Hello my name is Matt and I am wrestling with discipleship. I grew up in church. My mom and dad made that a big priority growing up. They took my brother and I to church every week and taught us about God, Jesus, the Bible, and how to live the Christian life.
I suspect many of you started off on a very similar note. Maybe you came to Christianity later in life or maybe you aren’t all in yet yourself but I suspect many of you were brought up in church. Maybe you, like me, are looking for something deeper than our churches have seemed to offer. More on that in a moment.
I had a number of great Bible class teachers. I heard from some solid preachers. It was my desire to live for God and do what was right and please God with my life from a very early age.
One of the things that has been a struggle for me but also a blessing is being an introvert. When I knew I wanted to be baptized I didn’t want to do it in front of everyone. That was far too frightening. My parents and I talked it over. They called the church office and arranged for the preacher, Stan Webb, to baptize me in the middle of the week with just my family and him present at our church the Lafayette Church of Christ in Ballwin, MO.
It seems like just yesterday I came out of that water with an overwhelming desire to not sin. To not mess up the cleaning that Jesus had just done to my soul. When people heard I had been baptized they told me what a great decision I had made. They were right. They told me how proud they were of me. And they were. No one told me at the ripe young age of 11 that when you pick Jesus the devil comes at you harder than ever. I knew it was a commitment and I meant the promise I was making. I had no idea how difficult it would be to keep. Because no one talks about their problems it is easy to feel like you are the only one who finds it difficult. More on that another day.
I continued to learn and grow and my parents got me in a good youth group and continued to encourage me in my faith when we moved from Saint Louis to North Alabama when I was in the 8th grade.
At this point I was surrounded by godly influences. I had great Christian parents who were encouraging me in the right ways. But if you had asked me what a disciple was I think I would have said the 12 men who followed Jesus. Maybe you felt the same way. Maybe you still do.
Discipleship was a foreign concept. Baptism and conversion was front and center but how you go and grow from there was not. The idea, I think, was that you keep going to church, read your Bible and pray and you will get there. Attendance was pretty much the mark of faithfulness. It is what was expected.
From that point in my teenage years into my mid 20s I had a number of people influence my faith. There were undergrad professors at Harding that had a profound influence on me: Dale Manor, Dr. Thomas in the psychology department, Ken Hobby, and many others. When I went off to grad school at the University of Florida there were people at the University City Church of Christ who supported and encouraged me. When I dropped out of the doctoral program in 2002 and moved to Memphis to attend Harding School of Theology I had grad school professors who stretched my faith: Evertt Huffard, Allen Black, Mark Powell, Dave Bland and so many others. I had friends who were far more mature than I was who challenged my walk. I knew older people who I appreciated their faithfulness and their example more from a distance. Of course I always had my parents and I knew faith was important to them.
But I didn’t have anyone to disciple me intentionally. I cannot say there has been a single moment in my life where (outside my parents) a more mature Christian paired up with me to show me how to do life the Jesus way. Never an elder, professor, older/wiser church member, etc. Not once.
Can you say the same?
I bet you can because the more Christians I ask about the more I get the same answer – they weren’t discipled either.
It is time to change all of that. In one generation we can change our church culture from “church culture” to a “discipleship culture.” I plan to help make that happen.
It starts with telling our stories. Then we listen for the commonality. We engage in prayer asking for guidance because for most of doing life as a disciple and not just as a nominal Christian is a new way of living, doing and most importantly being. We don’t have good models because we never got it ourselves. The good news is we do have the perfect model and discipler – Jesus. He is always available but we do need others in our lives to help us with this and we need to help others ourselves.
We need each other on this. I need you on this.
So here is how you can help out right now. Let us all know in the comments if you were ever intentionally discipled by someone other than your parents. Who was it? How did they do it?
Let us know if you never were as well and what you think about that.