Discipleship: Where to Begin
Start with a destination in mind. Yogi Berra knew it, “If you don’t know where you’re going, you might wind up someplace else!” If you don’t know where your spiritual life is going, where might you wind up?
The first question on the mind of a disciple must be, “Where am I going?” Churches that develop a discipleship process ask the same question but with a “body of Christ” perspective: “In whose image are we making disciples?” What is the destination of a disciple?
It takes many diverse people with a variety of talents, gifts and passions to fulfill the mission of the church. Our spiritual diversity complicates the destination question. Disciples start the journey from different spiritual places. Churches make disciples through various entry points that invite and guide everyone toward the final destination regardless of where they start. A drive to Columbia may start in Kansas City or St. Louis or Springfield, but the destination is the same. A clear destination in Jesus Christ is necessary no matter where a disciple starts.
But, how do disciples wind up somewhere else, detoured? Churches may define the destination narrowly as a small group ministry, faith development, a class, church membership or a training session. All these play an important role but fall short of what Paul called “...the whole measure of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:15). Starting a discipleship journey with a destination short of the fullness of Christ will disappoint or disillusion a disciple. As odd as it sounds, sometimes religion gets in the way. Apart from a clear destination, well-intended traditions, rituals and disciplines may only support the “we’ve always done it this way” methodology. Focus on the disciple’s destination.
Dan Glover in his book, “Deepening Your Effectiveness,” asks the destination question this way, “What does a fully committed follower of Jesus Christ look like as a result of being discipled in my church?” The answer defines a destination. Bishop Schnase in his book, “Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations,” says the five practices “chart the path for growth in personal discipleship.” The destination is defined by the charted path. Author Dallas Willard says that discipleship is “taking on the character of Christ in the person.” That character is the destination.
The response is always centered on Christ no matter how the destination question is asked. Jesus’ invitation to “follow me” appears 21 times in the gospels emphasizing the path to a particular destination. His invitation is the answer to the prevenient question, “How do I find my destination?”
Eugene Peterson, author of “The Message,” says that becoming a mature disciple takes time, cannot be hurried, requires rest stops and there are no shortcuts. Find your passion. Enjoy the journey with Christ. Expect an occasional detour, but always keep the destination in front of you. Our mission is to make disciples for Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. An undefined destination equals no transformation – so, where are you going?