Preface: What we believe either undergirds or undermines everything we do. You’ve probably heard it said that our actions and behaviors are a result of our beliefs. We don’t act in a way that is inconsistent with our beliefs.
So then, what we believe is very important. Especially when it comes to making disciples. I think we all (myself included) have some beliefs that undermine our approach to making disciples, even keeping us from attempting to do so at all.
So, let’s get into some of our misshapen beliefs and see if we can replace them with truth.
Lie #1: The perfection myth: I can’t disciple anyone until I’m a perfect disciple.
We make the mistake of thinking we can’t disciple someone until we’ve got it all down cold. We think, “I don’t know enough and I’m certainly not mature enough. I’ll do it when I feel like I’m ready.” So, we never do.
Along the same lines, we mistakenly think: “I can’t disciple someone because I’ve never been discipled. If no one ever did it to me, how am I supposed to know how to do that for someone else?”
These are valid concerns. Concerns I have had about myself being a discipler of others.
But the truth is, this is a lie. You will probably never arrive at perfection. While the case can be made that it is possible to be like Christ in every way, I’m probably not going to be perfect any time soon.
Truth: Perfection is not a requirement for teaching someone else what you know. You don’t have to know everything perfectly to teach someone what you have learned. You don’t have to know all the ins and outs to effectively teach someone what you’ve learned about following Jesus.
In fact, humility goes a long way in discipleship. I would argue that a humble mentor is even preferable to a “know it all” mentor. The person you’re teaching will be in a better posture to learn if you’re also in a learning posture.
Another truth – you will never feel qualified to make disciples. I have been fortunate to disciple people on several different occasions. And, while I feel like I understand the process more each time, I still don’t feel qualified to do it. If you’re waiting to feel ready, you’ll never start.
Pushback #1: I can hear and feel the pushback on this. Am I saying that everyone is fully discipled from the moment they turn to Christ? No. Am I saying that anyone can mentor anyone? No, not really. (Although, I do think a good mentor is always in a learning position, ready to learn from anyone along the way.)
Response: We will never have it all figured out, so we shouldn’t let that keep us from starting. You may not be a ninja-level follower of Jesus, but that doesn’t mean you can’t help someone younger in the faith than you.
Pushback #2: “But this isn’t the way Jesus made disciples.”
Response: It is and it isn’t. We have to start to see beyond Jesus’ method and look to his intent. I love Jesus’ method. In fact, I would love to be a student to Jesus in this way. Spending a few years following Jesus around, mimicking His every move sounds awesome. But, I also have a wife and four kids, a full-time job and live in the 21st century. That’s just not going to happen. And I’m a pastor. If I’m willing to go to that extreme, I can all but guarantee that’s going to prevent 99.9% of people from becoming a disciple.
So, we can be “purists” and use this as an excuse for not making disciples. “People just are truly committed to following Jesus anymore. I want to make disciples, but no one will come live with me for three years.” Or, we look to the intent of disciple-making and seek to discover different methods. Maybe they won’t be as effective as Jesus, but if the end result is being more like Christ than when we started, that’s a good thing.
Responsibility: You are merely responsible to teach others what you know about following Jesus. If you are both a mentor (teacher) and learner (student), then you will always be in the process of learning more about following Jesus and teaching those behind you to follow Jesus. No one is responsible for the transformation of another. But we are responsible to pass on what we know to those who don’t know it yet. And this is the very essence of making disciples – Teaching others how to obey. We do this by teaching others how WE obey Jesus’ commands.
How has the perfection myth kept you from making disciples?