Can one be a disciple if one does not have a discipler? Yes, Jesus is the ultimate Master of all His followers, but there is a history (OT) of disciples being discipled (disciplined) by a discipler (master or disciplinarian) which carried over into the teachings of the first Apostles. Jesus had a lot to say about false teachers/prophets/shepherds. Paul made a big deal about overseers to his spiritual sons. It’s clear (to me) that to consider ourselves followers of Christ, we have to first connect to a local assembly; to call ourselves disciples we must submit to the mission of the one God placed in our path for us to be taught/discipled by.
For me, meeting with my pastor was a divine encounter. He has taught me much, most importantly how to not need him to connect with God and how to feed myself. He’s given me advice on matters big and small, spiritual and secular, emotional and financial. There is nothing he could ask me to do that I would not do. This may seem like a dangerous statement, but I trust him to not ask me to do anything with impure motives or outcome – I also trust my own discernment, as well as Holy Spirit’s guidance.
Jesus said to “make disciples of all nations,” but most of the teaching coming out of the American Evangelical Church translates this to, “Bring your unsaved friends to church,” or, “Tell unsaved people they’re going to Hell unless they say this prayer.” Neither of these produce disciples. Sure, bringing a friend to church could result in a disciple being made, but the discipleship model of a lot of these churches look more like a pyramid scheme: you bring three friends this week, next week they each bring three friends, etc – that’s attendance-building, not disciple-making.
Just as in pyramid schemes, this discipleship model does not allow fears, doubts, or questions. You simply have to have faith in the process. I don’t want to be processed, no real disciple does.
I’ll admit that I don’t have the whole discipleship thing completely figured out, but I know what’s not it when I see it. Modern evangelicalism isn’t it. Classically, discipleship looked like this: “Follow me… Say what I say, do what I do.” That’s what Jesus did. Sure we only see how a handful of His inner circle came to follow Him, but they were great examples. At one point thousands were following Him because of His teachings and miracles… But only a small number of them were disciples.
I can’t help but wonder how many in attendance at many of the megachurches here in America would head down the block to the next church if the pastor started talking to the congregation like they were disciples. That’s exactly what Jesus did in John 6, and attendance dropped. And He was good with it. His mission was to seek and save the lost, but He was only supposed to disciple a small flock, not a mega-herd.
I’m not condemning large congregations or megachurches in any way, but we have to be honest – the majority of them are not disciples. How do I know that? Because they are not being directly taught, instructed or held accountable by someone they know and love, who they put their faith in as the one God put in place to disciple them.
So, in closing, I want to challenge each of you to examine yourselves… We throw around the term disciple as if it were a synonym for Christian (which, honestly, it should be), when far too often you’ve merely said a “sinner’s prayer” and try to obey a set of rules. Who’s leadership are you under? What are you doing to grow spiritually? Are you cultivating relationships that could lead to making disciples?
Are you a disciple?