I have been ask by many to republish this article and so I have done so with several revisions.
In response to an article that Pastor Glenn Buzby wrote had posted on his Blog and in conversations with other pastors and leaders in the Body of Christ it is obvious that many believe we must do a better job of making true disciples. Some have called for a new Reformation where the concept of the ministry or priesthood of all believers becomes a functional reality and not just a great idea. I believe that some churches are working very hard at this and are seeing some good results.
I believe however, that many of our discipleship models are not based on the model Jesus used, which was the one used by Jewish Rabbis where people were equipped more completly and not simply lectured or had conceptual data transferred to them, which was more of a Greek model.
When a Jew was taught something and said "I believe," they knew that their belief required a life that demonstrated that belief, it meant to live out the teaching and not simply give mental agreement that the concept or idea was true along with many others. Along with the 'hear and do model' came a relational model in which the rabbi or teacher developed a strong personal relationship with those he was teaching or in relationship with to in order to train them. This training was the passing on of not just a set of beliefs or ideas but of one's self and one's very life and purpose.
There is a need for discipleship or equipping that accomplishes the mission of Ephesians 4:11-13 in the way that Jesus did. It must be more like coaching some one to play a sport or teaching them a trade, such as carpentry than it is to teach someone to memorize a new word for a spelling bee.
Eph 4:11-1311 And His gifts were [varied; He Himself appointed and gave men to us] some to be apostles (special messengers), some prophets (inspired preachers and expounders), some evangelists (preachers of the Gospel, traveling missionaries), some pastors (shepherds of His flock) and teachers. 12 His intention was the perfecting and the full equipping of the saints (His consecrated people), [that they should do] the work of ministering toward building up Christ's body (the church), 13[That it might develop] until we all attain oneness in the faith and in the comprehension of the [full and accurate] knowledge of the Son of God, that [we might arrive] at really mature manhood (the completeness of personality which is nothing less than the standard height of Christ's own perfection), the measure of the stature of the fullness of the Christ and the completeness found in Him. AMP
The other statement about discipleship that I have heard from many which pertains to the American church and many other churches around the world is, unhealthy. Jason Upton on his music CD 'Faith has a song (Freedom) in which he says "The church is sick and needs God alone. People we must seek His face. If we will turn from our unrighteousness he will cleanse our evil ways." This is a rephrasing of (2 Ch 7:13-14, if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land. NIV)
The Bible teaches us that God will not rest on or abide with, or honor a people who do not know Him in an intimate way (one with a deep relationship), and who have lives that do not honor Him above all else. Upton goes on to ask that God's Glory and honor rest on our lives. This can only come as we yield to His Word and humble ourselves along with giving ourselves completely to Him daily.
I am frequently amazed that my fellow leaders are seeking more and more complex and detailed ways to train people the wrong way,(using the wrong model). It is not the method alone but the content of our training and the relationship from which that content flows that needs change. The solution is not some amazing new way to teach people the principles of discipleship, but it is going back to what I have seen in students from all over the world. A total giving of ourselves to Jesus along with having a leader who will invest him or her self in the one being discipled.
That is the starting point, which must be followed to truly equip others to completely become a true disciple of Jesus. The making of true disciples who have an intimate relationship with God is needed if we are to see a new Reformation of equipping people in Spirit, Soul (the mind, will, emotions) and Body. Equipping them to operate in today's world and market place, not as simple followers of a faith but of carriers of that faith even as the Ark of the Covenant was seen as carrying the presence of God.
This is a functional realization of the doctrine of the Priesthood of all believers. It starts with what has been said above and then goes on to teach, integrate and experience the life and teachings of Jesus and His disciples today. Let us all give ourselves (our personal development), our discipleship and leadership training programs an evaluation. Are they accomplishing what Ephesians 4:11-13 intends them to? Are we developing people with a deep and vibrant relationship with and knowledge of Jesus?
Will you ask God to start a new Reformation in you and through you, today? Accept the challenge and develop your relationship with Jesus today, so you can enjoy the adventure as you seek His plans and solutions for equipping other believers to become true disciples today.