The Speed of Discipleship

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If you “feel the need for speed,” then starting a movement of discipleship in your church is probably not for you.  Discipleship is not a fast process. There are several reasons for this.

  • First, spiritual growth is more than just gaining information.  Discipling someone is more than teaching them the catechism or leading them in a Bible study.  We are working to develop the practices of Jesus in our lives.  Information is the easy part.  Conforming our lives to Jesus’ takes time. 
  • Second, a person can only disciple a few people at a time.  Think about it: Jesus decided he could do justice to the discipleship process with just twelve people.  Realistically, we can invest in only 7-8 people at a time.  Even that might be too ambitious.
  • Third, there is almost always attrition.  Things come up in people’s lives that require them to pull back.  People move or lose interest.  Even Jesus lost one of the twelve and many of his other followers.

As we’ve attempted to create a culture of discipleship, it has gone slower than we had anticipated.  Patience is a critical virtue.  We’ve had to remind ourselves that it’s worth the time we’re putting into it.  Jesus could have done his ministry any way he wanted.  And he chose to do it through discipling a group of people.  How about you?  As you’ve worked to grow disciples, has it gone faster or slower than you’ve thought?  Where are you seeing fruit?

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Being part of a discipling group and then beginning my own group I agree that there is no way to go fast.
We tried that in the first one and it did not work.
Learning new practices is one thing,
Actually using the new practices is another thing entirely.
One needs time and the encouragement of others on the same road.

The fruit in my life is becoming more intentional in my walk with Jesus. Being able, with His help of course, to actually do the things He calls me to do.
Another fruit/joy is seeing the changes in the lives of those we are discipling.

Guide

Thanks for your testimony. 

"Another fruit/joy is seeing the changes in the lives of those we are discipling."

Thanks for mentioning this.  One of the biggest sources of encouragement in my own journey is seeing the Spirit at work in others.  Discipling people gives us a front row seat to God's work in others' lives.  Very satisfying!

I appreciate what Nate wrote -- about patience etc.

However, I think his whole blog article misses the point.  Discipleship making is not a matter of getting the right tool, finding the right approach.     Biblical discipleship, it seems to me, is much more radical and exciting.   It amounts to something like this:  

There is a vibrant community, rooted in tradition, practicing scripture-informed habits:  worship, sacraments, welcoming strangers.  This community is not designed to meet the perceived needs of the world.  rather this community lives the truth, practices the truth.  Is a community at heart that is not of this world but in it.    this community in its evangelism zeal practices 2 traits:  invitational and subversive.     We invite people to become part of a community that they can see is different than the world.

The focus of "Slow or Fast" in terms of making disciples smacks too much of the culture of consumerism:  we measure 'success" by how we perform.

Let's rethink evangelism with a Biblical mind:  a living, healthy community of folks whose social interaction displays to the world a "people set apart."

 

Thanks for your comments, Gilbert.  I agree that discipleship is not about a tool or method.  I refer to it as a culture, and I'm thinking specifically about how to help people in the community of faith grow to be more like Jesus.  I realize that discipleship extends to people at all spiritual places.  So I'm admittedly using that term more narrowly.  

I also must confess that I have been impacted by the instant gratification culture we live in.  I hoped this article would show that the slow speed of discipleship makes it a counter-cultural practice.  It's a call to embrace the speed of discipleship and reject a worldly definition of success.  Thanks for the opportunity to clarify.

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