One of the elements of ministry and the Christian life that I have tried to stress in my time at Fellowship Bible Church is discipleship. I don’t know if it is because this is what was stressed to me in my Bible college years or because it has been modeled to me over the years of pastoral ministry. One thing I do know: it is patently biblical.
Other than in temporary moments of devotional solitude, there was never a time when Jesus was not with his men. After Jesus called his disciples, he had them with him doing ministry. We also see this in the life of Peter and Paul. These men were not lone ranger apostles, displaying some sort of rugged individualistic machismo. Paul had Barnabas and Timothy. Peter and John ministered together and at one point Peter discipled the disenfranchised John Mark.
The pattern that we see from these examples is what has been coined by others as life on life discipleship. This goes beyond the formal half hour Bible study and moves into the area of “gettin’ into somebody’s kitchen.” Don’t get me wrong, the Bible study is an important part of the process, but, living life with someone looks different than seeing or talking with them once a week. The American Christian life has become too isolated. We are raised on the idea of rugged individualism and this is not what the Bible calls us to at all. Matt. 7:1-5; Matt. 18:15-18; and Gal. 6:1-2 all tell us a different story. I’d like to say, “I don’t know about you, but I need this kind of accountability and love in my life.” That would be awfully humble. But the reality is I do know about you, because you’re like me and all of us need this accountability in our lives. Not to sound to “Sunday Schoolish,” but, I know this ’cause it’s in the Bible.
When we open the pages of Scripture we see examples of this even in the opening of epistles. Paul includes Timothy in his greetings to the churches, because Timothy was with him. Timothy was his ministry companion. Paul was leading Timothy and Timothy was following. Paul even describes this as the whole goal of his ministry in Col. 1:28-29. He states clearly, “Him (Christ) we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.” (ESV) Notice the order: proclaim, warn, teach, present. There is Gospel here, there is instruction here, there is a desire to present here. In other words, there is progression. Paul also does not claim that he does this on his own, but he strives knowing that it is Christ who is working powerfully through him. There is a challenge here for us to be doing the same in our lives and ministries.
The question then for you and me is, “Who are we following and who are we leading?”
As we live life with people, who are those who we look out ahead of us and say, “I want to be like that person.” As we look behind us are we seeing those who are following us and taking charge of that opportunity and letting Christ work powerfully through us in their lives?