaped by the love of Jesus which then begins to cause us to look more and more like Jesus.
Second, being WITH Jesus will cause us to obediently follow his commands.
2 John 1:6 says “And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love.”
It can sometimes feel too simple to say “obeying Jesus’ commands means we will love others.” But look at what Jesus himself says in John 15:9-17. “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. This is my command: Love each other.”
Jesus himself says his command is to love one another. The simplicity of Jesus is astounding. He says, if you want to remain WITH me then learn to love the people around you. Discipleship begins on the foundation of love. The love Jesus has for his people and the love we then have toward him and toward the people around us. If we miss this deeply critical truth about our discipleship then we will never BECOME LIKE Jesus and we will certainly not be able to effectively step into DOING the work of Jesus.
Be WITH Jesus. BECOME LIKE Jesus. DO what Jesus did. When we allow Jesus to be our guide this will be the method of our discipleship.
Discipleship As a Web of Relationship and Why This Is Important In Leading People in the 21st Century
Discipleship, Part 1
By Jared King
Discipleship…discipleship….discipleship. A word every church talks about and yet it seems like one of those elusive ideas that we all struggle to put our finger on. Every few years the church world hangs onto a new buzz word or idea. Books are written about this idea. Conferences title their big events after it. And churches seek to make themselves more focused on it. It’s not uncommon for “discipleship” to be one of these buzz words or ideas that pops up in christian and church culture every few years. Yet for all the ink that has been used writing about it and all the classes taught on discipleship, it seems, at least to me, that we still wrestle with what discipleship is, how our churches participate in it, how we as individuals make it a part of our lives.
Why is this?
We all know discipleship is important. Then why do we struggle to be disciple makers or to be disciples ourselves?
Laura and I had the opportunity this summer to build a “1 to 1 Discipleship” course for Lipscomb’s Hazelip School of Theology. It was a great experience. To build it we looked back at the seven years we have lived in Seattle working to start a new church. We are now several years into the life of our church and are discovering what we feel like is a useful, healthy, and effective understanding of discipleship. In the next few blogs we will share a bit of this discovery and, hopefully, it will serve you as you seek to be both a disciple of Jesus and to be a discipler of others.
How Do We Define Discipleship?
At its most basic understanding discipleship is an intentional relationship that encourages both parties to be WITH Jesus, BECOME like Jesus, and DO what Jesus did. John Mark Comer has been instrumental in helping us better understand some of the simple language of discipleship. At his church in Portland, Bridgetown Church, he taught a series with this framework of being with Jesus, becoming like Jesus, and doing what Jesus did. I’d encourage you to go listen to those teachings as they are excellent.
With this simple definition in mind we can begin to piece together some of the major elements of discipleship that are important for our 21st Century world. Namely, that discipleship is an intentional relationship with another person where both you and the person you are discipling are growing toward Jesus.
One of the greatest flaws we have committed in churches is teaching that discipleship is a top/down relationship where you sit on top and you are imparting your wisdom and knowledge of Jesus onto another person. This top/down kind of discipleship relationship has 2 main failings, that we will discuss in a couple weeks, which are narcissism and burnout. But beyond those two failings, the top/down model does not accurately describe the nature of two people walking together toward Jesus. But if it’s not a top/down model that is the best for discipleship, then what is the best model?
Discipleship As A Web of Relationships
The model we have used to describe discipleship is, what we have been calling, the “Web of Relationships.” If you draw a straight line and on one end write your name and the other write the name of a person you have a relationship with. The line between your two names is Jesus. What happens in discipleship is not that you pull someone else up to where you are in your relationship with Jesus. But rather it is Jesus pulling the two of you closer to him. As Jesus pulls the two of you closer to himself then the two of you actually grow in your relationship with one another as well.
This is the beauty of discipleship. Discipleship will bring you and another person closer together because Jesus is standing between each of you pulling each of you closer to himself. This means that each of you have something to bring to the discipleship relationship that Jesus will use to teach, develop, and grow you. In the top/down discipleship model discussed above, often the person who is the discipler is taught that there is either nothing for him/her to learn from the disciple, or, there may be regular everyday life things you can learn, just not spiritual things.
However, a discipleship relationship with you and another person on an even plane, with Jesus in the middle pulling each of you closer to himself, will naturally assume that, while one person may have been a Jesus follower for longer, both have something to learn about being with Jesus, becoming like Jesus, and doing what Jesus did. Fundamentally discipleship is about you, another person, and Jesus working to be WITH Jesus, BECOME like Jesus, and DO what Jesus did.
What Does a Relationship Web Look Like?
With this focus on the 3 relationships that make up discipleship (you, another person and Jesus as the connector between you both), we can begin picturing what a web of our relationships can look like. If this discipling line is one relationship, let’s begin to draw out all of our relationships in this way.
If you were to draw out a web of your relationships, you would start with your name in the middle. Then think of mentors and people who have discipled you in your life. Draw lines out from your name and at the end of the line write their names. They may or may not be currently discipling you. But somewhere along the way they served in that role for you. Then think of peers you have. Draw lines out from your name and write their names at the end. These peer relationships will have a lot of give and take in them. Some seasons you will more actively disciple them. While in others they will disciple you. Finally, think of people who see you as their mentor. Draw lines for them and write their names down. Hopefully what you begin to see is your web of relationships. And each line on this web, connecting you to some other person, represents Jesus as he is pulling both of you closer to himself.
How This Helps in the 21st Century
There are two really important points to consider about this Web of Relationships. First, this web should not overwhelm you and cause you to stress about all the people you have to disciple and make plans for their formal discipleship. There will always be people you are formally discipling with a greater sense of intentionality, planning, and teaching. However, with practice, what I hope you will find is that all your relationships will naturally become these mutually beneficial discipling relationships. The web of relationships should not cause you to feel overwhelmed but rather feel empowered.
The second important aspect of this web is to begin to see beyond your own web and realize that each person who is connected to you on your web has a web of relationships of their own. The more interconnectedness we have the more evenly the burden of discipleship is spread out. This is what discipleship is supposed to look like. Unfortunately, our church and Christian culture has created an unhealthy structure where the pressure to solve the problems of both the church and the individuals in the church rest primarily on the shoulders of the pastor. The pastor then not only has to carry all of his own struggles but all the struggles of the people in the church. But as you model your relationships in this discipling web you’ll begin to see people learn to do the same. And when you’re called away from your dinner table to help someone in crisis you’ll find that someone from your church has already invited them to dinner to listen, and someone else sent them an encouraging text, and so on. And there is nothing like the joy in seeing your people disciple one another.
Why This Matters
Changing our understanding of discipleship from a top/down model to a Web of Relationships matters a great deal. It means that we will accurately see ourselves as people who can learn from the person or people we are discipling. There has been a deeply troubling trend of narcissistic pastors and leaders in our nation. Again, we will talk about the major failings in a future blog. But this Web of Relationships will help us create less narcissistic pastors and leaders. It also helps eliminate burnout by sharing the burden of discipleship with more people. We have seen how effective this is numerous times in our ministry. When we allow people to be discipled by a plethora and diversity of individuals, we are setting them up for a lifetime of following Jesus. Churches, at times, have forgotten that discipleship is not a short term endeavor. Nor is it something you will be able to stick with for the entirety of a person’s life. Which makes helping people see their relationship web so valuable as you teach people to rely on a host of discipling relationships rather than one.
This also matters as it helps weed out the types of things that cause Christians to NOT look like Jesus. If we are to truly become like Jesus then we need a plurality of voices who help us see more than just a single (American, male, white, etc.) way of relating to Jesus.
Next time we will look at Jesus as our Guide to Discipleship.