Monday, 26 March 2012

Discipleship: What it is

Having looked at what we may mistakenly assume is discipleship when it isn't we need to think about what  discipleship actually is.  The second letter of Paul to Timothy gives us a great insight into Timothy's discipleship by Paul.  It is well worth reading all of it to get the full flavour of their relational discipleship.  But for now in ch3v10 Paul is able to write this:

"You, however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, persecutions, sufferings - what kind of things happened to me in Antioch, Iconium and Lystra, the persecutions I endured.  Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them."

What stands out about Paul and Timothy's relationship is the closeness of it, their lives and ministries were intertwined.  Paul can say that Timothy knows intimately what makes him tick, what he loves, what he is passionate about, how he has endured in the face of hardship and struggle as well as in the good times, as well as what he has taught and believed.  That is discipleship not just teaching but living it out so that others see what we love and care about, how we struggle and respond to set backs in the gospel.

Fascinatingly the rest of the Epistles assume this deep, messy relational involvement, it is what is behind every "one another" that the New Testament gives and there are lots of them.  Every single one presupposes this messy relational living out of the gospel, hence the call to love one another deeply, or speak the truth to one another, and even to bear with one another.

Such relational discipleship is the normal expectation of the bible.  It is what we see modelled with Moses and Joshua, with Elijah and Elisha, with Jesus and the 12 (yes, even Judas!), with Paul and Timothy, Paul and Titus, and so on.

In 1 Thessalonians 2 we see that Paul can say that this relational discipleship is a mark of his involvement with the church.  He doesn't dispassionately remain aloof from the church but he can say we shared our very selves with you!  Pastors, teachers, elders, leaders need to learn this, we will not disciple people effectively unless we are sharing our lives with them!  Even in evangelism Paul is relational and teaches the truth in the context of relationships.

There are then essentially two components to discipleship which help us see what discipleship is, it is sharing life and teaching the truth.  Discipleship is teaching the truth of the gospel in and through the context of sharing life.

No comments: