Discipleship has been a hot topic in recent years, and rightly so. In churches there seems to be great activity but very little discipleship. This is concerning because making disciples is at the foundation of the Great Commission. There has been a great renewed interest in discipleship according to the Bible, particularly personal disciple making. Many seek to imitate Jesus in his disciple making and propose a personal and relational approach. I think this is a healthy redirection for how we think about discipleship. However, there is one big danger. You are not Jesus.
The great danger of personal disciple making is that our disciples will begin to look like us instead of Jesus. When we disciple other people we can have a positive influence and a potential negative influence in their life. You see Jesus was the perfect disciple maker, always without sin. You and I fall short constantly. As we invite people to watch us, we must be mindful that they will also pick up on our sinful inconsistencies. Not only will they pick up our inconsistencies, they will often times blindly imitate them.
I have heard it said that over the course of years a church will begin to look more and more like its pastor. They will begin to focus on things that the pastor has taught. They will be passionate about what the pastor is passionate is about. All of this for better or for worse. This is the wonder of long-term relational discipleship, however we must watch out lest we begin to make disciples of ourselves and not of Christ. If we are committed to following Jesus' relational model of discipleship, how do we safe guard it from our conflicting examples of following Christ?
Don't Be a Guru, Be a Fellow Disciple
It is easy for the disciple maker to begin to think of himself as the model of Christian perfection. You and I both know this is not true, but often times we communicate this to the people we disciple. If we are never honest about our failures and never share about our struggles, we will indirectly communicate to our disciples that we have it all figured out. We must model humility and model dependence on the righteousness of Christ. Don't be a Guru who has it all figured out, but a fellow pilgrim and disciple pointing the way to Jesus Christ.
Disciple in Community
This is why the diversity of the body of Christ is so important in disciple making. In the body of Christ each of us are gifted in certain areas, are more mature in certain areas, and weak in certain areas. When discipleship happens in community, the strengths of other disciple makers will influence and make up for your area weakness. This is why the local church is the best place for disciple making. When we pair off in isolation, weakness is sure to be passed down. When we disciple in community the disciplee gains from the strengths of the entire community of saints.
Disciple making does have its potential dangers. This is why we must be sure to point people to imitate Christ, not ourselves. You are not to make disciples of you, but disciples of Jesus. In relational discipleship, this distinction can often times be blurred. As disciple makers we must always model humility, honesty, and repentance as we disciple in the blessed community of the local church. As we do this, the dangers of personal disciple making will be minimized and our disciples will not look so much like us, but like Jesus. That's a good thing.
Have you seen this danger in disciple making? What are some other ways we can safe guard discipleship from this danger? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments!