When we talk about making disciples and equipping them for ministry, it’s worth taking a moment to ask: in what context?
The classic image that most of us probably have when we talk about discipleship is of two people sitting across from each other at a table, Bibles open, coffee cups steaming, the sun just peaking through the blinds. In other words, we tend to see discipleship as a two-person study group.
There’s a lot of value to this image. First, discipleship must be centered on understanding God’s character as it is revealed in His Word. Second, it takes time together on a one on one basis. Third, it must be a priority for both people. Finally, it must be focused, and, in many cases, this requires time to study the Word.
But is that the only way to focus on discipleship?
Discipleship should also include doing things together. Call it a lab. Too often we tend to approach Christianity in a vacuum. We talk about spiritual things in great detail, but when we leave the table to go to our jobs, homes, or churches the things we discuss can become vague, hard to recall, and harder to apply in the stress of the moment.
Serving in church is like the practicum part of our Biblical course work. It’s the context where what we learn about God informs how we treat one another, and it’s critical that the practice of discipleship extend into this area. If we need guidance to understand God’s love, we need that same guidance to show it.
To put it another way, you find out what kind of Christian you really are when you’re scheduled to help out with ushering but you realize you’d rather go fishing (a practical lesson in faithfulness). Or when you show up to make coffee and you realize someone forgot to buy the grounds (a practical lesson in giving grace). Or when you are organizing the ushers and you realize that most of your team won’t be there for both good and bad reasons (a practical lesson in peace and patience).
The examples can go on, but you get the idea. You may be asking yourself: People don’t really get bent out of shape over stuff like this do they? Yes. They do. People rally together over sympathetic causes and tragedies, but the daily repetition of avoidable irritants drives us apart. This is why discipleship needs to go with us from the quiet table of study to the noisy chaos of life.