Saul and David. Elijah and Elisha. Naomi and Ruth. Paul and Timothy. All throughout the Bible, we see these sorts of pairs, people who come together, one to teach, one to learn. We’re told in Proverbs 27:17, “[As] iron sharpens iron, So a man sharpens the countenance of his friend.” Call it mentoring, call it apprenticeship, call it discipleship, in the end, that’s a big part of why we’re here.
Everyone knows the Great Commission, “Go therefore into all the world and preach the gospel.” But there’s a second half to that, “making disciples of all the nations.” We’ve almost been glossing over this half of it for years. There’s been a big focus on evangelism, bringing people into the Kingdom, but we sort of get them in the door and turn them loose. But a lot of the statistics show this approach isn’t working. In 50 years, the percentage of Christians in the American population has gone from 49% to 40%.
There are two main problems with not discipling. First of all, without discipleship, it’s even harder to make the transition into living for Christ. We have all these ‘rules,’ we have our own sort of vocabulary, and throwing someone in without warning can be too much of a shock, and we can scare them away. Have you ever been hired for a job, and they give you a copy of the employee handbook and say, “read this when you can, now get to work”? No, that’s ridiculous. Or think of a football player who has the team playbook, but has never practiced, and doesn’t have any pads. He’d step onto the field and get killed. But that’s how we treat people just coming to know Christ. Pastor Phil calls it ‘aborting babies at the altar.’ By not giving them the care, the direction they need, we can drive them away from the Church.
And then, if somehow one of the ‘babies’ from the altar manages to stay within the body, without proper direction, how can they grow? If all someone learns about living for Christ comes from an hour and a half every Sunday morning, how much are they really getting? We’ve also heard Pastor Phil talk about “parting the mustache to put a bottle in the mouth.” Paul writes in Hebrews 6:1 “Therefore let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity.” It takes a lot of time and effort to disciple someone. Jesus spent three years with the twelve, and they didn’t get it until after the fact. I have heard of people who’ve accepted Christ and then spent hours upon hours studying the word, all on their own, but that’s the exception, not the rule. Plus, as we’ve already talked about, we can’t do this alone.
I mentioned the “iron sharpens iron” proverb earlier, and that does work both ways. By discipling someone, you learn more about God that you would on your own. We don’t have to learn everything through direct experience. I’ve walked with my friends through things I wouldn’t have had to on my own. And you can be both a disciple and a mentor at the same time. And remember, don’t be offended if someone you disciple does things their own way. The whole point of discipleship is getting the ideas into someone so that they internalize it, and they can do it their way. Teachers teach with various methods to be sure their students “get it.” And Biblically, when Saul took David in, Saul tried to give David his armor, but David took up the five smooth stones.
Discipleship. It's how we grow. It's not so much about teaching or learning as it is about the relationship. You have to have a closeness before anyone can speak into your life, or before you'll allow them to speak into yours. And that's my vision for Crossroads, to build up those relationships, so that we, as a group, can learn from each other, on our way to maturity in Christ.