Over the many years I have spent in and around church, I have heard the word disciple used many times. Its meaning is as varied as the denominations is was spoken in. "Those that follow Jesus," "Born Again believers," "the crew that became the 12 apostles," and people that had passed a basic class in Christian doctrine or Catechism. I have heard it preached about using the Greek definitions from "learner" (not expert), "follower," and even "witness," to pull out the meaning and depth of the word. But no one has left me with a distinct impression of what a true disciple is, and how we make one.
Sometimes it is easier to define a word by what it is not. Discipleship is not about having a spiritual bellhop in the heavenlies at our beckoned call. It is not following a pastor, teacher, denomination, church doctrine or program. If these things are in sync with God, then great.
For the better part of 30 years, I have listened to a bajillion "How crappy was your week?" sermons. How does the church expect people to get out there and cast out demons, heal the sick, preach the Gospel, and set the captives free-- all without any substantive training or teaching? I am not saying that a sermon that brings insight or encouragement to your particular brand of suffering (which is relative), is a bad thing. It is, however; self serving and not Kingdom serving.
Some folks think that if they just try harder to fix their multitude of character defects (which are never as many, or as bad as so and so's!), press in and keep moving, that they will become solid, effective disciples. I agree and disagree with these facets of traditional Christian thinking. I thought those very things for a long time; as evidenced by my own failures. What I finally discovered, was that the church is practically void of fathering individuals who could make a difference in a converts life (at any age). My life! Wasn't there someone that wanted to know my story? Wasn't there someone that could be more than an acquaintance? Oh sure there were pastors that wanted my gifting, but not me. Only one man ever said, "I am proud of you." outside the context of my ministry.
Discipling is not how many "spiritual" sons or daughters we have. It is not about praise for teaching Sunday school or leading a rockin' worship set. It is not about nickles and noses in our offering baskets and pews. It is much more. True discipleship is adopting and fathering the (spiritual) fatherless. It is about following a living God, as sheep that know the voice of the Shepard, they follow Him. It is doing what the Father is doing! It is about a relationship with Jesus that causes us to invest without expecting anything in return. (Oh yeah, that is love.)
Fathering is finding the unlovable, the outcast and providing encouragement, vision and discipline; while showing a great amount of love. It can be done by woman, but generally they are the nurturing type. (I am not against woman in ministry, not one bit.) But when it comes to fathering, it is more natural for men-- if you get him be committed.
The fruit of effective fathering is children that do not depart from what they have been taught. The fruit of the disciple is the fullness of Christ.
I don't like to use the word mentor, because that is really training someone to do something that we are good at. Mentoring is growing someone up to be like us. Discipleship is growing someone up to be like Jesus. It is allowing them to reach their destiny with your help.
Once we have disciples that are fathered well, then we can train them to do something of value in the Kingdom based on the gifting that they receive from on High. True mentoring is training someone to do our job better than we can do it ourselves. Like Elijah and Elisha, for example. The fruit of mentoring is a double portion protogé.
True disciplers are committed, serving, loving, sacrificing men and woman who are passionate about Jesus. They go the extra mile and they are the ones that calm the storm, and they are calm in a storm. They may not exude any other particular gifting, but they are always there regardless.
True disciples walk in the power and grace of God, always grateful for those that have invested in them in a personal and meaningful way.
Without a discipler, there will not be any disciples. Won't you adopt one today?