Christ-like Discipleship

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We’ve been looking at the disciples these last few Sundays now, which has gotten me to thinking. In fact, from time to time I’ve put myself into the shoes of the disciples; I’ve considered my life in relation to theirs; I’ve examined my faith in light of theirs. There were real men and women who followed Christ. There were real people who supported his ministry with their time, their energy, and their resources. People left what little they had to follow this radical teacher from Galilee.

And sometimes it amazes me – but mostly humbles me – to think that we have been called on that same journey. Our experience is not something separate, but wholly wrapped up in that first call to come. To follow. To serve. To submit. To love. To experience life with Jesus and his mission. It may seem, at times, that what we do is different from that of the first followers, but it’s not. At the core of our own calling is this: to lay down our self in order to pick up a cross.

When we distance ourselves from the disciple’s experience, though, we distance ourselves from the life of discipleship. These individuals walked with Jesus and talked with Jesus. They grew to depend on his teaching and wisdom. They saw the life that he lived and were called to continue that same life-giving life. They experienced life in community with each other and with God, himself.

And this is what I want. I want it for myself and I want it for the people of our church. I long for my life to be a continuation of what the early believers knew as discipleship. Far too often I trade being a disciple for being a Christian. I know that may sound like an odd statement (why is being a Christian such a bad thing!?!). But what I mean is that I trade the life-long journey of growing as a disciple for the status of being a Christian. We have the tendency to trade the daily transformative walk with Christ for going to church on Sundays.

For years, our church has had a variety of small groups/Bible studies/prayer groups available. These groups are so important, for a lot of reasons. Primarily because these groups can be a great source of discipleship! When done well, these groups can feed into our lives in a way that other things – including Sunday mornings – can’t. These groups can be opportunities for us to grow in three specific areas: fellowship, study, and service.
 

Fellowship:

Sunday mornings are a great time to connect with others, but small groups take it one step further. Small groups allow opportunities to get deep into each other’s lives, if we’re willing to let people in. Small groups can often be inauthentic and surfacy, but also have the capacity to be a great opportunity to have deeper conversations.
 

Study:

Although we can learn lots on Sunday mornings, there are also limitations. In a small group, we can ask questions and draw from other voices and experiences that we don’t get in the church service. Also, there is a limit to how much we can study from the Bible if we limit ourselves to Sunday morning. Small groups offer greater opportunities to read and reflect on God’s Word together.
 

Service:

Okay, this is where we most often fail; and often because we just don’t think of service as an integral part of small groups or worship. But think about how much time Jesus spent caring for people’s needs. It not only forms the basis for Jesus’ earthly ministry (Luke 4:18-21), but our ability (or inability) to do this is reflective of what we do for Christ himself (Matt. 25:31-46)!

In my mind, there is nothing more formative for us as disciples, and nothing that reflects the original discipleship more, than these three areas. I believe a good small group (or whatever you happen to call it) is one that has a healthy mix of these three areas. A group that only studies and never takes the time to facilitate authentic relationships will never have the same kind of depth. A group that hangs out and studies, but neglects opportunities to serve others together will become an internally serving group. But wisdom is found in creating opportunities for all three of these aspects.

My greatest prayer for all of us, though, is that our discipleship would reflect those early women and men who left everything in order to live with and like Messiah.