Jesus wasn’t kidding when he commanded every one of his followers to be engaged in helping each other to become like Him - making disciples (Matthew 28:16-20). Disciple making brings life to the soul. There are many ways that discipleship can be done but it must include the following basic ingredients: relationship, time investment and intentionally pointing each other to become more like Jesus. In Paul’s last letter, he instructs his closest disciple of over thirteen years, Timothy, that discipleship includes walking together in the same direction (2 Timothy 2:22 - Nurturing Relationships), a saturation of the Word of God in our souls (2 Timothy 3:16-17 - Divine Truth) and a strong engagement of sharing the good news of Christ with others as our mission (2 Timothy 4:5 - Apostolic Mission).
Discipleship is a core principle for the health of the church. When each believer takes seriously the task of growing deep in Christ with others, the gospel spreads wildly. Individualistic faith journeys, a hallmark of western Christianity, are not found in the Scriptures. Growth and spiritual reproduction always happens in relationship. Jesus sent out His disciples two by two (Matthew 10, Luke 10), He told us to go and make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:16-20), all of the Paul’s missionary journey’s in the book of Acts were done in communal relationships, the one another’s of the New Testament speak to our need of discipleship and Paul’s last letter focused on discipleship (2 Timothy 2:2). Discipleship requires sacrifice. Sacrifices of time, energy, transparency, forgiveness, risk and love. Discipleship is a necessity for true spiritual health.
Recently I had opportunity to hang out with several people who all said they were followers of Christ Jesus. They were from a variety of faith communities including Presbyterian, Evangelical, Methodist and Catholic. We had many spiritual conversations as I mostly listened and sprinkled our conversations with a few questions and comments. During these conversations I heard thoughts from devotionals, quotes from their pastors or priests, a recalling of what their brand of church promotes and a sprinkling of insights from the Big Book (from alcoholics anonymous), celebrate recovery and the twelve step program. None of them referred to the Scriptures as their source of truth to guide their lives.
Some of their insights had hints of Scriptural truth but many others were really far from the truth. Each of these dear people were searching for meaning in their life and a greater purpose. They were wounded, sincere people in their faith but immature because they saw their faith as something that was administered to them by professionals. Although these people were somewhat faithful in attending church services, they had no real connection to the people in their churches nor to their spiritual leaders. Because their faith had been reduced to individualistic faith journeys of attendance with no relationship or accountability, they all were floundering on many levels of their faith. They were filled with doubts, disillusionment and despair. They were each hovering on spiritual poverty if they were not already steeped in it.
A few choice questions and Biblical passages of encouragement from me brought life to their eyes. Most commented that they wished we could spend more time together. Their pain was real and deep and taking more of their soul. Who will walk with them to dig out of the mire clay?
Becoming more like Jesus is to be the goal of each His followers. To be more like Jesus must mean you can’t continue to be who you are today. Dying to yourself on a daily basis (Galatians 2:20) and putting on Christ (Romans 13:14) are crucial decisions each believer must make in community as we walk this earth. We are to “…flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.” (2 Timothy 2:22 emphasis mine). Being transparent and vulnerable with a few others is dangerous, risky, bold and healthy in our fight to be more like Jesus Christ.
Are you living an individualistic faith journey or a saturated faith journey engaged with others? Should you choose the former you will likely miss the deep satisfaction of abiding in Christ and end up living for yourself. Should you choose the latter, you will find a deeper fulfillment and your life will be saturated with Scripture, living out the one others of the Bible and a missional bent to invite others to do the same…and the world will be blessed.
I pray these thoughts have been of some benefit to you. I would love to interact with you on this topic.