Discipleship and Submission

If we realize the large emphasis in the Scriptures on evangelism, then we must equally recognize the emphasis on discipleship. Matt 28.19 basically tells us that the end of evangelism results in the beginning of discipleship. Of course this ideal situation – which should be the norm – is far from it. Practically no one evangelizes, and even less disciple. Yet discipleship ensures the future of Christianity. If you have children, they are your future. If you said you loved them, but instead of saving up money for their college education, you spent it on a really nice car, or a jacuzzi, did you really love them? How can you love something, and not care about its future?

One of the most amazing things Jesus did was turn his disciples, notably the eleven – mostly peasants from Galilee – into men entirely sold out for what they believed. How did Jesus do this? By going out to do his job with them. When he went to preach, he took them. When he went to teach, he took them. He often did odd things in front of them to teach them. He corrected them every change he got. Why? Because he cared. Most Christians are unwilling to inconvenience themselves, to spend their extra time, working with younger Christians. It just doesn’t happen anymore today. Often times the young Christian is left to figure things out for themselves. It seems that every generation has to start from scratch making the same mistakes the generation before them did – so they can learn from them. We should hope that those we teach and disciple become more committed, more learned, and more powerful Christians than we are. Why? Because we care about our future.
The only thing a young Christians needs to do in this situation is submit. This seems to be a “word from the LORD” for me lately as I keep saying it over and over to many people I talk with. Submission is a critical aspect that we’ve forgotten. We all think that we submit to God, even if we aren’t. As my father always told me, “Man is the great rationalizer”, they will convince themselves what they are doing is right. And if you’ve gone out preaching the Gospel you know this is a true statement. Just as 1 John says if you say you love God, but don’t love your brother who you can see, you are a liar. The same is true for submission. If you don’t submit to your brother who you can see, you are not submitting to God.

I sincerely hope that we Christians can change our track record on this subject. There are many groups throughout history for which this was their chief method of survival, and has since been their fame. Sparta, the Samurai, Renaissance artistry, lawyers, doctors, even theology – prestige has always been given based on who you studied under. May we each study under Christ, and under an elder Christian. May those learned elders rise up, and the younger submit.

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10 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Steve on September 30, 2007 at 7:31 pm

    John,

    If you haven’t already read Alexander Balmain Bruce’s classic “The Training of the Twelve” I think you’d enjoy it. He shows how Jesus carefully and thoroughly mentored the twelve on a daily basis.

    On the subject of “submitting” to our spiritual leaders, I think one of the reasons this has become unpopular is that too many ‘leaders’ have abused their position and taken advantage of their followers, either for personal profit, sexual gratification, or power. We have become suspicious, cynical, untrusting and cautious, and all for good reason.

    For leaders to become good mentors they must earn trust rather than demand submission.

    Reply

  2. Servitude is the standard for leadership in the church. This is important to remember for all of us. The love of God as shown through the cross indicates the willingness of even the greatest among us to be our servant.

    As for discipleship as discussed in this post – I think it is so important. The gospel proclaimation is critical and first in the sequence, but discipleship cannot be neglected. I remember a sad situation that I was involved in a few years ago. We did some evangelism at a local college and got a good number of people who responded. While we spoke to these people they would give us their email address and even their phone numbers at time. We would speak to a number of people each Wednesday and then head back home after talking them and usually I would head immediately to work for the rest of the night.

    You know what, although I was very happy that I was preaching the gospel to these people, and although I don’t know what happened beyond seeing them – I did not email or call anyone who gave me their email address. This was not right.

    Though this is not complete discipleship and training but it does indicate that I neglected the next step in the process and I am not proud of this at all.

    We had a discussion at our small group fellowship this week about this very issue. One of the members of our fellowship brought up the issue that she remembered that when she initially came to the church everyone really welcomed and reached out to her – she really wanted to make sure that that practice continued – it should if we follow the Scriptures.

    Reply

  3. Isn’t it more than welcoming and reaching out? Why is it that every Christian – seemingly – has to walk this path alone? Isn’t it actually living with the person (as much as is possible today), being involved in one another’s life, and teaching one another? Teaching isn’t only done from a pulpit one day a week.

    Reply

  4. I agree it is much more than just welcoming and reaching out. I gave that example because even that minimal step is even overlooked.

    I really look at the latter part of Acts 2 as the biblical model for the formation and sustaining of the church.

    Acts 2:42-47 – They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles. And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need. Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.

    Reply

  5. John and Victor,

    I couldn’t agree more – but I think it’s difficult for us to overcome the way our society conditions us to think. We have our own nuclear family, and then we have our church brethren that we see once or twice a week. Full sharing, that is communal living, has been practiced by some groups, but they are few and far between. Most of the time, they are thought of as weird or a little bit crazy.

    Could we really live the way the 1st century Christians did, with all things in common? Can we expect to see the same power and outreach if we do not?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bruderhof_Communities

    Reply

  6. The result of living “everything in common” was that every need was met – that is the purpose of Christian brotherhood. I’ve met a group that basically lives all in the same apt building and they own the building. It was a great testimony to their faith.

    Reply

  7. John,

    Unfortunately they’re the exception, not the norm. What happens is most families want some privacy and their own home. Once that happens it’s hard not to think of “my stuff” vs “your stuff”. The real issue is that it’s all God’s stuff. I remember reading something in The Shepherd of Hermas and I’ll copy it here as it speaks to these things.

    AS IN THIS WORLD WE HAVE NO ABIDING CITY, WE OUGHT TO SEEK ONE TO COME.

    HE says to me, “You know that you who are the servants of God dwell in a strange land; for your city is far away from this one. If, then,” he continues, “you know your city in which you are to dwell, why do ye here provide lands, and make expensive preparations, and accumulate dwellings and useless buildings? He who makes such preparations for this city cannot return again to his own. Oh foolish, and unstable, and miserable man! Dost thou not understand that all these things belong to another, and are under the power of another? for the lord of this city will say, ‘I do not wish thee to dwell in my city; but depart from this city, because thou obeyest not my laws.’ Thou, therefore, although having fields and houses, and many other things, when cast out by him, what wilt thou do with thy land, and house, and other possessions which thou hast gathered to thyself? For the lord of this country justly says to thee, ‘Either obey my laws or depart from my dominion.’ What, then, dost thou intend to do, having a law in thine own city, on account of thy lands, and the rest of thy possessions? Thou shalt altogether deny thy law, and walk according to the law of this city. See lest it be to thy hurt to deny thy law; for if thou shalt desire to return to thy city, thou wilt not be received, because thou hast denied the law of thy city, but wilt be excluded from it. Have a care, therefore: as one living in a foreign land, make no further preparations for thyself than such merely as may be sufficient; and be ready, when the master of this city shall come to cast thee out for disobeying his law, to leave his city, and to depart to thine own, and to obey thine own law without being exposed to annoyance, but in great joy. Have a care, then, ye who serve the Lord, and have Him in your heart, that ye work the works of God, remembering His commandments and promises which He promised, and believe that He will bring them to pass if His commandments be observed. Instead of lands, therefore, buy afflicted souls, according as each one is able, and visit widows and orphans, and do not overlook them; and spend your wealth and all your preparations, which ye received from the Lord, upon such lands and houses. For to this end did the Master make you rich, that you might perform these services unto Him; and it is much better to purchase such lands, and possessions, and houses, as you will find in your own city, when you come to reside in it. This is a noble and sacred expenditure, attended neither with sorrow nor fear, but with joy. Do not practise the expenditure of the heathen, for it is injurious to you who are the servants of God; but practise an expenditure of your own, in which ye can rejoice; and do not corrupt nor touch what is another’s nor covet it, for it is an evil thing to covet the goods of other men; but work thine own work, and thou wilt be saved.”

    Steve

    Reply

  8. I have met a group like this as well. It is very appealing to me.

    I have seen how important the Kingdom aspect of the gospel is. When people initially come to Christ (through the gospel), the element of separation from the world should follow after as it did in Acts 2 because of the fact that the gospel includes the information of the coming Kingdom judgement and restoration.

    Suddenly, even the people who until now have been very different to me, or perhaps even an enemy to me now become the only people like me because they too are living in light of the coming Kingdom.

    Reply

  9. Hmmm… Do you understand my entire noise I have a nice joke for you) What’s the difference between boogers and broccoli? Kids won’t eat broccoli.

    Reply

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