Rules for Discipleship
As a pastor one of my central task is the equipping of the people within my congregation to be working and serving the Body of Christ. This is easily seen in a couple of passages:
Ephesians 4:11-12, “And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ.”
2 Timothy 2:2, “And the things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, these entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also.”
In the Ephesians passage it is easy to see that I fit the “pastor-teacher” position. Therefore, I have been given to the local church to function as an ‘equipper.’ As I equip the saints they, in turn, are to do works of service for the body, which, in turn, builds up the Body. In other words, I am not the one who builds up the Body, rather the Body builds itself up! I equip the Body so that it can do so properly and effectively.
In the Timothy passage we see a more narrow responsibility for a pastor. Here I am to belong to a long line of men who received what was taught to people like Timothy. In turn, I am to find men to entrust these same truths. But it does not end there. Those men are expected to then teach them to others as well. Notice that my responsibility is to find faithful men to teach these truths of the Word. Not just any-old male, but faithful ones.
So, between these two passages, I am compelled to be equipping the Body as a whole and teaching faithful men specifically, all for the purpose of the Body maturing in the faith. It is to that end that the following represents the rules for who I will disciple. These are rules that I developed and changed over the years and may still face some tweaking as I grow in wisdom myself.
- Faithful, consistent attendance of the normal corporate gatherings of our church. This would include active participation in our Community Groups.
- Must take written notes of the sermon.
- Must complete homework that I give in a timely manner.
- Must not hide things from me if I ask. Humility and honesty are crucial to discipleship.
- Must have an observable intent to put these things into practice and teach them to others as opportunity arises.
I am sure that over time these standards will continue to change and evolve, but they do capture the basics of what it means to be a disciple. If the person cannot comply with these simple rules then the relationship is destined to fail. A disciple is one who follows another. A discipleship relationship is not one where there is constant resistance or debating. It is not a time where the disciple decides what they will do and when they will do it. Rather, it is a whole-hearted submitting of their will to the teaching of another. It is a willful following. It requires a humble heart and a teachable spirit. In fact, it reminds me of an old acrostic I was taught while at my old church, Grace Community Church:
What Kind of Person Does God Use?
A FAT Christian
In my experience as a pastor I have found this to be true. There are many people who will fit one or two of these three descriptions, but it is hard to find one who fits all three. I see faithful people who are extremely teachable, but they will not set aside things that prevent them from being available. Or, I will have people who are available and very eager to be taught, but are so unfaithful in what they are asked to do that they never get off the ground. I remember one middle-aged man who came to me for some much-needed counsel. His was a serious situation and it needed a lot of time. He was not working and went to school part time, but when I told him that the only time I had free (literally) was on Mondays at 6:00 pm he balked. It was inconvenient to him, not because of school, but because he did not like meeting at that time. Was he a disciple? No. And I did not meet with him.
Now my question to those who read this blog. Are you a disciple? If you cannot answer in the affirmative, then ask yourself why? To whom are you putting yourself in an accountability relationship to grow in Christ? What needs to change in your life to make you a faithful disciple. And if you have been well taught, then who are you discipling? Who are you equipping?