Shepherding/Discipleship Movement Survivor's Blog

The present-day impact of the Shepherding/Discipleship movement from the perspective of a former member of Morning Star International (now Every Nation Churches and Ministries).

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Whose Disciples?

I suppose if I'm going to write about shepherding-style discipleship, I should also probably give some examples of what I think Biblical discipleship is in contrast to "shepherding." This entry is going to be short today, but I'll give a few tidbits to get started.

Jesus in the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20) states:

"Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."

So, a "disciple" is one who obeys everything that Jesus commanded, and "discipleship" is simply teaching disciples to obey everything He commanded His disciples to do. However, the last sentence is key to this. Jesus Christ is with us in the Counselor He sent, who would be with us until the end of the age... the third Person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit. So we are not merely making copies of copies of copies of disciples; by the power of the Holy Spirit disciples of Jesus Christ Himself are made. Jesus Himself is really our teacher, and will be until the very end of the age.

Shepherding-style discipleship gets the part about the need to make disciples right, but tends to forget that last sentence. Without the Holy Spirit, the only way to make a disciple of Christ is to make copies of copies of copies, and this is assuming that with time the copies wouldn't fade. So instead of making disciples of Christ, a disciple of a disciple of Christ is made. Multiply that by the number of generations since Christ's ascension and you get something akin to apostolic succession.

Here are some examples of shepherding-style discipleship (emphases mine):

  • God not only drew you to Himself through someone (the person who led you to Christ), but he gave you to others (to those you lead to Christ).
  • In discipleship, you reproduce in others only what you are yourself.
  • Your ability to give correction, instruction, reproof, and rebuke may well determine the quality of your disciples.
  • Our willingness to speak the truth in love proves your authority over and love for those you disciple.
  • Your ability to receive correction will determine the kind of disciples you will produce.

Note the emphases on "you" and "your." This is classic shepherding. However, in Biblical context, these aren't supposed to be "your" disciples, they are CHRIST'S disciples!

I also have a little issue with the first point, because of John 6:44-45, as well as my own personal experience. I was saved on the first Saturday of January, 1998, on my way home from the laundromat. I was alone, though not really alone. That is when I finally surrendered to Him after years of pretending to be a Christian, but knowing in my heart of hearts that my inner life was very different from the real born-again Christians I had met during my time in Nashville. They were alive and I was dead - that simple. And I wanted to live, and faced with the fact that the only door to eternal life was Jesus I knew that standing in front of the door while merely acknowledging that the door existed wasn't going to cut it. I had to surrender to Him and walk through. The Lord can draw us to the truth in Christ through other Christians, but also through the Word, directly, or even by a combination of these. The Holy Spirit is sovereign and has the ability to move outside of the disciple-to-disciple relationship.

I was going to post a really good counter-example of what I consider Biblical discipleship, but I went back to the church website where I originally found it, and now they have stuff about accountability, being disciplined by church leadership and submitting to Jesus's lordship by submitting to the "discipleship process." Boo-hoo.

Now, I don't at all discount the need to teach people all that He commanded. I didn't automatically know how to live as a Christian after I got home from the laundromat that day. But we must remember that those we teach are His disciples, not ours.

blessings, ulyankee


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