Reproduction vs. Reciprocity (5 Reasons We Don’t See Discipleship)

Here was the Apostle Paul’s singular strategy in the expansion of God’s kingdom,

Timothy, my dear son, be strong through the grace that God gives you in Christ Jesus. You have heard me teach things that have been confirmed by many reliable witnesses. Now teach these truths to other trustworthy people who will be able to pass them on to others  (2 Tim. 2:1-2).

His strategy was Timothy!! Not only Timothy, but all the little Tim’s that Timothy would produce by following these simple instructions. Looking back on early Church history, and the Gospel’s explosive growth through Paul, it seems like he was doing a few things right. If we are doing a few things wrong (we are), then perhaps we should compare our modern methods of discipleship with tried, ancient practices.

5 reasons we don’t see discipleship.

1) We neglect mission because we are satisfied with community

We have fine circles of faith, but those circles never overlap with non-believers who can experience the love of God, and have their questions engaged with, because we feel as though we’ve achieved everything within our subculture. We’ll begin to feel the repercussions of this when the crowd gets bigger.

2) We don’t pass on what we’ve learned; we flaunt what we’ve learned

We aren’t taking the time to pass on the things that have effectively kept us out of darkness, and equipped us for mission. When we are around people who ask questions, the pull is so strong to make ourselves look good, instead of handing to others what we’ve learned.

3) We obsess over non-essentials instead of teaching “these truths”

We get bogged down in silly disputes over theology. While theological nitpicking can be fun, it rarely causes immature Christians to grow. The foundational building-blocks of the gospel of God’s kingdom are what we need to chew on for our spiritual health.

4) We don’t invest into “trustworthy” people that will pass on truth to others

We surround ourselves with people who are on a similar level as ourselves for the purpose of having fun conversations. Yet we never have the opportunity to hand down what we’ve learned to younger Christians who actually NEED to hear what we know.

5) We do not teach others how to teach others.

This is the pebble in the shoe of modern Christian discipleship. Even if we are successful with teaching others how to feed themselves on the Scriptures, we may fail at teaching them how to teach others. At best, we only produce ourselves—we do not re-produce ourselves. Discipleship is a task of reproduction. We may raise amazing Christians around us, but if we do not TEACH them to carry on the same pattern with others in the same way we have done with them, they will die as sterile clones of ourselves, and not as disciple-making disciples of Jesus.

Christian culture seems to be ok with staying in this stagnant space: not wanting to teach and equip the people we are called to invest in to live their lives on mission for the Gospel of Jesus. Deep down, I think it’s because we are more concerned with feeling the reciprocity of friendship, than the reproduction of disciples. This desire must change in my heart. In our hearts. Until then, discipleship will remain as it is. And the books coming out to address the problem of its powerlessness will continue to haunt us.

About Lazo

Lazo is the pastor for preaching and vision at Reality SB. He is committed to spreading the value of our union with Christ in Santa Barbara, through the expository preaching of God's Word. You might like these blog posts, 5 Wrong Ways To Comfort Hurting People, or Daisy Love and the Magic Eraser. You can follow Chris on twitter at @LazoChris.

Posted on October 26, 2011, in community, discipleship, mission and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. This has sort of been on my mind lately– what does it mean to be discipled? and why do many in the church never seem to get there? I was in a discussion recently, with a new believer, and a seasoned church-goer. The new believer talked about making time to pray, read his bible, and being careful about where/who with he chose to hang out. I’ve seen this seemingly legalistic attitude with new believers– it’s a necessary phase I think, adjusting to a brand new way of living takes discipline. BUT– I hear the same type of legalism with ‘old’ Christians– worried about who they are hanging out with, how much they are praying, reading Bible. Of course ‘being transformed by the renewing of your mind’ and ‘taking up the cross daily’ is a part of Christian life– but being discipled means taking the training wheels off– Discipled Christians can’t help but share with OTHERS, instead of being constantly concerned with how their personal spiritual life is going. God gives us grace and healing in order for us to pass grace and healing on to OTHERS.

    • I think you hit on a crucial distinction. Something that is “a necessary phase,” yet can be so easily become legalistic (as all good things are!).

      I’ve been trying really hard recently to pry this open. I know we’re not going to discover anything new from the last 2,000 years, but sometimes I feel like a good detox is in order on occasion, you know?

      For me, I’ve been reading (and rereading) the life of Jesus, and how he discipled his disciples. And it’s hard for me to ignore the simplicity. It seems like the disciples observed his life, then tried it out for themselves! Maybe those elements you brought up (Word, prayer, etc), being vital to discipleship, can only be effectively observed through the right person…?

  2. Great post Lazo! Love the five points. These are so huge. I’m very interested in this too. Thanks for articulating what many Christians are feeling.

  3. (Prying open legalism in ‘seasoned’ believers) You’re right, it’s nothing new. I think it’s motivated by fear/reward. If I follow the rules, God will do what I want him to, if I don’t follow the rules, I’ll reap the consequences. After a while the FOCUS of our ‘walk’ should change. Instead of being worried about following the rules, we need to be focused on others who may not have hope and transformation in their lives <– It should break our heart. Too often I see 'church-goers' stuck on their own lives as an ongoing spiritual project, and forgetting to share the grace they've been given. Thanks for the reply.

  4. Love it! This is right on Lazo!

  5. I thought of a couple of things when I read this post and the latest one;

    1) Often we don’t do as the apostle Paul did. We actually preach ourselves. “What does it mean to “not preach ourselves?” It means that we don’t put ourselves forward as the appeal to unbelievers in our ministry. We don’t make our methodology or our style the draw. We don’t appeal to that which is fleshly or worldly in the unbeliever in order to attract and compel their participation. Instead, we do everything we can to get ourselves out of the way so as to be merely incidental—merely the finger that points to the substance, to the content of the message: that Jesus Christ is Lord”.

    2) http://www.anchoredintruth.org/default.aspx?p=80337&beid=115444

    • I agree with not preaching ourselves, not getting in the way, and not pointing to ourselves. But those things do not necessarily imply a connection between discipleship and methodology. Methodology is as good or as “in the way” as we choose to make it. And let’s be honest, we do use some methodology to attract people. We open our doors every week, whether church building or fellowship. The issue is wrong methodology.

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