A question I received this week - Is Discipling a fancy word for mentoring?
It’s a great question!
On the surface Discipling and Mentoring look very similar; after all mentoring is basically a general term used when someone asks another person to advise them in a certain set of skills or a life area, and discipling shares this aspect to some degree. Both have the goal of helping someone else to learn and grow (usually one-on-one) and both are relational in nature. However, this is about where the similarities stop.
In mentoring the saying goes “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach him how to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” The object is to help the mentee grow in the area of their choosing, to their agenda and for their benefit. But when Jesus taught about fishing he said, “Come follow me and I will make you fishers of men (Matthew 4:19). Jesus didn’t come to help his disciples to do what they were already doing better, he came to change the very purpose of their lives. Essentially the message of Jesus is “follow me” or “become like me”, in other words to trade our purpose for His purpose, to exchange the temporal for the eternal. Disciplemaking then, rather than being at the request of the mentee for their own benefit, is rather, a matter of obedience as we respond to Christ’s command to “Go and make disciples” (Matthew 28:19); in other words to lead and guide someone in becoming a strong, fruitful disciple to the glory of God, and the expansion of His kingdom.
By nature discipling is an intentional investment in the growth and maturity of another in Christ; the role is to actively equip a person with the necessary spiritual discipline and resources that will allow them accomplish the mission that God calls them to; to enable them to become a strong, fruitful disciple in their own right (2 Timothy 2:2); to present them fully mature in Christ (Colossians 1:28).
Disciple-making is the model given to us by Jesus himself to bring about His purposes in the world. It is a powerful, purposeful and intentional labour of love, leading, teaching, correcting, and praying for those who God will give us to disciple. As we faithfully water, He brings about transformational growth.
Grace & Peace
In John 15:16, Jesus said, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit.”
Even before COVID-19 the Australian church and the Western Church more broadly had been in decline for decades. So, as we now look to build our pathway out of isolation, perhaps it is time to look at how we operate together as the church; how we are being the hands and feet of Jesus in the world; and how we are taking up God’s mission to “go and make disciples” (Matthew 28:19).
Biblically speaking discipleship is not so much a program, but a culture. The ultimate goal of a discipleship is multiplying faithful followers of Christ to the ends of the earth and to the end of time. Jesus envisioned that the world would be won to to him through the witnessing, teaching and example of His followers. That is His plan! Disciples encouraging and maturing each other, refining our lives until every area of our life simply oozes the love and light of Christ, and bringing others into relationship with Him by intentionally loving those around us in Jesus name. Programs are sometimes valuable parts of a disciple making culture, but in and of themselves can not fulfil the mission to create disciples who in turn make disciples. Discipleship is intentionally relational: the people of God, encouraging each other with the word of God, for the ministry of God, to the glory of God! This was the method given by Jesus, this was the method embraced by the early church, this is the method which will transform the world - one life at a time.
How does it work? Deuteronomy 6:6-7 says, “These words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” Paul writes 1 Corinthians 11:1, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ”, and Philippians 4:9 “What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me – practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” In other words real discipleship happens in the ordinary ebb and flow of life; it must be part of our daily life, not just something we do on Sunday. Practically, on a personal level this investing in our relationship with Christ every day, being willing to look to others for guidance and encouragement in our Christian walk, and then intentionally looking to guide and encourage others as they grow in relationship with Jesus. On a church level disciple-making must sit as the core mission of the church; in disciple-making churches, all members live discipleship personally, talk about it regularly, and go out of their way to make it an everyday reality. Yes they have programs, but they also have pathways, connection/life groups, prayer groups and small group Bible studies. They focus on relational mission and discipleship because they know that this results in Christ-followers who in turn produce Christ-followers. This is what we see take place in the early Church, and this is the mission to which we are called.
We have been commanded to go and make disciples and to bear fruit: This is the mission of God in the hands of ordinary people … are you ready to answer His call?
Grace & Peace
Jen is an energetic and passionate disciple of Christ who loves to share Jesus with anyone who will listen!