A friend and I were talking about church recently, and have been asking the question, what’s the best way to develop a strong, healthy church? We’ve then went on to talk about programs, power ministry, small groups and discipleship as viable options. At the end of the day, we came to the conclusion that no one style of ministry can alone be the only way help fully develop; instead we need a combination of them all.
With that said, we didn’t address the question of which of these methods we would want to start with. We came to the conclusion that discipleship is where both of us will start. So you ask what is discipleship? Is there different types of discipleship? Should all believer be committed to being disciplers? What about having disciples, and being discipled, should all believers do these things as well?
Let’s start off with what is discipleship? Discipleship, the term was first coined from the early church. They were initially called the people of the Way. And if you were part of the group called the Way, that means that you were labeling yourself a person who’s so serious about Christianity that you didn’t mind martyrdom. So the call to discipleship was a serious and life-altering thing.
As time passed discipleship became more the study (suffix “ship) of how to become a disciple. In the traditional sense, discipleship became learning how to study the word of God, and how to pray; mostly its been more educational than imitation. Then as I went to college, I went to a group that really focus on discipleship that built strong christian foundations, ministry mindset and personal life development, all through this concept of imitation. And I realized how important discipleship was.
Now looking back at my years in discipleship (close to 10 years) I’ve come up with some personal thoughts about discipleship.
1. Discipleship helps a person recognize and develop their short comings.
2. Discipleship helps develops humility, trust and respect for their leaders.
3. Discipleship helps a person to learn about any subject in a truncated amount of time. Another words, if it takes a discipler 10 years to learn an important truth, a disciplee can learn that same truth in a year.
4. Discipleship is most ideal when it happens within a group.
5. Discipleship is the effective when a person submits themselves under one leader, at a time, and then goes through several leader in the process.
6. Discipleship helps people develop more depth than breathe about a subject.
7. Discipleship can not be just about teaching, it has to be about equipping.
8. Discipleship yields the best, well rounded, and most develop leaders in church.
9. Discipleship is important for every church regardless of their theology or denomination.
10. Discipleship should teach value rather than imitation.
So this brings me to the question about the different types of discipleship. In my viewpoint, I believe there is a clear definition between discipleship and mentorship. Mentorship is the study from a specific person for a specific topic or theme. Discipleship is the process of submitting oneself to another leader, to allow them to help guide, govern, correct and challenge a person’s life, whether upbringing, perspective or wrongly formed values and traditions.
As for discipleship, I believe Life-on-Life is the best form of discipleship. I coined this term to say that in discipleship, we should aim to tackle every facet of life, not just the subjects of building strong christian disciplines (e.g. studying the bible, prayer, etc..).
And about the process, discipleship is ideal when it is within a group of other people who share the same value of learning from a leader. Also this is taken place, a disciplee should also be under submission under a leader, and also be leading a group of his own disciples.
To back to my original question, i would say discipleship has to be the foundation for a healthy and strong church but that alone is not enough. We need other layers on top it. What do you ask? Well, that’s for another blog entry.
I consider myself a big worship guy. I love it doing it, studying it and basking in it. One day as I was reading articles on worship, they asked the question about excellence v. perfection. And too many times I think I came out on the side of perfection more than excellence. I believe that’s the same model for us as christians in this world; to be excellent in all that we do, and not perfect. I think it is in Asian people’s DNA to always strive for perfection, but we have to realize that excellence is more long-lasting and healthier.
For those who are asking what the different is, let me explain it to you like this. Perfection is the striving to make things perfect, while excellence is the best that we have to offer. If I can bring more clarity to it, I would say perfection is looking at the external result of what’s been done, while excellence is doing our best but caring about our hearts more in the process. You can say perfection looks at the outside, while excellence looks in the inside. I think as Christians, we have to be careful not to judge sin through this lense of perfection but more of excellence. No ones perfect, therefore we shouldn’t strive to be perfect, instead we should be who we are and do our best. And if we fail, then we fail, and get back up, lean on the Cross, and try again. That to me is what I see in the Bible. An example of a perfectionist person in the Bible is a Pharisee, while an example of a person of excellence is David.
Here’s the practical..if we stop looking at people through the lense of perfection, then we wouldn’t judge people on this qualifier, and instead we’ll be more graceful, forgiving and understanding. That’s the kind of person I want to be. Excellent, not perfectionistic.
What’s your spiritual DNA? I love using this question for a series on discipleship. This would be one of my very early questions. The reason being so that the person whom your asking this question would be thinking about their personal spiritual Journey, not just in stages or a progression but a series of markers that permanently shape their future mindset, actions and decisions. I think too many times we see a journey just as one adventure over another. There’s nothing wrong with that, but some places in our Journey just leaves a deeper Impact on us than others.
Yesterday, I’ve talked about Jacob and his spiritual history. Today I want to talk about what makes up our history? What defines who we are, and who we’ll become? That is the question of Spiritual DNA.
Our DNA in real life determines the characteristic that put meaning to who we are. Stuff like what color our hairs going to be, what color skin we’ll have, what type of body type we’ll have and even what disease we will pass us along to our family..etc. If you really think about it, knowing our DNA in life is really important in shaping who we are today. Just like our real lives are determined so much by our distinct DNA, I believe our spiritual lives are just as equally determined by our spiritual DNA.
So what do I mean by Spiritual DNA? Does that mean if we have a relative who was a pastor or missionary, that we’ll be more inclined to be a better Christian? Or does it mean that if we have generational sin, that sin will tickle down and affect our generations to come? To say it succinctly, I would define Spiritual DNA as series of collective and repeating experiences that forms our viewpoint, attitudes or our behaviors about God.
Basically, spiritual DNA asks the question, what “things” have shaped our understanding of God? I won’t get into so much about what “things” they are, but would want you to think about your own personal journey and reflect back on the things that has shaped their life. Some questions you may want to ask are:
-what events had major significance in your life?
-who were some very influential people in your life?
-what truths have set you free?
-what was the best season of your life? What was the most difficult?
-what bible verses are your life verses?
-what worship songs become your anthems?
These are some things to worth considering, meditating, and reflection upon.
Since I love talking not just about theories, but also about being pragmatic about our Spiritual life, the question I leave with you is when was the last time you share a bit about how your defining strands came to be?
I love the term spiritual history. I don’t know many Christians who use it, but I think that should change. I grew up very conservative, and never heard the term. It wasn’t until I became Charismatic that I’ve realized how important this truth is. “Spiritual History” to me is the life memories we have with God. Whether we are Conservative, or Charismatic, we all have it. Unfortunately neither group emphasize it much as we should.
In the bible, I believe there are countless memories of spiritual history from Abraham’s life to the Disciples; even the writer of Hebrew understand this truth because he wrote Hebrews Chapter 11, the “Chapter of Faith,” Which I say is the “Spiritual History” chapter in the Bible. With all these countless examples, the one that I always seem to most drawn to is the earliest example of it in Genesis. This appears in story of Jacob’s life, or the story of Bethel. I call this the first Spiritual History documentation.
The first significance of Bethel happen when Jacob, threaten by his brother’s anger towards him for his birthright, left his home, on the advice of his mother and father and went to a land called Canaan to help his uncle Laban with the cattle business. On his way towards there, he rested one night upon some rocks, and had a dream about angels ascending and descending down the latter, with God speaking to him directly afterwards. This dream completely freak out Jacob, that he awoke from his sleep, and said “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I was not aware of it. (Gen. 28:16). Then he says, “how awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God; this is the gate of heaven.” (Gen. 28:17) Then Jacob made a vow, saying “If God will be with me and will watch over me on this journey I am taking and will me food to eat and clothes to wear so that I return safely to my father’s house, then the Lord will be my God. (Gen. 28:20-21).
Lets fast forward to the end of Jacob’s journey, after he returns from his years of laboring for his uncle, wrestling with God and dealing with idolatry in his own family. Having experienced all this, Jacob comes back to the place where he met God, and offers his own personal worship by pouring out a drink offering and oil to the rocks. (Gen. 35:14). He then calls that place Bethel. (Gen. 35:15).
The significance of this story is how Jacob remembered his first “Spiritual encounter” with God. Another words he demarcated, a place, in his life where God has meet with him, and changed his life. The point for here I believe is that if we don’t remember the times in our lives where God has met us, we will fall slave to being forgetful about him.
From a practical perspective, if we don’t hold unto some sort of Spiritual History with God, what will reminds us in our times of struggle that God came through for us? I bet you most of time that people wander off the faith is not because they didn’t believe in God when they’ve encountered them, but more so, that they didn’t develop any strong or lasting Spiritual Histories which they can call their own.