This Is Us: Discipleship
This past weekend, Pastor Ed began describing what discipleship looks like. It made me think of one of my all time favorite Baseball movies is the Sandlot. It is the story of a band of nice young boys living in the San Fernando Valley in the early sixties. As we all are given to say, life was so different back then especially in this burgeoning suburb of Los Angeles. Life for these boys revolves around playing baseball on an open lot turned into a makeshift baseball field. The bonds of friendship and loyalty run deep. Benny (The Jet) Rodriguez is a bit older than the rest and the leader of this team. He is a very talented baseball player and an all around good guy. Benny passes along not only his baseball knowledge but what it means to be a friend. The team is more than glad to follow and emulate their leader and for one young boy it is a life changing experience.
A fundamental construct of living out faith in Jesus Christ is discipleship. As illustrated by Ed with the life of the Apostle Paul, it begins with a choice to enter into relationship with Jesus Christ. Saul of Tarsus’ Road to Damascus encounter with Jesus dramatically changed the course of his life and the world has not been the same. As profound and utterly transformative as this face to face meeting with Jesus was, the process from Saul to Paul was a journey of understanding and applying the grace and mercy of God. A very important point to note was Paul did not journey down this path alone.
Discipleship has at its core RELATIONSHIP. As Pastor Ed stated one would get into a relationship with a master then follow the master and do whatever the master would do for three years. Long before his encounter with Jesus, Paul studied under and was the disciple of Gemaliel, one of the foremost scholars and practitioners of the Hebrew law. Paul fully understood the process of discipleship by the time he was ready to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. The 12 Apostles followed Jesus for three years and practiced saying what Jesus said, did what Jesus did and loved as Jesus loved. Just as it was for a journeyman fisherman to be a disciple one must enter into relationship and choose to go down this path. It is not automatic.
Discipleship has been written about, debated, defined and redefined for centuries. Regardless of the nuance, I believe discipleship is the pattern for Christian growth we are to embrace. The crucial element in discipleship is getting into a relationship with someone who is more mature and knowledgeable in the faith and then meeting regularly to do life together. I think one-to-one is optimal. This is not as intimidating or as out of reach as one might fear. The key is finding someone who is just ahead of you in their journey of faith whom you can follow. He need not be a Biblical scholar, Pastor, or Christian superstar only someone who is seeking God sincerely and is willing to travel that path with you. Of course having good Spiritual input is important. Taking in Ed’s sermons regularly is one tool to use. A good tool is to go through a book or material on Christian living together. Another aspect of discipleship is once you are down that path a bit, then you need to disciple another who is starting the journey.
I believe the early church in Acts functioned in this manner. The Apostles would teach and the people would listen. Then those further along in the faith would be in relationship with new believers helping them down the path. Think of this, in the beginning of the church there were no buildings, seminaries, Sunday schools, podcasts or even the Bible as we know it today. What they had was their relationship with Jesus Christ, the difference He made in their lives and then living out that difference together in community. They passed along the faith one-to-one. The early church changed history besides transforming lives. I know we can grow and change the world if we are willing to be in relationship and disciple one another.
We are in need of people willing to be disciples and people who are further along in the faith to come along side and be a disciple maker. Are you one of these or both?