The Minister’s Discipleship Dilemma: Four Things Holding Us Back

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I have known for years that I needed to emphasize discipleship but a few things held me back. I know I cannot be alone in this. Maybe you can relate. Here are some factors that are keeping us (me at least) from doing more discipling.

1 – We weren’t discipled
Most of us didn’t grow up in intentional discipling relationships. It wasn’t modeled for us. That means it wasn’t and isn’t the norm in our churches. We focused on other things, mostly our emphasizing our distinctiveness over discipling.

2 – We weren’t trained
Not only did we not experience it personally, our schooling didn’t focus on it either. University training often did two things: 1) prepare students theologically ahead of the churches they would minister with (which leads to frustration) and 2) training students to fit current models of congregational ministry (practices). Since churches weren’t discipling it didn’t make sense to train students for something they wouldn’t be faced with.

3 – Lack of elder support
Once we landed in churches where discipling wasn’t the norm we found ourselves among elders who knew how to do things as they had always done. This isn’t a criticism, just a description. The culture wasn’t oriented toward making disciples and when you come into a new church you learn how to fit into the culture you signed on for.

4 – The job description
Ministers were already being asked to be and do so many other things than disciple people that it wasn’t expected for ministers to disciple others or train people to disciple others. Discipling didn’t fit an already busy job description.

Here is what all of this added up to – ministers coming out of school who had never been discipled and never trained to make disciples, coming into churches where discipleship wasn’t expected (maybe even frowned upon) and couldn’t fit it into an already busy set of expectations.

Something would have to be jettisoned in order to take on discipling. Do you visit less? Spend less time in sermon prep? Teach less classes? Write less curriculum? Do less counseling? All for what? To do something you were never trained to do!

This is just reality and it is a mess. It is important to say that this isn’t about assigning blame. It is about understanding where we came from so we can chart a better course.

Can any of you relate with this?

In the next post I will talk about how we can make some shifts to be pointed toward a healthier tomorrow rather than continuing to repeat the past. We can and will set new norms, with elder support, to create new job descriptions and different expectations. More soon!

4 Responses

  1. And #5: for many ministers, the only group using any discipleship principles became “The Boston Movement” and the International Church of Christ, so any mention of being a disciple was tantamount to declaring yourself a heretic.

  2. With regard to number 2, you talk in terms of a university education. In 60 years I have had one college trained minister with the rest having preacher school training. The main focus at preacher schools seems to be scripture and scripture only.

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