17 From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” 18 While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. 19 And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Matthew 4:17-19
When you think of discipleship, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? Is it a program? A person? A place? I’ve tended to view discipleship as a checklist to complete, a form to follow. Sometimes I think of discipleship as varying depending on who’s doing it and which model they prefer. Sadly, my idea of discipleship does not automatically include an image of Jesus in my mind or even the kingdom of Heaven.
Before getting into what discipleship is, let’s talk about what discipleship is not. What are some of the common misconceptions? It’s not independent, someone going off doing whatever they view is discipleship. It’s not linear either. It’s not step one, then two and so on until you reach the desired destination or goal. And the process of discipleship is definitely not a cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all kind of deal.
Rather, discipleship is a response. It’s a response to an actual person, Jesus. His invitation is to step into the kingdom of Heaven which is here now, pushing back the kingdom of darkness and of this world. Discipleship with Jesus is a life-long process. It’s an adventurous journey where we are changed from the inside out. It doesn’t just happen with a snap of the finger.
Discipleship is a community project. When Jesus tells his first disciples “I will make you fishers of men,” the word for ‘you’ in Greek is actually plural, not singular. We are not called in isolation to then go out on our own and clone people to be followers of us. No, we are called in community to respond to Jesus’ invitation. Then, we draw others alongside us as we follow Jesus together.
Have you ever stopped to think about what your understanding of discipleship is? Take time today and write your own definition of discipleship. Perhaps you compare notes with a spouse, friend or mentor. Talk through what you’ve understood discipleship to be in the past and how your understanding is being shaped today.
By Ellen Rosenberger