Have you ever thought about how messy it was as Jesus discipled His 12 guys? Consider the following few examples:
- They argued about not bringing bread in the boat with them right after Jesus fed the 5,000!
- They tried to keep the little children from coming to Jesus
- James and John asked for a special favor to sit on Jesus’ right and left in His kingdom
- The disciples rebuked the woman who anointed Jesus
- James and John wanted to call fire down from heaven to destroy a Samaritan town
- They all got mad at Jesus for sleeping in their boat during a storm
- One of His disciples betrayed Him and the other 11 abandoned Him the night He was arrested
- Some of His disciples still doubted after Jesus’ resurrection!
Wow! The point is this: if Jesus encountered these kinds of issues as He was discipling His guys, who are we to think that we won’t experience similar challenges with those we are discipling?
Why Discipleship Is Messy
Discipleship (making disciples) is messy because relationships are messy. And discipleship is purely relational.
As far as I can tell from Scripture, Jesus never got frustrated with His disciples. He may have grieved over their decisions and actions at times, but He didn’t dismiss them and send them on their way. However, some of His disciples (not the 12) stopped following Him when He taught using the metaphor of “drinking His blood” and “eating His flesh” in John 6.
Discipleship is messy and we should expect no less.
Why We Get Frustrated Discipling Others
Sometimes we get frustrated when we are in a discipling relationship with others. I know I have gotten frustrated.
I discipled a high school kid many years ago. The whole discipling process was two steps forward and one step back with him. There were times when I had to drive somewhere at midnight to rescue him from a sinful predicament he had gotten himself into. It wasn’t the midnight call that frustrated me so much as his lack of self-control and commitment to Christ.
Week after week I met with this young man and he rarely had done his “homework.” But then one day as I was listening to him talk about what God was doing in his life, the Holy Spirit spoke to me. He said, “Let me do this my way. Don’t force this guy into your rigid mold.”
I eased up on this young man, stopped being frustrated with him, and watched him continue to grow in Christ. He serves as a pastor today! This is a credit to the Holy Spirit’s work in his life despite me!
As we seek to disciple others, whether it’s trying to lead someone to Christ or working with someone who already professes Christ, I think we get confused about what we are and aren’t responsible for.
We ARE responsible for:
- Representing Christ well to others through our life and words
- Assisting other followers of Christ in their growth in Him
- Loving each other
We ARE NOT responsible for:
- Someone’s conversion to Christ
- An individual’s life choices
- The evidence and pace of someone’s growth in Christ
We also need to constantly remind ourselves how needy we are before the Lord. How messy has our discipleship with Him been? How often have we failed Him, yet He keeps receiving us back, loving us, and encouraging us?
As we engage in the privilege of leading others to Christ and helping our fellow followers grow in Him, we are totally dependent on the Holy Spirit. We may “plant a seed.” Or, we may “water that seed,” but only God makes it grow (1 Corinthians 3:6).
©2019 Rob Fischer