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Friday, March 30, 2012

The Life of a Disciple

Jesus didn't tell us to evangelize, he told us to make disciples. But how can we make disciples if we aren't disciples to begin with?

A disciple is a student, a learner, an apprentice. It's not the same kind of student that we have today in an educational system where there are dozens of people in a classroom learning the information taught by one individual. Rather it's more like the students of Socrates, where a small group of people would live and talk with a wise mentor. The learning process is wrapped up in experience, relationship and conversation. Thoughts are tested, not on papers run through a Scantron 3000Xiii, but with debate, logic and practice. This is the model of learning  that Jesus chose with  his disciples and his final word to them were that they should go and make more disciples.

So, what do disciples look like?

Disciples are free and empowered to:

Question everything. There is nothing in faith or in the world that can't be questioned. The Psalms are full of faithful questions raised by God-followers. Jesus raised many questions about the mindless observance of the Sabbath, worship at the temple and the fundamental understanding of forgiveness. He led his disciples to ask hard questions about everything that they'd always been taught, and then he empowered them to find the answers.

Search diligently. The answers to questions don't come easily, at least not the kinds of questions a disciple asks. It takes time, energy and emotional perseverance to search out the answers to the questions. Jesus taught disciples that didn't get it right away. They would understand one bit, but then be ignorant on something else. He pushed them to keep searching, keep learning and keep questioning. He pointed them to the sources of truth and empowered them to search.

Discover truth. The search isn't over when it gets hard. The search for the answers to the difficult questions a disciple faces continues until they find truth. Often the truth  isn't what they wanted to know. The disciples of Jesus were often confronted with truths that were counter to everything they'd learned and known to that point. They had to deal with women being treated with respect, the Sabbath being re-defined, the Messiah ushering in a Kingdom that's not of this world, etc. The truth you discover will be outside of yourself. It will make you uncomfortable. If you like the conclusion that you reach, you've probably not done the work. There's a reason Jesus said that his followers would have to die to themselves.

Change in response. The life of a disciple cannot ever be just an intellectual process. It must result in changed life and action. The uncomfortable truth that you discover will lead you to realize that you need to do something differently. Jesus' disciples had to change the way they saw the widow at the temple, they had to change how they treated food, and they had to change how they understood the Kingdom of God. It wasn't easy to change. The process took years (and it was never done). The life of a disciple, the process of changing into the truth we discover, is never done. We can't rest, we can't stop.

We need to be these kind of people; we need to be disciples if we want to call other people to be disciples with us. We are calling people to the freedom of questioning everything, the wisdom of searching for answers, the work of discovering the truth and the process of changing in response.

Are you ready to make disciples?

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