You may not have even thought about it before. But I actually hear it a good bit from people when we stress that each and everyone of us as followers of Jesus should be “making disciples” as we are going among both neighbors and nations. I hear this very significant excuse:
“…but I can’t do that because i don’t know enough to teach it.”
I assert that it is a significant excuse because it is very heartfelt. But I would suggest that the problem is that it is, although heartfelt, a demonstration of a misunderstanding of the word “disciple.”
The word “disciple” does not mean “I know a whole lot so much in fact that I can teach you all the ways of King Jesus so you should come sit in a classroom and listen to me teach and also grow to know enough one day to go and teach in front of a classroom.” I am by no means discounting the importance of teaching in discipling. It is one of two key words in Matthew 28:18-20 – “to teach all that I have commanded you.” But we need to quit thinking about how to teach His ways like we have in the 20th century church under florescent lights to people in uncomfortable chairs, and instead we must look back to Jesus and how He taught the ways of the Kingdom under the light of the sun and the moon to a people with whom He walked in relationship daily.
The word “disciple” also does not mean “I don’t have to learn anymore because I have earned my “Jesus PhD” and have my “not-gonna-go-to-hell” tenure and actually don’t have to work hard anymore at teaching His ways to others.” The roots of the word “disciple” actually imply a meaning more like this one – “I am a learner and will always be a learner, more like an apprentice who learns from a Master and then does what I’ve seen Him do everyday.” We don’t learn enough to now have earned our “disciple degree.” We never quit being a learner who lives what is being learned. That is a disciple.
Not knowing enough, then, is not a valid excuse, if we understand the word “disciple.” At least that is my suggestion here. We actually would have to give an excuse as to why we don’t live as learners who walk with our Master everyday and then try to live out together with others what we are learning so as to see the Kingdom actually show up right here and right now.
What if we moved from being a “teacher” to being a “learner?” What if we prioritized learning the ways of Jesus with others who are also learning His ways along with those who have not found their way in Christ yet? What if we defined who we are as the church in those terms – a people who learn and live the ways of Jesus together, sharpening each other in His ways, introducing others to Him, and then learning together with Him how to live those ways in the rhythms of our daily lives as the Spirit changes us to be more and more like our Master?
So, there is my 2nd suggested shift. For what it is worth. Hopefully it encourages many of you to move beyond what you see as a limitation (i don’t know enough to teach) toward what is actually an opportunity – to learn and live the ways of the Kingdom within community together in the midst of a world longing for “on earth as it is in heaven.”
Type at you tomorrow…