the what and how of discipleship?

I have been debating this question a lot lately and i need help.  One friend says that discipleship is defined by Jesus in Matt 28 – ‘…teaching them to obey everything i have commanded you.’  If this is what discipleship is then logically the how of discipleship is simply the study of scripture where we can learn the commands of God and then obey them.  This is not a bad argument, i even kind of agree.  But it leaves me a bit cold.

I guess what bugs me is that if this is how i approach discipleship with another person then my goal for them and their goal for me is that we would be people who are obedient to God.  This is a good thing, but it is only a good thing if obedience is not seen as an end in itself and i fear that too often it is.  If my goal for you is that you would simply be someone who obeys God then my goal for you is much less than God’s goal for you.  And that seems like a foolish thing and a bit sad.  I sometimes have a picture of God telling us to do certain things or to live in certain ways and deep down i feel like the reason he is doing so is because i’m his child now and he doesn’t want me to be an embarrassment to him.  But surely this is not the heart of God the Father.

God wants us to know life to the full.  God wants us to know Him.  He wants us to know all that he offers us, the depth of love that he lavishes on us.  His commands are invitations to this, invitations to knowing him. This is why when another friend defined discipleship as ‘helping people comprehend the love of God.’ i kind of got a lot more excited.  If this is true then the how of discipleship is rooted in the bible for sure, but it involves so much more than studying the bible with people.  Perhaps it is to live the bible with people.

Jesus did so much more than teach the disciples.  That was a significant part of it, but he loved them and they felt it, he served them, he gave them vision, hope, he fought for them, he challenged them… He did life with them.

I’m not sure what i make of all this, maybe i’m being flakey, but there wouldn’t be anything better for me than being able to look back on my life and say that somehow i’d helped people more fully comprehend the love of God.  Because it is only then that we will become people who truly obey Christ not because of our efforts to do so but because of the transformation that occurs in us as we bring all areas of our heart and life into the light of his love and grace.

maybe we’re all saying the same thing and this is a waste of time, but it helps me process so deal with it!

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6 Comments on “the what and how of discipleship?”

  1. zoomtard Says:

    If your first friend is right, we have to baptize people first! 😉

    Also, what did God in Jesus command us to do chiefly? To love God with all we have and to love others as ourselves. If Matthew 28 is understood in reference to the Scriptures (as those who place a high trust on the Bible ought to) then it is a fine definition, that you would surely agree with.

    But maybe your problem (and mine) is that people can talk about the Bible a whole truckload and still not really do business with it?

  2. soapbox Says:

    Dallas Willard talks about the teaching people to obey everything Jesus commanded, although the context in which he does that is reacting against a form of Christianity which is all about ‘conversions’ without transformation of character and life. In this context he means that we need to learn to live life in the kingdom fully and this means having our characters transformed, it means learning to forgive enemies and love well, it means life to the full. I reckon that discipleship is all about learning the way of the kingdom (which is liberating) in which we discover more fully God’s love and grace, and who he is creating us to be. I guess its partly about perspective – if we make it about commands without relationship and grace and freedom it becomes something that doesn’t resemble what Jesus envisaged…

  3. transfarmer Says:

    yea zoomtard this is what i think for sure. All God’s commands are summed up in love. So that is what we must do. (But true love is not being nice which we christians often make it.) in this sense i totally agree with the defination but the ‘how’ looks very different, or much broader.

    Soapbox i like the term learning the way of the kingdom, i’m gonna ponder that…

  4. Mark Says:

    A couple of things… God’s commands are summed up in love, but how do we know what love is? God is love, we only know what love is through God – he gives love it’s shape and character. He defines love. Ultimately he defines love in Jesus Christ.

    That’s probably random waffle… back to the point, for my 5 pence discipleship is getting to know Jesus Christ, such that we become Christ like, in every aspect of our being. Col 1:28; Phil 3:10.

  5. meinmysmallcorner Says:

    Well, TF, I love that your whole interpretive lens is firmly fixed on the fact that “God is love”. Your voice brings light and shade to debates that people often keep two-dimensionally flat.

    I guess your “friend” and others alike are trying to be faithful to the simplicity/clarity of the ‘Word’ and just state verses simply as the final summation of the matter. In understanding and practice though, their application of that word (I assume) has a much more three-dimensional life. The problem then arises in the communication of those ideas as they make assumptions that everyone knows exactly what they mean by a certain phrase.

    Understanding meaning comes through relationship and not words. Hence (as Mark said above) God defines love in the person of Jesus Christ and we make understood what it means to obey everything he commanded through our lives, not just the passing on of a list of sayings.

    I wonder is the difficulty something to do with people who are happy to live without summaries and those who like to see a task completed?! Now I’M just waffling randomly too!

    Thinking ‘out loud’ is the new coherence…

  6. […] Jesus’ kind of way.  The definition of what it is has been in discussion over at Transfarmer’s corner and by extension, how it is done.  MY questions follow on from […]

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