Discipleship is not as much a series of steps as it is a system of forces working for the development of the disciple.
In my recent post I addressed what I called the default model of discipleship. It might be better called the market model of discipleship, as a friend suggested, so I’ve changed some references in that post. I don’t want to just deconstruct that model, but provide a better alternative. I call this better choice the comprehensive model of discipleship.
All models are limited as descriptions of complex systems. Likewise, all analogies are limited and eventual fail as points of comparison. Still, I think analogies are helpful, and I will use one to help describe the parts of the whole of comprehensive discipleship.
There are three main parts to talk about, and they are represented in 1 Corinthians 13:13- faith, hope and love. More specifically, this model can be defined by a loving community, hopeful knowledge, and purposeful faith.
For a word picture, imagine a typical road trip somewhere. The context of a road trip, at least in my experience, is the high way system. The vehicle of transit is the car. The goal is our destination.
A loving community is the context of excellent discipleship. Just as highways may look differently, loving communities vary in their construct.
Just as a car moves a person or goods from one destination to the next, hopeful knowledge moves a person from the beginning point of discipleship to maturity.
In the same way as we would pick a destination, such as grandmother’s house, or work, or the beach, there is a destination in the comprehensive discipleship model. That destination is purposeful faith.
While the market model is linear with an entrance point, the comprehensive model meets people wherever they begin the process, like jumping on a moving merry-go-round. Many come in because of the loving community. That’s appropriate since the community is the context for discipleship. It must be a loving community; one that cares about the needs of people without respect to how the people fit in their community, and especially without concern for how they might benefit their community. The potential disciple may join this community just because he finds a place of acceptance. This may be the first place that one finds love like this.
Next, people may join the discipleship process on a quest for knowledge. This is how I joined. I started with a book called the Handbook of Denomination. I just needed to know a little more about the churches around me because I was curious about the different varieties. (In most disciplines, I’ve found taxonomy to be intriguing.) But just knowing about denomination, the Bible, or spiritual practices is useless. If the knowledge part of the comprehensive discipleship process is the vehicle, knowledge for knowledge sake is like driving a moped on a city freeway in a rain storm.
The disciple needs to ride a path in knowledge that is hopeful. Hopeful knowledge renews the person’s desire to be in the community, and sets them with great joy toward the goal (spiritual maturity). When a disciple growing in hopeful knowledge, the journey feels a lot like reaching destination.
That brings us to the destination- purposeful faith. Faith is being certain of what we do not see. A disciple’s faith is in the work and love of Jesus Christ. Any other faith has a false destination; that is whether they trust that the church will save them, or their work will save them, or that the purpose of this life is to get to the next life called heaven. There are many other examples of false knowledge.
In the scriptures we see that faith has purpose. The purpose builds the community of God and his kingdom. Jesus is the King, and the church is his subjects. We aren’t lowly slaves. We are honored citizens with the purpose and work to build and maintain the kingdom. In the market discipleship process, a disciple is as valuable as they produce value in the community. In the comprehensive model, a disciple is valuable for who they are, sons and daughters of the living God, but they find value in contributing back to the work that God is doing. They find value in seeing God’s purpose come to life. They receive that value as a gift. They don’t have to prove themselves valuable.
If one receives value on the journey to spiritual maturity, purposeful faith is as exciting to see grow as it is to anticipate the end point. This makes the discipleship process much like a scenic highway. When one drives a scenic highway while heading for their destination, the journey itself is rewarding. So is the journey in loving community, by hopeful knowledge, toward purposeful faith.
If you want help developing a comprehensive discipleship program in your church, contact Etchea Coaching.