What is discipleship? It seems that this should be a simple concept, but it’s my experience that we continually get it all wrong.
Is discipleship being a believer? Well, yes, but it’s more than that. I often hear people say that they believe, but too often times the question that eventually needs to be answered is, “In what? In Jesus?” Scripture (Luke 4:41) says that even the demons believe in Jesus… So by my count, discipleship has to be more.
Is discipleship being a member of the local church? For some, yes! And for others, the church seems to be like a free country club… I get the benefits when I go or when I die but I’m too busy to participate with my prayers, presence, gifts, service or witness. That doesn’t seem much like a disciple either, does it?
Oh, I know what it is… One day my former District Superintendent (DS) and I were sitting at a coffee shop in Portales, New Mexico when we saw this young man who appeared as if he was staring down the barrel of a gun talking to another man who may have been two years older. The older of the two young adults had listed all the “do-not’s” to the younger man. When the older of the two left, the younger one gathered his things, with a look of defeat. My DS and I asked him if he was alright and he said, “Yes, I just got out of a meeting with my discipleship coach.” Apparently being a disciple should leave you with a sense of defeat, and if that is what discipleship is… I want no part of it.
Here is what I believe discipleship is about:
Discipleship at its core is following the teachings of a teacher, and in the case of the Christian Church, our prime example and teacher is Jesus Christ. Discipleship is more than being a believer; it is taking the teachings of Jesus seriously. It is more than being a member of a local church but sharing in the life of the local congregation in partnering with one another and the Divine to make the world a better place. Discipleship is responding to the very grace of God in real and tangible ways, doing everything you can to make a difference in one’s personal and communal life. It is about breaking free of laundry lists of do’s and do-not’s and seeking to bring forth the incarnation of Christ in our actions.
We must recognize that:
-Being a believer isn’t enough.
-Being a church member isn’t enough.
-Being a Christian isn’t enough.
Discipleship is active and requires sself-sacrifice The gospel of Mark (8:34) says that Jesus calls us to deny ourselves and pick up our crosses to follow. I use to feel it meant to place my emotions, talents, the person who God created me to be aside and to conform. But discipleship is where we take every bit of who we are along with the teachings of Jesus to make a difference because God only created one you, God created only one me. And I believe it is for one purpose: to partner with God in creation bringing forth life abundant in divine grace, proclaiming it from the very depths of our souls, that God’s hope abounds even in the hopeless, that there is reconciliation for our sins through Christ. There is promise in not going at it alone, but with the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
Is discipleship easy? Absolutely not, I figure I fail at it daily. But it doesn’t mean that I stop trying. It doesn’t mean that I give up.
The questions we must ask ourselves when we decide to follow Christ are these: Am willing to follow where ever He leads? Am I willing to give my all for my neighbor? Am I willing to proclaim the grace of God in my actions?
Because if so, then we’ll have what it takes to be a disciple.
Rev. Dustin S. Burrow is the lead Pastor of Highland United Methodist Church in Odessa TX. Rev. Burrow was commissioned as a provisional elder in The New Mexico Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church in 2014. He is a Masters of Divinity graduate of Wesley Theological Seminary. Before serving as pastor Rev. Burrow served multiple congregations as youth director in New Mexico, Texas, and Maryland.