Messy Discipleship

Jack Blakenship

Over the past several years, there has been a great movement in the church towards a clearer understanding of our call to make disciples.  Many have sounded the call to move away from programmatic thinking and towards a greater emphasis on a holistic understanding of the Great Commission.  It is a call to intentionally understand how the Gospel applies to everyday life.  As this movement has gained traction, many of us have become passionate about making disciples.  And this is an extremely good thing!  And it also has a danger.

In our enthusiasm for being faithful to the call to make disciples, we often run the risk of romanticizing just how this discipleship relationship will work.   We picture weekly meetings that are deep and profound.  We picture commitment and joy.  We picture life change that is almost tangible.  It is going to be the most amazing time in our lives because we are being faithful to what Jesus wants us to do!

And then reality hits. You receive a text as you are waiting to meet that they won’t make it.  They make it and didn’t read or prepare. You see posts on social media that make you wonder if they ever hear a word you are saying.  And then the questioning begins.  “Why am I doing this?” “Why am I such a failure?” “Should I just give up?”

If this is you, don’t give up.  There is hope!

Remember the Gospel.  Sometimes these situations are hard for us because deep down they remind us of ourselves.  We know that we have failed at being a disciple over and over. And it is as this point that we must focus on the Gospel.  Jesus doesn’t accept us because we do well (Ephesians 2:9) He loves us in spite of our failures (Romans 5:8). This is true for you and the person whom you are discipling. Both of you need the Gospel. Remind yourself as you remind them.

Confrontation is biblical.  In Galatians 2, Paul tells of a time when he had to confront Peter for acting contrary to the Gospel.  There are times in a discipling relationship where the person you are discipling is not living a life “worthy of the Gospel” (Philippians 1:27).  And like Paul, we don’t want them to continue living this way.  We love them and want them to grow in sanctification, not be hindered in their spiritual walk.  So we will bring these things to their attention in love in hopes that they will turn from them and pursue Jesus more diligently.

Look to Jesus.  Surely there was never a better disciple maker than Jesus. And yet he was betrayed and denied by some of his disciples.  He had to rebuke them for chasing away children.  He had to put up with them not understanding or thinking worldly instead of heavenly.  And yet he didn’t give up. He loved them to the very end (John 13:1)

Discipleship is messy for sure.  Yet as we keep our eyes focused on Jesus, we will be able to see through the mess and persevere. The movement is going in the right direction. Let’s keep it going and bring others with us, no matter how many times they flake at the last minute.


Guest Blogger–Jack Blakenship, BCM Director Winthrop University (Rock Hill, SC), Discipleship Team Memeber for BCNet

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