I learned something very interesting this week. When I typed “discipleship” into my trusty search engine, almost every article that popped up told me how to disciple other people and almost none talked about being a disciple. Very interesting...but confusing. It seems to me that all these folk were skipping a crucial step. I don't believe you can help someone else become a disciple until you have discovered how to become one yourself. What do you think?
Another thing I noticed was that most of those articles were trying to sell me a book and study helps, or somebody's seven steps for making disciples or some other such thing. Maybe if you buy the system, you don't actually need to be a disciple yourself...maybe.
Finally, though, I found what I was looking for. Most of the articles differentiate between believers and disciples. But then there was this discussion about whether all believers are saved, just because they believe, or do they have to become disciples as well? Another author decided that belief is based on faith only, while discipleship is based on works...which he implied was somehow less important? Uh...what?
A couple of authors likened discipleship to apprenticeship, and that kinda worked for me...as long as you take the old fashioned type of apprenticeship. In an article about the medieval child, I found this description:
“The relationship between master and apprentice was as significant as that between parent and offspring. Apprentices lived in their master's house or shop; they usually ate with the master's family, often wore clothes provided by the master, and were subject to the master's discipline. Living in such close proximity, the apprentice could and often did form close emotional bonds with this foster family,... apprentices were often remembered in their masters' wills.
“...The apprentices were there to learn and the primary purpose the master had taken them into his home was to teach them; so learning all the skills associated with the craft was what occupied most of their time. ...the sooner he taught his apprentice the skills of the trade, the sooner his apprentice could help him properly in the business. It was the last hidden "mysteries" of the trade that might take some time to acquire.
“... At the end of his training, the apprentice was ready to go out on his own as a "journeyman." Yet he was still likely to remain with his master as an employee.” http://historymedren.about.com
See, that sorta works, and at first I was going to call this article “Apprenticed to a Jewish Carpenter”. But then I got to the part where the apprentice didn't really have any choice about what trade and to what master he (or she) was assigned, and the age that children were generally apprenticed...and the analogy kind of quit working for me.
And then, AHA! I read an article by a gentleman named, Doug Greenwold. He has a web-site called, Preserving Bible Times and his main mission is to understand the concepts of the Bible and Christianity in the context in which they were written. For the topic of discipleship, that would be the first century. And that's when I finally got it.
Here's how Greenwold explains it: “ When Jesus said go and make disciples, it was a Jew speaking to other Jews...” and to the Jewish way of thinking, becoming the disciple of a rabbi was an honor. It was a very good thing.
“... the disciple-to-be agreed to totally submit to the rabbi’s authority in all areas of interpreting the Scriptures for his life. This was a cultural given for all observant Jewish young men – something each truly wanted to do. As a result, each disciple came to a rabbinic relationship with a desire and a willingness to do just that - surrender to the authority of God’s Word as interpreted by his Rabbi’s view of Scripture. “
These groups of disciples would spend considerable time debating what the Word of God meant to them in their everyday lives.
"Unlike many of our contemporary discipleship programs, there was no curriculum or agenda for this multi-year discipling experience. Rather it was a continual daily relational living experience where either the rabbi would ask questions of the disciple as he closely observed the disciple’s daily life, or the disciple would initiate a discussion by raising an issue or asking a question based on some aspect of his daily life."
Then Greenwold asks the big questions:
“The central issue of being a disciple of Jesus is: Will I willingly surrender – submit for a lifetime - every aspect of my life, including worldview, paradigms, career, personality, character, ethics, desires, motivations, values, family, ego, sexuality and attitudes to the authority of Jesus and His teachings?
“...Contrast total surrender to the authority of Jesus with a partial surrender, or an occasional surrender, a convenient surrender, or even token surrender to Him. How would you assess your willingness factor in regards to surrendering all areas of your life to the authority of God’s Word? When you do surrender, is it a willing surrender, or a surrender that arises from some form of resentful, obligatory obedience? “
Mrs. White says it this way:
“We are to surrender ourselves unreservedly to Him; for His grace alone has sufficient power to save the soul of the repenting, believing sinner.
“Christ's will is to become our will. Then the fruit that we bear in words and deeds will glorify God. We shall give evidence of our discipleship. The proof that we are children of God will be clearly seen. We shall be moulded and fashioned in accordance with the divine similitude. But unless we place ourselves wholly under Christ's control, we can not give evidence of a change of heart.
“... They must show themselves approved of God, workmen that need not be ashamed. Day by day they are to build their characters in accordance with Christ's directions. They are to abide in Him, constantly exercising faith in Him. Thus they will grow up to the full stature of wholesome, cheerful, grateful Christians, led by God step by step into clearer and still clearer light. Union with Christ is productive of all good.”
Jesus said it this way: “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto treasure hid in a field; the which when a man hath found, he hideth, and for joy thereof goeth and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls: Who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it.” Matthew 13:44-46