It is likely that you have heard the phrase “seeing is believing.” How true this is, especially when it come to the subject of discipleship. From heaven on high, God knew all along that it would be necessary for HIs Son to take on human flesh and physically show Himself to humanity. When Yeshua told His disciples to “go and make disciples”, their frame of reference was the three and a half years He had made Himself completely available to them as their Discipler.
And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.- John 1:14
With the exception of His daily time alone with His Father, Jesus was constantly “on stage” being observed by His followers, friends, and foes. Over and over again the Apostle John emphasized that he and the other disciples had seen, heard, and touched the second person of the Godhead. Yeshua’s inner circle of friends experienced Him 24/7, day after day. Jesus hid nothing from His disciples. This validated all that He taught them. Their constant exposure to Yeshua was transformational. The Church has lost sight of the necessity of the almost daily availability and exposure of disciplers with those they would disciple.
This week, I’ll begin working with a young man who was in my home over the weekend. Since then we have emailed, talked on the phone, texted, and “skyped” a number of times. It has been fun! On Thursday night we will begin the process of laying a biblical foundation to his new life in Messiah. But in order to have the transformational outcome both of us seek, we will need to do life together over an extended period of time.
Only then will he be able to validate whether or not I am actually doing what I am saying. There is no substitute for disciples having continual life-on-life access to those that would be their disciplers. Anything less is simply the downloading of information. Equating discipleship with the making of smarter believers only leads to the puffiness of pride. We all know what that looks like, and it is never pretty! It is unfortunate, but the world generally sees that kind of inflated pride and comparative judgment almost everywhere they look in the Body of Messiah. It negates our witness and life testimony.
Perhaps it is the fear of what intimacy and disclosure will reveal about us that short-circuits the desire of individual believers to dare to disciple others. Most of us are self-aware enough to know that if we give others constant access to our lives they may discover what we would rather sweep under the rug and ignore. You see, the biblical discipling relationship is not only transformational for the discipled, but also for the discipler. It doesn’t make any difference how good a sharpening rod is. If it is never brought into contact with a knife, its potential for transformation is never realized. The sharpening rod that never gets out of the drawer is absolutely useless. The believer that refuses to give others access to his/her life is useless!
Let’s take this one step further by asking a couple of uncomfortable questions.
1. Could it be that local churches constantly looking to attract larger and larger numbers of people doom the people currently in their pews to increasing spiritual isolation and defeat? Jesus, the Good Shepherd, restricted His discipling ministry to a small group of men. Within that tightly knit circle of twelve, there was an inner group of three. Everyone knew who those men were because He was always seen with them everywhere.
2. What does God demand of those who are the under-shepherds of the Good Shepherd in the area of being an example of life-on-life disciple making activity? Local church pastors, elders, and other ministry leaders that do not smell like their sheep are nothing more than figureheads who are seen and heard. They are like the Pharisees that Jesus condemned for laying a burden on His sheep, burdens that they themselves could not bear. Every local church member should know that their pastors and elders are worthy of their positions because they are observed practicing what is preached. If the Christian “talking-heads” you look to are not in regularly occurring life-on-life relationships, don’t sit under their teaching. They don’t know what they are talking about!
Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light. – Jesus