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What Discipleship Is Not

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Discipleship – One of the biggest buzzwords in Christian circles. Paneras and Starbucks across the country have become havens for small groups, prayer cirlces, and same-sex Bible studies. If you look on Instagram, discipleship can only happen over caesar salads, mocha cappuccinos, open journals, and stacks of various versions of the Bible. Discipleship is knowing that we now “do life together.” What does that even mean?

Nothing is wrong with meeting for Bible studies, publicly praying with and for one another, or sharing a meal together. Hear me out. Something is wrong to do all of these things for Jesus and still not see Jesus.

Discipleship is more than cute journals, accountability partners, and overly spiritual prayers. It is more than group chats of favorite Bible verses. Discipleship is not this idea of separating the leaders from those “being discipled,” as if they are varsity and junior varsity Christians.

I can tell you about what discipleship isn’t because I used to be the ultimate fake disciple. I knew how to have accountability partners and not be pure. I read my Bible just to have an answer for those asking, “What are you reading?” I prayed just the correct sequence of words and tone to excite and tug the heart strings of those around me.

I had been a great disciple of Pharisees and religious people. I knew how to be around Jesus, talk about Jesus, but totally missed Jesus.

I understand it happens. The question is – Is it happening to you or in your small group? Are we doing what’s popular, appeasing each other? Checking off the “Christian checklist”? Or are we really looking to learn and know Jesus with others?

There is a difference between a disciple and a believer.

A disciple, by definition, is “a follower or student of a teacher, leader, or philosopher.” So to be a disciple of Jesus does not necessarily mean you believe in Him, you are just a learner of what He’s said and done. Jesus had people who followed and watched what He did and decided to stop following him. John 6:66 “From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.”

He then asked his 12 chosen disciples if they too were going to leave him. Of course, Peter, speaks up on behalf of the group. “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.” (John 6:68-69) For Peter and the others, Jesus was more than just a good teacher. They believed in Him as God.

You can be a disciple and not a believer, but as a believer, you should want to be a disciple.

For a believer, discipleship is literally learning and studying the Jesus you believe died and rose for you. As someone who believes that Jesus is God, the only begotten Son, atonement for sin, and risen Savior, why would you not want to study and learn of what he did and said? As you study the Jesus you believe in, as you internalize what He said and what He did, how He treated the oppressed, how He loved the unlovable, how He sacrificed, you begin to change. Change is inevitable.

You can’t see Jesus and not be changed.

What Discipleship Is

Don’t believe the hype that discipleship is cute journals, new friends, laughs, coffee, and exchanging Hillsong CD’s. Discipleship is partnering with someone who also wants to learn and follow Jesus. Neither of you admittedly know how to be a better Christian than the other. Both of you are desparate and hungry to see and learn Jesus.

The attitude of a disciple is one of humility and teachability. You are learning. Therefore, you don’t know. It can look like meeting once a week for a Bible Study, as you gleen from the scriptures together. It can be calling to talk about a struggle, sharing victories and defeats, feeding screaming babies, playing basketball, etc. It does not have to be a solemn worship session, although it can be.

The atmosphere of discipleship is one of intimacy. You are spending countless hours with someone who cares about your knowledge of Jesus. For me, although I am very public with what I beleive about Jesus, it is a very sacred subject. Spending time with someone discussing my Savior, His love and sacrifice, and my redemption is personal.

Which is why I brought up same-sex discipleship and its importance. Because you are being so vulnerable and open with someone, I suggest, it be someone of the same-sex. A mixed gender, large group Bible Study is fine; however, a one-on-one discipleship meeting with someone of the opposite sex can raise unwanted and unexpected emotional connections.

The aim of discipleship is to keep Jesus as the main thing. It is not a time to brag about what sins you didn’t commit. But to see Jesus and Him crucified for you. Learn about what Jesus while He was on this earth. Discipleship isn’t about impressing those around you or even impressing Jesus. When you see Jesus, you will be impressed. Learn from Him.

Discipleship is painful and messy. Reprogramming your thoughts and actions from those of sin to those of Jesus, can get ugly at times. You see the worst in someone, and they see the worst in you. Revealing your dark and sinful heart to someone else with a dark and sinful heart, only for them to point you to Jesus – that is discipleship.

Matthew 28:19-20 says,  “And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Jesus commissioned us to go make disciples! Teach and show people Jesus. That’s our job. We can’t do that hiding behind what’s cute, politically correct, or shows us in our best light. We should show Jesus and not show how you progressed on being a “good religious Christian.”

This week, when your small groups meet up over cookies and coffee, I encourage you to end the pomp and circumstance. We don’t need to learn about Jesus because it is cool. Nor because we like to post verses on social media. Or because we like to have all the right answers. Or because someone will need your religious views on their sin.

We need to learn more about Jesus because we believe in Him.

What is discipleship to you?

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Rasheda Likely, originally from Pensacola, FL, finds joy in authoring bi-weekly devotional blogs, spearheading advertising efforts, and serving as secretary for The Wade-O Radio Team. While being on the TWORS team, she successfully completed a Bachelors of Science in Biology and began her studies for a Masters of Science degree in Biology. Rasheda looks forward to impacting the lives of others through the ministry of TWORS the way TWORS has impacted hers.

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