The Closest Thing I Have Ever Had to Intentional Discipleship

was when I was a doctoral student at the University of Florida. This thought never occurred to me until my friend Eric and I were talking about graduate education and he brought up the point that it really is a discipling process. They groom you to become like your professors. Often, they pair you with a mentor or major professor you work alongside. You do research for them and help them publish while they use their grant money to provide you an assistantship to help pay the bills. In the process you learn to think like them, act like them and develop many of the interests they have. They pass on to you skills and expertise that require a tremendous amount of one on one time to attain. None of this happens by accident.

Looking back on that experience it was when I could no longer envision myself actually becoming like any of my professors that I knew I had to withdraw and pursue ministry. There were a few other major factors, September 11th being one of them but it all boiled down to the fact that I didn’t want to fit the mold they were trying to develop me into but I did know someone who I did want to become more like, Jesus. That is when I withdrew and went to Harding School of Theology to learn how to minister but also to become more Christ-like in my life by surrounding myself with professors who were all following Jesus and could help me do the same (1 Cor 11:1).

All that to say, it is a shame that a worldly institution had something in place that I would say is the closest thing I have ever personally experienced that was intended to disciple me and did it well. Now, don’t get me wrong. I am a disciple and have been discipled but the approach was a lot less intentional and a lot more haphazard (almost accidental at times).

Here is what I think it boils down to – time and intention. It takes time to disciple people. Because we have professionalized ministry to such a high degree it has left us with the only people who we think are qualified to do the discipling are paid staff and possibly elders. The problem is, there is no way that few of people have enough time to do it right for as many people as need it. We often don’t do a very good job of delegating responsibilities and so much is left undone or at least done haphazardly with little intentionality. We just can’t allow haphazard and low intentionality to define our discipleship process. There is too much at stake!. We need to equip people to disciple and then release them. Seems like we have a hard time with de-centralizing ministry.

How have you been discipled? What lessons did you learn from that that you have been able to pass on to others?

4 Responses to The Closest Thing I Have Ever Had to Intentional Discipleship

  1. Matt, this is a great post and does bring to mind some faithful brothers who have been part of my discipling process over the years. In all honestly, none of us were much further down the road in becoming a true follower of Jesus, but the most pivotal factor was that we decided to walk the path together. Certainly an obvious mentor may have made things easier, but this form of learning discipleship in a community of peers should not be discounted.

    • Matt Dabbs says:

      Last night in our Baiscs class one of our ladies had a question about her Bible. She was using the amplified Bible and asked why it read so different. We stopped everything and looked at her Bible and taught why it was that way and what the purpose was of all the parenthetical explanations. I bring that up to say we just need to be real and stop to help people with where they are and what their real questions are all about.

  2. I’ve been working with a young preacher in a fairly intentional way as well as with a few others in a more haphazard way. I would certainly have benefited from more intentional mentoring / discipline as I was growing up and as a young preacher. While many have influenced me, I can’t say that anyone ever took me under his wing to see to my spiritual formation as a disciple of Jesus.

  3. Carole Dabbs says:

    In our church we have an Ädopt a College Student” program. We are supposed to contact the student once per month and offer support. It occurs to me that this program, ie. relationship, could function as an intentional disciplining process? Any suggestions to implement intentional disciplining in this context?

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