If you look in the bible, it spells out pretty clearly what Jesus wants us to do with our lives. It tells us right in the book of Matthew what we should do.
Matthew 22 (NIV)
“’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
Matthew 28 (NIV)
19 “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
While this call to discipleship could not be any more clear, it’s not always necessarily easy. There can be many reasons for this, but they all come under one heading: life. Life happens. Life gets in the way. When we put more focus on the other things we can do in this life rather than on the things God has intended for us to do in this life, discipleship gets put on the back burner.
This may seem oversimplified and maybe it is to an extent. I understand that we all have valid reasons for not always following this direct command and none of us do as good of a job at discipleship as we should, but for the sake of this blog, I would like to address what I feel are the three most common reasons we fail to be good disciples.
Lack of Time
Discipleship feels counter-intuitive to everything else in our culture. We live in a quick-moving world that endorses fast-food mentalities and instant gratification. Unfortunately, discipleship doesn’t happen that way. Instead, it takes time and prolonged commitment from both the discipler and the disciple. It takes a great deal of time to build the type of relationship that will let trust build between people. If you try to hurry the development of these relationships, it will seem inauthentic and in some respects, it is.
Evaluate your schedule to see if it lines up with priorities like discipleship. If it’s as important as you may say it is, does your calendar reflect that? Get rid of the stuff that doesn’t need to be there in order to make room for the things that do. Also, don’t think of discipleship as something that demands you add hours into your schedule. Instead, consider how you can disciple within your day-to-day life. It feels more natural, it’s more effective, and it’s more representative of what Jesus modeled.
Lack of Trust
People want deep, meaningful relationships. But, that’s not always easy to find, is it? Whether we recognize it or not, many people are becoming more and more reserved in who they will trust and open up with. There is an innate distrust that seems to permeate our society, and it’s sadly quite justifiable. This generation has seen leaders within politics, sports, religion, and their own families make some pretty bad choices. Often these choices are closely tied to deceit and dishonesty. The only way we overcome this as we seek to disciple others is by modeling lives of authenticity, integrity, and transparency. That isn’t gained quickly or from distanced contact. Rather, we need to be shepherds who lead from within the flock as opposed to always out in front of it. Don’t set yourself apart from other people because when you really look inside yourself, you will find that you are flawed and broken too.
Lack of Connection
How do you connect with those you’re called to disciple? In many situations, it comes naturally and the relationship develops organically. But, in some instances, this simply isn’t the case. We certainly can’t just avoid those relationships that require effort. Rather than giving up, think differently about the process. Consider the individual and what approach may be best for them. Evaluate what topics might create dialogue, activities that would foster belonging, and other elements that would establish ownership. Think about them and their needs as opposed to you and your agenda.
Sometimes to reach people, you will need to get out of your comfort zone. You will need to meet people where they are at, in their circumstances, in their community. Jesus was not afraid to come to people and serve them where they were at. He did not make people come to Him, He went to the people who needed His help. Jesus is a great model for us to how we should do it. While none of us will ever live up to the standard that Jesus did during His time on earth, trying to become more like Him is never a bad thing.
Discipleship is not always an easy thing to engage in. It can be difficult and sometimes can be very messy. It can easily get out of your perceived control and safe zone, which can be very scary for most people. While, not easy, it is clearly what Jesus asked us to do during our time here on earth. If you value your relationship with God, then discipling others needs to be a focus in your life. While, not always easy to do, the rewards can far outweigh the struggles.
Just remember, at some point in your life, someone helped you when you needed direction in your relationship with God. Where would you be now if they had not reached out to you? Doesn’t everyone deserve to feel the love, hope, and security God has to offer? Trust me, the best person who can help people find that…is you!