It is always comical to me the way churches preach about authentic, radical, and Biblical Discipleship, all the while implementing discipleship "programs" that are anything but authentic, radical or Biblical. The problem I see is that almost all discipleship programs are 1 dimensional. They mostly consist of one-on-one or small group relationships that teach basic biblical truths. Although they teach ABOUT marriage, parenting, relationship with God, character, leadership, service, evangelism, fellowship and ministry there is more explanation than implementation. After a few discipleship relationships I had through my church I decided to change my approach. I would run myself crazy trying to meet with all of my disciples and coordinate schedules with them. I began to realize that the majority of our time was spent discussing this Biblical concept or that Biblical concept and how it pertained to their life. This was profitable but I never felt that true Biblical discipleship was ever taking place.
I ran across a sermon about discipleship from Dan Stolebarger. He outlined the Jewish concept of discipleship in Jesus' day and how a disciple of a Rabbi would really live his life. It then dawned on me that my concept of discipleship came from the church and not the Bible. The discipleship relationship between a Rabbi and his disciple was 4 dimensional. The growth was both academic and practical. The Rabbi would teach an upward growth toward God, inward Growth (depth) and outward growth (the one another’s). The Rabbi would teach this to his students using the 4th dimension, time. Most of our discipleship concentrates on the first two dimensions (God and self). Our Christian culture is obsessed with your "personal relationship with Christ." There seems to be little focus on the third dimension of the one another’s. Although many Christians are very outward focused, there lacks a systematic way of teaching this to our disciples. We sort of assume it is a natural gift and leave it at that. And finally, we always try to minimize the fourth dimension of time entirely. But that is our culture, we try and minimize the 4th dimension of time in everything that we do. "Lose weight fast," "get ripped fast," "learn a language in just months." Everything we do in our western civilizations disrespects the legitimacy of time. Our discipleship relationships are one dimensional and seem to concentrate on just our spiritual life. It was interesting watching Rob Bell's "Everything is Spiritual" lecture. It once again underlined the tendency for us to over compartmentalize our lives. He argues that the concept of a spiritual life is a false one and that everything we interact with, our reality, in essence is one and is spiritual. But as westerners we tend to compartmentalize our lives. We seem to have a disciple for every aspect of life. Our mentor on the job, our disciple for our spiritual life, our mentor for our hobby or our sport, or what have you. In the Rabbinical school system a disciple would adpot every part of his Rabbi's life, because ha was becoming the Rabbi. He didn't have his own identify, he was becoming someone else. I believe, that as americans, we are so consumed with the idea of independence and freedom that we miss some valuable Biblical truths. We tend to miss these concepts because we view this perspective as un-American and have a hard time seeing the nobility in it.
What I then changed was I made it a requirement for my boys to be involved in every service, ministry and extracurricular activity I did. They also have to come and spend time with me and my wife. If you could not commit to that I would not disciple you. What this does is automatically puts my disciple in a position to watch me lead, teach, minister, party, love my wife, and love the Lord. They sit next to me at church, they help me teach my Bible study, they help me do hospitality, they are on my prayer team, they watch me evangelize, the whole 9 yards. I also refuse to commit to a time limit. As I watch them grow and really get to know them it allows me to challenge them and cater a discipleship "program" accordingly. I still use the disciple "lessons" that my church requires and I have no problem with that. But if you really want me to disciple, I refuse to cheapen disipleship through a watered-down program.