Feet-sitters (or What is a Disciple?)


little kids learningSo, I had lunch today with the venerable Rob Lewin.  We pondered and discussed a good many things, not least of which was “discipleship”.  If planting a church is for the purpose of making more/better disciples then what in the world does it mean to be a disciple and how on earth will we as a nascent church accomplish such a lofty task.  This is, of course, exacerbated by the conviction that the church – as a whole – is not doing a very good job of it.

Well, I reckon I need to back into this question:

1) Is the point of church more/better disciples?

My first blush answer is – “YES”!  Though I need to back up from that a bit more and ponder it.  Certainly Jesus called disciples and he called his disciples/apostles to “go and make disciples”.  So that seems pretty basic, but I want to be careful to not assume too much.  But for the sake of this post I’ll let my assumption stand – Disciple-making/being is good and it is what God is calling us (as a church) to do.  I am pretty sure though that Jesus didn’t mean go and make autonomous, disconnected individuals who have realized their true enlightenment in Christ and become fully human all on their own.  I think that when Jesus spoke of discipleship it was in the context of a lived community who had a driving mission informing it.  So is it possible for me to be a disciple all on my own?  I doubt it.

2) What does it mean to be a disciple?  Or what is a disciple?

My understanding is that in Jesus’ context a disciple was something like an apprentice who (literally) sat at the feet of the teacher.  It was more than just a deposit of information from expert to novice.  It was more a kin to co-opt learning or learning by doing – with a Master Teacher.  This is something I want to explore more – what did Jesus (and the Gospel writers and Paul, etc…) mean by “disciple”?

3) How are disciples made? (specifically in our locale)

If discipleship is akin to apprenticeship or co-opt learning then I suspect the process may look similar.  We learn by doing.  We engage in the activities to which we understand ourselves to be called.  Those activities are not, of course, earning our salvation or approval by God – rather they are in deep response to a deep love and forgiveness which we have experienced in communion.  So what activities?  I’m not sure, but I know they must be specific and they must be communal (they may be individually practiced by a group).  I think they should be arrived upon through prayer and discernment as a body and they certainly morph over time.  I’m convinced that prayer is valid missional activity.

4)  How aren’t disciples made?

In other words, what do we need to make sure we’re steering clear of?  I think we often undermine our own intended outcomes (result “X”) by engaging in practices and though-patterns that run counter to the thing (“X”) for which we are trying to accomplish.  Sometimes these practices and thought-patterns are things done with the intention of producing result “X”, but really produce result “Y”.   To that end, I’m pretty sure disciples are not made via consumption.  Whatever discipleship is, I don’t think it is about having ever increasing amounts of stuff – be that material items, ideas, experiences, or sacraments.  I’m pretty sure disciples aren’t made casually.  There must be some intention involved in the endeavor.

Well, enough for the moment.  Cloey is asleep and I need to attend to my installation of Office 2007, which I’m pretty excited about trying out (please don’t crash my computer!).


6 Responses to “Feet-sitters (or What is a Disciple?)”

  1. hmmm still thinking!

  2. I love point #1, especially your conviction of disciples being in community. I also think that that community is supposed to continue the ministry of Jesus Christ on earth.

  3. OK, so the question is if a Disciple is an apprentice/pupil and is taught not through books, but through living life out together the way that Jesus did it, then if we live this out are we joining Christ in bringing The Kingdom? I believe, yes! and the challenge is to allow opportunities to live life together so that others may join in the apprenticeship. Now, how we do that is the #1 question, and dependent on the kind of student we are (notice I did not say leader, but what kind of apprentice we are. and yes i do believe we can be teaching apprentices at the same time.

  4. 4 Ken

    OKay, I’m not a universalist, but I do think people become disciples via many avenues. For example: Some people are doers, they might join a mission effort before they come to believe the gospel. Some people need a tribe to belong to and form an allegiance to a person or group long before they truly encounter Christ (that was my path).

    I’m doubtful that many come to be disciples through purely cerebral persuasion or emotional response (which causes me to wonder if the point of preaching and worship is truly evangelistic). Is the point of worship to be “seeker-sensitive” or is the point to worship God? Is preaching more beneficial as a tool to equip the saints (who are the only ones usually there to hear the preaching)? Is evangelism more likely to happen within the context of personal relationships outside of a primary worship setting?

  5. 5 Aaron

    Great questions Ken. I agree we need to see discipleship as a multi-modal deal. Kinda like learning styles (kinesthetic, auditory, visual….) it happens in lots of different ways.

  1. 1 Th3 Harbor » Blog Archive » What is a Disciple where do they/we fit into The Kingdom?

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