Be Doers, Not Merely Hearers of It  

Posted by Mike Sharrow

I think we need some cases. We need to take the lofty ideas and theology and make it meet the dusty pavement of life. The very language behind the Great Commission has a unique angle on the word "go" which really boils down to an "as you are going" or "while you are going" meaning. So, "while we are going" about our lives we're supposed to be "teaching, baptizing, making disciples." It's just "what followers of Jesus" do as they live - it's nearly automatic, like Andrew rushing to Simon to tell him Who he had just met.

So...Let's put some meat on the bones of what we've talking about. We've all been in relationships and group settings where discipleship was at least a hopeful aim - some as leaders, some as receivers, some good, some really not so good.

Describe a group setting where you experienced effective discipleship happening. What made it effective in discipleship versus just being a good fellowship/social time?

Describe direction relationships that have been effective at discipleship. Tell us what it looked like.

If you're really brave - and willing to be "authentic" - share how you've tried and failed. Be willing to be "loved for who you're not" as much as "who you are" and we'll all benefit from the realness!

This entry was posted at Thursday, February 28, 2008 . You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed .

15 thoughts and responses

Whether sharing the Word or hearing the Word, the first thing I need is ears to hear. If I can't hear God, the effort is as worthless as spitting into the wind or holding on to Super Man's cape.

God, my God, you have made me, your servant....

I'm too young for this, a mere child! I don't know the ropes, hardly know the 'ins' and 'outs' of this job. And here I am, set down in the middle of the people you've chosen......

Here's what I want: Give me a God-listening heart so I can lead your people well, discerning the difference between good and evil.

God, the Master, was delighted with Solomon's response.

March 2, 2008 at 4:36 PM

you forgot messing with the Lone Ranger and Don't mess around with Jim...

March 3, 2008 at 7:50 AM

As I think about it, the most effective discipleship I experienced came from authentic relationships that happened more naturally than planned. It seems as though the guys in whom I intentionally set out ahead of time to disciple never came to fruition. Probably the reason is that I’m not a follow the book kind of guy.
The men who I felt like I mentored most effectively were guys I got along with and developed a strong friendship. They called me and met together often but not necessarily planned meetings. We talked a lot about our faith and ministry. I listened to their questions and asked a lot of questions. We dreamed and envisioned what true ministry would look like in our lives and in the lives of others. And we did ministry together. This was also how I was mentored.

March 3, 2008 at 2:00 PM

My experience would parallel with John. There seems to be a barrier in mentor/ disciple relationships that does not allow for a sense of authority over the other, at least in a traditional sense. In men's groups over a period of years, the mutual discipling that was not "programmed" is what worked. On the other hand, what did not work was whenever one's (mine) attitude became one of spiritual superiority, things came to a grinding halt quickly. I'd say humility, focus, and committment to just one or maybe a couple people results in the best "discipleship" experience with the secondary, but critically important "group" experience as a support and a resource for the individual relationships.

March 3, 2008 at 8:54 PM

I would wholeheartedly agree with John and FbyF...I have been on the giving and receiving end of formal discipleship relationships, and very few work out as planned. The best ones have been the natural ones.

Unfortunately for us, our culture no longer mixes naturally. We have barricaded ourselves inside our McMansions, created work cubicles, maintain closed door policies, etc. Jeff may have the best idea by just hanging out at a bike shop.

Probably both my best discipling and my best fundraising have happened somewhere between the 12th and 13th holes...

March 4, 2008 at 3:37 PM

Come on Arnie. You can't have fun and disciple someone can you? Doesn't it have to be a grueling experience, long hours spent trying to figure out the best way to grow and then homework and many tests along the way. Golf and discipleship? What would God think? :)

March 5, 2008 at 7:23 AM

The Bible says something like anytime the Word is spoken it doesn't come back void. I suppose that means when the Word is spoken there is a productive response. The concept of discipleship is applicable in and out of Christian circles. Arnie, I'm struggling with the idea of productive Christian discipleship on the golf course. I've got to go with John on that issue. Ha!

Anyway, one-on-one semi-random and laid-back mentorship is effective with some commonality existing between the two parties. I am currently working with a friend in this mode. We are both Spiritually growing and benefiting from the energy we are putting in the relationship.

But face it, we only have a few hours each week to maximize our impact for Christ. If I want to run the race to win, it will be getting in front of as many people as possible and influencing them toward the deeper things of the faith. i.e. discipleship

Discipleship is effective one-on-on, but maximized impact is positive influence on a small group of people with a common interest or goal. I like to seat people in a circle and create the atmosphere where everyone's input is of value. I am seated also and lead by presenting information that is thought provoking with expected impact on their lives today.

It is common after the small group setting officially ends, one or more will linger with specific impactful questions. This is where the one-on-one discipleship occurs and can springboard to a coffee shop meet at a later date.

Of course, then there is Billy Graham. Cora was saved at a Billy Graham crusade in her teens. She came from a lost family. Her very effective discipleship was not from her saved boy friend (me), but directly from the Graham ministry.

They would send her a booklet to read and answer questions. She would mail it back and they would send her the next book with thoughts of encouragement. Her 'Christianity' took hold and she continues to be faithful 40 years later. I'd call that effective discipleship.

March 5, 2008 at 7:49 AM

So Jesus is walking along and he comes across men who have been hovering more or less, they are Spiritually hungry...He say's come follow me...in this day it was an invitation to follow a Rabbi not simply the desire. They chose to follow. It is at that point that whether it was eating, sleeping, golfing etc...that discipleship was taking place. Once the relationship was established even the everyday casual was unconsciously intentional.
In our culture Golf or Cycling can move someone to the next 'space' on the board but usually it is in a relationship where the discipler is seen as a 'spiritual mentor' or someone who you would recieve this instruction from...whether formalized or not it is somehow understood.
I think we miss out on the gravity of discipleship when we don't acknowledge the relationship we are in and gain assent from the one we've invited to follow.
I think we avoid it because of the time constraints and follow through obligations that are implied...Or maybe that's just me...

March 5, 2008 at 8:00 AM

Wayne had me over for breakfast at his house. He'd have his Bible out and share with enthusiasm the wonders God was revealing to him that day. He'd ask me penetrating questions - with a wild look of joy, love and dare in his eyes - to which I knew he would either respond with an "amen, God is good" or a "well, let's look at some places in the Bible where God speaks on just that subject" depending upon my response.

I worked at a bookstore with an atheist named Lisa. I tried to just love her as a person, let God shine through my life and stories transparently, and let her be. When I left the job after 4 months, a coworker said, "Lisa was ticked when you left. She said she couldn't understand why if your God was so key to your life how you could let 4 months go by and never make her answer hard questions about what she thought about him." Failure at "casual evangelism" with a delusion of discipleship.

Marco struggled with head knowledge until God cultivated the seed of faith in his heart. He began reading, praying, purifying, seeking...but the exponential growth happened when a local pastor said, "come help me take care of sick kids tomorrow. Then we'll go to the hospital to see other people in need. Then I'd like you to help use your vocal talent to lead in worship at my church plant." After 1 day of "in the trenches" ministry, Marco "gets it" and says, "I see what it means to be a man of God and help people the way my heavenly Father has helped care for me." The local pastor "tipped" Marco by discerning the need for some practical field experience versus just more data.

More than 120 were considered "disciples" of Jesus. 12 were appointed apostles and 3 were "close." Discipleship not being a capacity limited by soul-mate levels of intimacy...fascinating.

Wayne discipled me without me knowing. I tried with Lisa and failed because I was too "lassie faire." Marco...was drawn near by God. We know nothing of the discipleship experience of Suzanna, Joanna, Joseph of Arimethea, and the 108 "other" disciples.

March 5, 2008 at 8:35 AM

Bill was the substitute bible study teacher. He saw a group of "church kids" who knew the right answer to every question was "jesus." It sickened him. He saw a room of teens who "knew" everything about Christianity, but really knew nothing at heart. He spent a year tearing down the paper machet structures of faith we had in our heads, and forcing us to seek God, search Scripture and wrestle with each other to assemble what we believed about God, church, the gospel, our lives...Once we had cleared that, it became about service. Then it was casual nights at his house, gaming, BBQs, projects - but after he knew we were on a path of self-feeding and self-leading growth.

March 5, 2008 at 8:40 AM

I agree with Jeff's comment...about time constraints and obligations...We live in a culture with an emphasis on activity, productivity, and pressure. How can we create the community where people can see the value of investment in both giving and receiving, mentor and mentee(?), at the cost of the time and effort as well as the opportunity cost of what it takes for real relationship. The road is narrow.

Our cultural penchant for radical individual autonomy is a huge roadblock.

March 5, 2008 at 8:49 AM

Archie, maybe it's just your opposition to golf discipleship :) but I wanted to follow up on something you said. To quote you:

"But face it, we only have a few hours each week to maximize our impact for Christ. If I want to run the race to win, it will be getting in front of as many people as possible and influencing them toward the deeper things of the faith. i.e. discipleship"

I'm not sure I agree that this is the only way to "run to win". I definitely think you make a great point about the place of intentional discipling in small groups, and moving people into deeper connection with God. Perhaps this could be seen as the strategy of Paul. But the strategy of Jesus seemed to be more focused on the few, more than the "as many as possible". We are partners with God in making the kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven, and God's plans include many different ways and relationships in discipling people. Does that make sense?

I do agree with Jeff about the acknowledgement of relationship, especially as the discipling becomes more intentional over time.

And FbyF's comment of radical individualism being the most significant barrier to communal discipleship is right on.

March 5, 2008 at 10:01 AM

PS Golf is 4 1/2 hours of relationship building with a cumulative of about 10 minutes actual work. Great for discipleship!

March 5, 2008 at 10:02 AM

Arnie said, "But the strategy of Jesus seemed to be more focused on the few, more than the "as many as possible".

Thanks Arnie! Can you imagine if you had a product and focused on a few who really 'got it' to be your champions. And then thousands, no tens of thousands came from all over the country to hear about the good news. Now that is 'sticky'.

March 5, 2008 at 12:09 PM

I would have a question regarding our own status as disciples. How many of us are in some sort of discipling relationship where we are the disciple and we are looking to another for spiritual guidance in a mutually recognized way? I'm not, but will be under a short term relationship with my pastor...as part of a class (!?)

I recall Howard Hendricks teaching that we all need a Paul...a Barnabas and a Timothy in our lives...Someone to build into us, someone to mutually touch, and someone into whose life we can build. Can we build disciples without being disciples? Yet, few men that I know in the church have ever been discipled. Or, are they numerous ways...parachurch materials by mail, small groups, golfing buddies, neighbors, formal....etc. etc. ??????

March 5, 2008 at 10:21 PM

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