Last winter when the storms hit, several of my fence panels broke. Now, I am not DIY so I invited a friend over to help with the repair. I put on my old jeans and practised my standing-around-examining-it-noises with sufficient ‘hmmm‘s and ‘interesting‘s. Truth be told, neither me or my friend knew what we were doing and it was only a matter of time until our incompetence was exposed.
In walks Clifford.
My elderly neighbour’s son happened to be visiting that morning and he joined us in the garden where we were attempting this repair. He’s a practical man is Clifford and it must have been clear from what we were doing that we had very little idea. Clifford started by sharing his opinion with us, which turned into using our tools to give it a go himself, which turned into giving us the right tools we needed, which turned into doing the job himself while we watched on. He demonstrated, we watched, he then gave us a turn at digging and fixing and hammering, and then he took over again. He explained what he thought we needed to do, some of the things we needed to bear in mind and, to finish it all off he gave us the cement and sand we needed to do the work. After all this he left us to finish the job by ourselves.
We hammered, chiselled, dug and mixed cement. Today – several months on – the fence post is still standing, I’m as shocked as anyone.
While Clifford was helping us, I thought to myself ‘he’s discipling me, this is what true discipleship is meant to be.’ Discipleship as a word isn’t in common usage. It comes from the word ‘student’ and so to disciple someone is to teach them, to lead them and to be discipled is to learn from, to follow. Jesus had twelve disciples. Twelve men who followed his every move and listened to his every word and then tried to put them both into practise.
In our day Discipling and being discipled has come to mean something other than practically doing and following. In practise it is more like counselling than it is practical equipping. We’re good at providing someone with a shoulder to cry on, good at sitting at the feet of a great bible guru but discipling someone involves more than that. These are all valuable parts of discipleship for sure and necessary for us as we live the Christian life but it doesn’t look much like how Jesus discipled his friends. For them it involved watching, listening, learning and DOING. They did life together and they learnt lessons on the road. We have removed the doing from Discipleship and it’s concerning. It’s concerning but it’s also damaging. By shifting the emphasis almost completely away from doing and placing it squarely in the realm of giving wise counsel/teaching we have made it something that fewer and fewer people feel able to do. Discipling someone has become the realm of the long-in-the-tooth Christian, the wise and the faithful only whereas Jesus expected that all of us would be disciples who make disciples (Matthew 28).
Clifford’s discipling of me that morning taught me a lot and every time I look at the fence post we put up I’m reminded of the lessons I learnt.
In small groups, life groups and friendships in the church, in accountability and authenticity questions and ministry apprenticing ensure that you keep an emphasis on action. Model something and let others learn from you, correct you and join in with you.
One model I’ve been taught to help train leaders seems also a good model for all of us interested in making more disciples:
I do – you watch – we talk
I do – you help – we talk
you do – I help – we talk
you do – I watch – we talk
you do – someone else watches – you talk
Making disciples is the call on every Christian. We can’t all be counsellors, but we can all be part of a disciple making community. We can all play our part, use our gifts and look to shape and serve others for the gospel.