Pt 3: No Straight Lines

It’s All In The…

In the last part of this series I want to bring everything together to make one single point about discipleship and it may be a long one which I apologize in advance. It’s almost so simple that it’s easy to dismiss because of it’s perceived lack of depth. It lacks strong call to action or exciting and energy-filed verbiage that we are so used to.

This conviction of mine has grown over the years as I have been involved in the church in various capacities. The amount of time I have sat with people in personal meetings, group meetings, attended conferences, watched videos, and read books on the subject is almost staggering. Some of these have been extremely beneficial and encouraging while some have just been plain frustrating.

When everything is said and done, there is one idea that has stuck with me and resonated with me so deeply that it informs every discussion I have now. It’s how I process the idea of what it looks like to help people grow in their faith, become a follower of Christ, and make disciples.

Discipleship Is…

Simply, it’s this: Discipleship has no straight lines.

That’s it. Hope that wasn’t a let down. We like it to look something like the picture above but it just isn’t. I really believe this is where way too many churches, pastors, and leaders have gone wrong… including myself. We have believed there was more to it. We believed there had to be a certain way to make disciples. We thought that if we found the right program, things would just happen. We hoped that if we taught an 8-week series on the subject people would be inspired into action. We prayed that the small groups/life groups/missional communities/DNA groups would be the changing agent in the lives of people that we cared about. And in many ways all of these things did some of that. These were our parking lines and our structures that provided a space to work some of this out.

The problem though was, somewhere along the road, discipleship started being viewed as a series51bnzTw3dSL
of events or programs that someone needed to progress through;  moving from point A to B to C and so on. This was all well and good in our conversations and had good heart but we realized something very early on. Not everyone was at the same starting point and not everyone seemed to progress as linear as we would like. There seemed to be a step forward and 3 steps back… and then some side-steps and a awkward fall backwards and to the left. Our formulas and structure couldn’t handle that. We then would go back to the drawing board and conversations and figure out how to account for these “deviations” from the formula. We realized discipleship started to look a lot less like parking lot lines and maybe a lot more like trying to control a spinning car on a snowy road.

Pastors and leaders got frustrated and maybe even angry. Why wasn’t this working? Our ideas had all the right heart to succeeded and these models or structure seemed to work at a church across the country somewhere. Were people not getting it? Maybe we didn’t explain it right? Maybe the plan needed some more tweaking or maybe we needed to try a completely different model?

Just when it seemed like we were at the end of the rope, ready to lose hope, God whispered something in some of our ears. It was a simple thought and it seemed that there had to be more to it. We started to see that life was far more complicated and far more fluid than any straight lines could account for. If discipleship wasn’t done in straight and formulaic lines, how could we do it?

The Clarion Call

God had put in front of us the secret to discipleship all along – we had forgotten it in all the planning. We lost the simplicity, power, and beauty that we saw Jesus through Scripture personify and maybe now He was helping us clarify it and burn away the chaff.  Maybe it happened one day while reading it in Paul’s letter or during sometime of prayer. Maybe it was watching a father and coach their child or seeing someone lend a hand to someone in need. Or maybe it was watching someone sit next to someone and be a comfort and a friend while experiencing loss. The words came to you and you never could quite see it the same way again.
Follow me as I follow Christ (1 Cor 11:1)

Discipleship was never supposed to be a model but a way of life. It was to be done, “as you go” (Deut 6:5-7). Why did we ever think we could systematize it? Maybe we thought it would be easier that way. Discipleship was meant to be “caught” as much as it was meant to be taught. We have put our faith in systems and models that promise results but only produce a need for more improved and efficent systems.

Just a read through the gospels and you get this feeling from Jesus that nothing held him back from making disciples wherever he might be; on a mountain side, in a tax collector’s house, in the market place, and in the temple (much to the chagrin of some of the religious people). He didn’t need a system or a model; he just lived it and people took notice and asked questions. He had some that were close to him that he discipled in a more close way and some in a different way but it was done in the highways and byways of life. Discipleship was to be done while living because that’s where the head, heart, and feet meet.

So, are we walking in the ways of Jesus or are we just studying his footprints?

This is Part 3 of a 3 Part series. Click to read Part 1 or Part 2


Greg Smith

Blogging about faith, life, church, and everything in between.

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