Jesus uses Scripture to unravel our misconceptions of discipleship and center us on him, propelling us into true disciple-making.
“You don’t value discipleship.”
That’s what a young man told me recently as he sat down to inform me of his intention to begin looking for another church.
He explained that over the years at our church, he had grown in his faith and in his relationships in community, but that for this next season he needed “more discipleship.” The conversation progressed from criticisms of our discipleship method to the summary accusation “you don’t value discipleship.”
No pastor or church planter wants to hear this. After all, our prime motivation in church planting is to “make disciples” (Matt. 28:16-20). The Great Commission fuels our methods of discipleship. In my case, this young man was someone I had personally invested in for many years.
DO YOU VALUE DISCIPLESHIP?
His accusation left me with the question: Do you value discipleship? As I evaluated my personal discipling of others and our church’s discipleship method, I was reminded of the story in Mark 7:1-13. Jesus is confronted by a group of Pharisees who question certain practices. They refer to “the tradition of the elders” (Mark 7:3, 5) and “many other traditions” (Mark 7:4), equating their oral law with the authority of the written Law.
Our prime motivation in church planting is to “make disciples” (Matt. 28:16-20). The Great Commission fuels our methods of discipleship.
In so doing, the Pharisees were promoting cultural traditionalism at the expense of extending the gift of God’s word. Moreover, they question Jesus on his method of discipleship: “Why do your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders?” (Mark 7:5). In essence, they were accusing Jesus of not valuing discipleship.
DISCIPLING BY THE BOOK
When questioned on his discipleship method, Jesus quotes Isaiah and Exodus, packing a one-two punch of Prophet and Law. He draws the Pharisees’ attention back to Scripture, displaying the Scripture’s role in discipleship as supreme over their religious traditions. The Book of Mark, like all the Gospels, reveals for us the truth that Jesus himself fulfills the Old Testament prophecies and meets the Law’s demands on our behalf. Furthermore, Jesus states, “‘These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.’ Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures” (Luke 24:44-45).
The resurrected Jesus then charges his disciples, who are “witnesses of these things,” with the mission that “repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in [Christ’s] name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem” (Luke 24:47-48). Jesus uses Scripture to unravel our misconceptions of discipleship and center us on him, propelling us into true disciple-making.
JESUS VALUES DISCIPLES
Jesus did not die for your method of discipleship. Jesus died for disciples. He did not come to shape people into methodological conformity. He came to rescue us by his life, death, burial, resurrection, and ascension so that we may be transformed to be like him.
Jesus did not die for your method of discipleship. Jesus died for disciples.
With this in mind, I said farewell to this young man because I realized he had different needs for his season of life. I chose to value him as a disciple more than I valued his discipleship. Trusting the Holy Spirit’s work in and through this young man, I can rest assured that his identity as a disciple is not compromised by his transition to a different context for discipleship.
Scripture reveals the good news of Jesus. This good news shapes how we love, serve, and teach others as disciples making disciples. Rather than asking, “Do you value discipleship?” perhaps we should ask, “Do you value disciples?” How we answer this question will shape our approach to discipleship, calling people to Jesus, unpacking the truths of Scripture, and providing the environment for the Holy Spirit to shape them and empower them for obedience.