I don’t know when discussions of how to disciple someone (lead them in growing closer to Jesus) began, but I know it started long before (as in millennia before) I began studying to be a minister. People have written really good books on the subject, preached amazing sermons, and developed grand traditions that were meant to help people grow as follower/learners of Jesus.
Many of them are very good and you should probably go read one of them right now. I’m a big fan of Brother Lawrence’s “Practice of the Presence of God” (a wonderful little read that focusing on seeing the work of God around us) and Richard Foster’s “Celebration of Discipline” (a wonderful book on disciplines that are meant to point us to God). I’ll add a new work I like, John Ortberg’s “The Life You Always Wanted” which has a cheesy Oprah Winfrey cover and title but solid content on spiritual disciplines, though Foster’s work is still my first choice.
Still I struggle with programs that are designed to disciple a follower of Jesus. My struggle is that I believe they can be very helpful while also being very detrimental. It seems to me that Jesus very clearly defined what one of His disciples is supposed to be about when he described the great commandments 1a and 1b. We are to 1a” “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37), and 1b: “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39). That’s what disciples of Christ are supposed to be about: loving God and loving others. So if certain actions help with 1a and 1b then they are good for helping in discipleship.
The problem is that I believe often the things that are meant to be means to help us reach our ends (1a & 1b) regularly become ends in and of themselves. We become more focused on the actions of the program, rather than loving God and others as the program is supposed to help us do. Means are not meant to be ends. When our means become ends we usually call such situations legalism, because the actions have become more important that the actions are meant to help us achieve. This is part of my struggle with such programs.
The other part is that the opposite of using such programs is to simply throw a new believer in Jesus Christ into “deep water and hope they can swim”. That’s not cool.
So here are my simple suggestions for growing as a disciple of Jesus. i.e. here’s my recommended list of means for growing in the ends that Christ set up for us, 1a & 1b.
- Try to notice something for which you are thankful to God for this week and thank God for it/them. (gratitude)
- Ask Jesus for something you need this week (dependence & prayer).
- Try to forgive someone this week because of Jesus forgiving you.
- Try to help someone this week because of Jesus helping you.
- Read/listen to the Bible or someone talking about scripture for 10 minutes this week.
- Try to tell someone something Jesus has done for you.
If these help you follow Jesus better then great. If they don’t then skip them. There is nothing sacred about my recommendations. They are just means and means that don’t help us reach our ends should be dropped. The only things that matter are our ends. In this case those ends are 1a love God and 1b love others.