It seems that Discipleship is a “hot” issue these days. This is one of the messages that the Holy Spirit is speaking to the church in the west and demonstrating in the church in China. I appreciate that those who are catching what the Spirit is saying are putting together teachings and sermons to communicate this to the church. It is important for us to “make disciples” and not just grow numerically because this is what Jesus told us to do and is still telling us to do.
In general, the “discipleship message” that I am hearing has two primary components: (1) discipleship requires relationships and investment into those relationships, and (2) discipleship will result in multiplication, i.e., disciples will make disciples that will make disciples (sometimes called the two-by-two-by-two principle). I think that both of these components are valuable and it is important for us to hear them, embrace them, and transfer them to those we are engaged in ministry with.
When the teaching is finished and the “Discipleship is Important” article or book has been read, I am left with the feeling that although something important has been said, something equally or more important has been left un-spoken. It is kind of like the feeling you get when you are halfway through eating a beautifully garnished turkey sandwich only to discover that there is no turkey inside. This in no way degrades the tastiness and nutritional value of the bread, veggies, and condiments. Nor does it belittle the quality packaging that the sandwich was delivered in or the clear marketing message that made me want to buy the sandwich in the first place. These are all good … It’s just not quite a turkey sandwich without the meat.
It seems to me that at its core, discipleship is about following the Master and becoming like him in both character and action. I walk beside those I mentor and those who mentor me as we together walk with Jesus. The good news is that Jesus rose from the dead and is a living master, Lord, and Savior. He is still speaking to us today, still doing “His stuff” today, providing real-time revelation and expecting real-time obedience from us. Jesus sends the Holy Spirit to commune with our spirit-birthed human spirit so that we can follow Him in real-time. He invites us to become agents of His kingdom so that we actively participate in the work He is now doing in the world – “thy kingdom come thy will be done on earth (right now) as it is in heaven (right now)”
A number of years ago, we learned that when confronted with a difficult decision, we should ask “What would Jesus do” before taking action. This was a good place to start, but followers of Jesus should be growing in such a way that instead of just considering the historical actions of Jesus, we can look into the Kingdom of God to hear what the Father is saying and see “What is Jesus doing right now” and do exactly that as an act of worship and obedience. Understanding what He taught and did 2000 years ago is good; hearing and seeing what He is doing right now and participating with Him as He does it is better. That is how we move from discipleship principles to actual discipleship.
Real-time disciples of Jesus walk in revelation of the Holy Spirit and act in obedience to what the Lord is saying. Real-time disciples of Jesus do what Jesus does (see Luke 4:18 and Luke 9-10 for details). As we hang out with him, he rubs off on us and our character changes. As the Holy Spirit empowers us for ministry and fills us to overflowing, we are changed and the “good stuff” leaks out of us onto those around us. We walk in power as the spiritual gifts operate and we walk are transformed as the fruits of the Spirit grow large within us. The Holy Spirit is the agent sent to supervise these transformational activities (2 Corinthians 3:18). Sometimes He works directly within us and sometimes He works within the “two-by-two-by-two“ relationships as we are being discipled by our mentors and being a mentor to raise up and disciple others.
At the beginning of the story and the end of the day, it is the real, living Jesus that we are following because we know Him and He knows us. We are disciples of Jesus, followers of the living Lord. We are learning how to exercise our spiritual senses so that we can see and hear. We are learning how to be obedient to the revelation we receive so that we become good and faithful servants. We are becoming more like Him in character and action as we walk in this world as agents of His Kingdom. We are becoming like Him as we do what He is doing in real-time. It seems to me that this is the meat.