Who Are Our Disciples?

A long time ago I had a conversation with a close friend and pastor. We were discussing discipleship. Since then, I have encounter a number of people of who have been frustrated with their discipleship. One in particular, a pastor, has expressed deep frustration that his flock does not desire to follow. Thinking about all these issues and looking back at what Jesus did has really made me question what we call discipleship. Traditionally it seems like we spend much of our time, energy, and resources trying to make disciples out of people who do not really want to be disciples.

Consider these points:

  • As far as we know, Jesus never tried to convince the Pharisees that he was their savior. He merely told them the truth and let them decide. When they rejected Jesus, he pointed out their hypocrisy.
  • When people came to Jesus asking to follow him, he told them how hard it would be. Some of them left and he didn’t try to get them back. In fact, he expected them to leave and used it as a lesson.
  • Nicodemus followed Jesus. He recognized Jesus by the life that Jesus lived, not because Jesus asked Nicodemus to join him or any sort of “cause”.
  • Jesus never had any official discipleship programs, he spent a lot of time talking to potential disciples, walking with potential disciples, eating with potential disciples, and teaching potential disciples. Some of them continued to do these things with Jesus.

So what are we producing, if not disciples? Judging from many things I have seen and read over the past couple years, it seems like we a producing angry people. Angry because they feel like they’ve been deceived. Some of them have been promised a changed life, but instead were taught Christian doctrines and precepts. We’ve produced Apathetic people. Apathetic to the gospel, to the Church, and even to Jesus. We’ve produced people with false-security. These people went to all the classes, they attended all the services, and followed all the rules, little do they know that these actions won’t save them. There are probably other types of people that we have produced but I think Jesus had a phrase that best sums up these false-disciples, “White Washed Tombs”. On the outside, they look brilliant, pure, and white… but on the inside, they are filled with death.

Who are our disciples? Our disciples are the people who truly follow us… and hopefully watch us truly follow Jesus. Jesus did not force people to follow him, he did not even try to prevent people from leaving him, his disciples were those who recognized him as savior and could do nothing but follow. Basically, Jesus shared his life with everyone, those who shared it back were his disciples.

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  1. I think “our” disciples should become Jesus’ disciples. We are only a means to an end. That end being Jesus Christ. Our current “discipleship” models make people like us which woefully inadequate! Jesus is the goal of discipleship not minni me’s.

  2. Lew,

    This is one of the best posts you’ve written. The last two paragraphs, and especially the last line, are spot on!


  3. Lew, thanks to your popularity on Frank Viola’s blog, I hopped over here today and am glad. You say, “Traditionally it seems like we spend much of our time, energy, and resources trying to make disciples out of people who do not really want to be disciples.” I agree and am reminded of John 6 as I read your post. I wonder why we don’t teach the hard things like Jesus did at times, so those who were following for political or consumerist reasons leave?

  4. Elizabeth,

    Thanks for stopping by and commenting. You ask a good question! There are so many reasons that I could think of, but perhaps we don’t teach the hard things like Jesus for political and consumerist reasons. Remember, the pastor has a quota to meet… can’t step on those “deacon” toes… and surely he needs to preach what the people want to hear – that’s his paycheck you’re talking about!

    God’s Glory,

  5. Alan,

    Sorry I missed your comment… thanks for the encouragement. I really appreciate it!

    God’s Glory,

  6. Lionel,

    It seems that I’m losing my mind… I thought I had replied to you. I definitely agree, our disciples should definitely become Jesus’ disciples. Hopefully we will reflect Jesus’ life enough for them to see that.

    God’s Glory,

  7. I think you are on target. You really need to read Transforming Discipleship by Greg Ogden. We are just beginning the relational approach like he describes, and Jesus lived, but it is looking really good. And I love the point about Jesus not pursuing those that leave. And it seems like such a simple concept that we miss, that we only make disciples of those that want to be disciples…great stuff. But I think you guys are a little hard on vocational ministers/ministry. It is not as bad as you make it out to be…

    preach on!

  8. Jason,

    Thanks for stopping by and commenting – and thanks for the book recommendation. Perhaps if we ever get a chance to see each other again, I’ll borrow it from your library :).

    I’m not trying to be hard on vocational pastors personally – I just do not believe that the practice is supported by scripture. I truly believe that vocational ministry is more of a hindrance to the growth of the church than a help.

    Thanks again for the comment!

    God’s Glory,

  9. Really enjoyed this post Lew. First time I have been to your blog. Found it via Alan’s link. I think you make some great points here.

    Growing up ‘in church’ I was always HEARD that the goal of discipleship was to win people to Jesus, but the underlying message was that I needed to get them into my church.

    What I have come to realize is that the majority of supposed witnessing done today is more about increasing the size of the church than it is winning souls for Christ.

  10. Mark,

    Thanks for visiting. I didn’t really grow up in church. I was raised Catholic but only really attended the confirmation classes. But since having a relationship with Christ and being involved in institutional churches, I’ve had similar experiences. It was always about “get the lost people to come and hear the gospel”… which now seems so odd to me. It should have been “this is ways in which you can live the gospel for lost people to see”.

    Thanks again for stopping by!

    God’s Glory,

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