It’s been many years ago now, but I remember experiencing my first disappointing discipleship experience as a discipler. The young man and I had a lot in common and we both seemed eager about walking together over the next year. In the spirit of charity, “Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things,” I chose not to get too excited about some issues that manifested early on.
As time went on though, those issues continued, and it became clear to me that our views of discipleship were not the same. For him, scheduled discipleship meetings were just that, they were on the schedule. Actually showing up for them, was a different conversation. To date myself here, cancellations were intentionally left on my “answering machine” in the middle of the day when I was at work. For those of you in C&YA wondering what an answering machine is, see Pastor Brandon!
Over the years, I’ve learned that faithful attendance in discipleship is directly tied to church attendance. In other words, someone who is unfaithful in attending scheduled discipleship meetings will repeat that behavior in their church attendance. This was the case here, and when this is case, this is never the only issue you’re dealing with. As it pertained to this individual, everything from memory verses to “questionable” relationship decisions were topics for discussion. Whenever we did meet, it wasn’t to study the lessons. Our time was spent on whether or not he really wanted to be discipled. Of course, he said he did, but his walk screamed otherwise. That became crystal clear when I received another cancellation on my answer machine in the middle of day except, there was something very unique about this message. After he ended his message, I could hear him pressing the end button on his phone “believing” he had ended the call. The problem was, he didn’t complete this fully. For about 60 seconds, the phone captured a conversation between him and another man in his car. This was someone that I had warned him not to walk with (Pro. 13:20). What was obvious in that conversation was he had no interest in getting discipled at that time and discipleship would officially end shortly after that.
While the Cost of Discipleship process at MBT has improved our overall discipleship quality, it’s not fail proof by any means. With enough ministry experience, we all learn that some people hear what they want to hear, not what is actually being taught. In COD, we try to paint a very clear biblical picture of discipleship and what people should expect. Despite doing that as clearly as we know how, some will move forward into a formal discipleship relationship to only struggle with the biblical expectations of discipleship.
Having had my fair share of those experiences, here are some takeaways that have settled firmly with me:
1. I cannot make anyone succeed or fail.
Success or failure in discipleship has everything to do with what someone does with the Word of God (Jos. 1:8; Psa. 1:1-3), not me. Trying to get the ideal match between discipler and disciple is a valid discussion, but it is not what ultimately determines whether someone succeeds or fails in discipleship. As a matter of fact, they could be polar opposites, but if the heart of the disciple is soft, they will receive the Word of God and succeed in discipleship!
We must be very careful here, because if we're going to own the failure of someone who fails in discipleship, by default, we have to own the success when they succeed.
2. I cannot disciple someone who is unfaithful.
We can only disciple FAITHFUL people (2 Tim. 2:2) and faithfulness has everything to do with heart attitude. Someone who is unwilling to faithfully attend discipleship meetings and faithfully assemble with the local church body, cannot be established in the local church and therefore, cannot be discipled.
3. I have to move forward after a disappointing discipleship experience.
At Midtown, we love discipleship and we’re very passionate about it! It’s a very, very special thing to behold and to be a part of. So, when someone fails in discipleship, discouragement can set in and tempt us to step back. A good principle to abide by in leadership is, never allow the dysfunction and disobedience of others to hold you hostage.
They can exercise their free will to dwell there as long as they choose, and the Lord will allow them to do that at their expense. But the Great Commission is too large and too important to get sidelined because someone else is choosing not to come after Christ.
Philippians 3:13 Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, 14 I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.
PASTOR KENNY MORGAN LEADS THE DISCIPLESHIP MINISTRY AT MIDTOWN BAPTIST TEMPLE, WHICH IS A VITAL MINISTRY THAT FOCUSES ON MENTORING GROWING CHRISTIANS. KENNY IS ALSO PASTOR OF LIFE FELLOWSHIP. IN THIS POST KENNY ADDRESSES WHAT IT MEANS TO CONTINUE TO OBEY GOD AT HIS WORD, TO MAKE DISCIPLES AND TO REMEMBER WHERE HE HAS BROUGHT US FROM.