In my last blog post, I discussed the idea of learning from the exiles. Specifically, as we move into postchristendom what can we learn from the exilic communities in the Bible as to how to live as faithful followers of God in a culture that may have different values, morals, foci, and customs. At the heart of the question we looked at in the last blog is an assumption. The assumption is that discipleship is important.
Discipleship is, I believe, more than important. It is the central call of us as the church. It is the great commission, to go into the world and make disciples (Matthew 28:16-20.) It is the call on leaders (of every type) within the church, to equip the church so that we may all become mature in our faith (Ephesians 4:11-13.)
If we see discipleship being at the heart of the matter, we surely need to be clear as to what we mean by discipleship. My understanding of discipleship is probably best described using the language of apprenticeship. I would describe the three core tenants of apprenticeship as teaching towards application, application towards mastery, mastery towards teaching.
Teaching Towards Application
Sometimes churches can be guilty of teaching for the sake of teaching. Our pursuit can at times be the acquisition of knowledge and our understanding of discipleship can sometimes fall into this trap. Within this trap, we simple learn the truths of the Bible but these truths do not embed themselves into our lives and practice. Viewing discipleship through the lens of apprenticeship we understand that teaching is not just about knowledge but the act of learning towards being able to do the things that the Master is able to do.
Application Towards Mastery
Someone once gave me a description of professionalism. An amateur is someone who practices until they get it right. A professional is someone who practices until they never get it wrong. Within the language of apprenticeship, the aim is not to be able to get your task right occasionally but rather to master the task completely. It is the application of what we've learnt over and over again. It is the honing of our lives as disciples. It is taking the knowledge we have and applying it over and over again until we become masters of our task as disciples. In apprenticeship relationships, the teacher comes alongside her apprentice and offers advice and the wisdom of a master. In the same way, we look towards the Holy Spirit guiding us towards becoming mature in our faith and the wisdom of those who have already grown mature in the faith for their guidance in becoming disciples.
Mastery towards Teaching
The end goal of discipleship is not just to become a mature disciple for our own sake. The end goal is to grow to maturity in such a way that we are actively engaged with the discipling of others. As we grow towards maturity we become Christlike and take on the role of discipling others. In doing so we recognise the cyclical nature of apprenticeship and discipleship. We see that apprentices become masters who become teachers of the next generation of apprentices.
Discipleship is at its heart about becoming like our teacher, Christ. It is becoming like Christ's apprentice. We learn what he is all about so that we can start to be like Him. We start to be like Him so that may become mature reflections of Him. We become mature reflections of Him so that others may learn what He is all about, the next generations of disciples may start their journeys, and the Kingdom of God is furthered in our world.
This blog post was brought to you by....Oli Higham
Oli Higham is part of the leadership team at the Rock Community Church. He finds it hard to sum himself up in a few sentences. However he loves Jesus and is also rather fond of his family, films, coffee, rugby, Arsenal FC, poetry, spray paint, beards, cooking and laughing.