Discipleship?

It’s only just occured to me – discipleship is not in the bible.

The word I mean.

Disciple is.  Obviously.

But not discipleship.

Is that significant?

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The Cambridge online dictionary describes the ‘ship’ suffix as…

having the rank, position, skill or relationship of the stated type

So a lord has the rank or position of lordship.

Scholarship denotes the skill of scholars.

Membership refers to the relationship of members.

So what does discipleship mean?

Is it a rank or position?  Well that’s not really how we use it.  We usually just call someone ‘a disciple’ if we want to refer to their position.

Is it a relationship?  Well maybe.  Discipleship might occasionally describe how we relate to the lordship of Jesus.  Very occasionally.

But most often we use ‘discipleship’ to refer to the skill of being a disciple.  It’s disciple-craft.  It’s the art of following Jesus.

And my question is just this – why talk about the craft of following Jesus?  Why not just talk about following Him?

Or to speak more literally (the greek ‘mathetes’ is where we get the word ‘mathematics’ – it’s about knowledge) – why not just talk about learning from Christ.  We’re not primarily interested in the craft of learning from Jesus.  Shouldn’t the focus be on the actual learning/following/walking/obeying?

We could study disciple-craft all we like.  We could be extremely knowledgeable in the art of discipleship and actually never be a disciple.

So maybe we should forget about discipleship.  Maybe we should just be disciples.

Or have I just shot my mouth off in total ignorance / irrelevance?

There’s always that….

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Posted on by Glen in ethics, pastoral theology

About Glen

I’m a preacher in Eastbourne, married to Emma.

15 Responses to Discipleship?

  1. Heather

    Interesting you should write this. I was noting to Craig the difference in Jesus’ attitude concerning His disciples when compared to that of the Pharisees. At the beginning of Matthew 23, He told the people basically to do as the teachers said, but to not imitate their behavior. Then, He said:

    “But you must not be called Rabbi, for One is your teacher, Christ, and you are all brothers.
    And call no one your father on the earth, for One is your Father in Heaven.
    Nor be called teachers, for One is your Teacher, even Christ.
    But he who is greatest among you shall be your servant.
    And whoever shall exalt himself shall be abased, and he who shall humble himself shall be exalted.” Matthew 23:8-12

    Jesus is King and High Priest, that position is filled. But He also became a brother and servant to us. As we gratefully imitate Him, we are to follow in His example of humbling ourselves rather than grabbing for personal glory.

    The Pharisees taught Scripture, but neither believed, understood nor practiced what they were telling others.

    Jesus did plenty of teaching…and then He lived out the example of what He meant by that teaching.

    I think shooting off your mouth about the need to be a disciple is probably okay when your heart and actions are moving in the same direction.

    I’ve had to learn the hard way that the only way I can be filled to overflowing with Christ is to be constantly “crucifying my own flesh”.

    Hey! the direction of your snow follows the mouse pointer.

  2. Missy

    Hey, Heather! It does! Cool. :D

    Glen, this sounds like something I would say in my study group. I think I might have. I’m known for shooting off at the mouth, though. Make of that as you will. ;)

  3. Glen

    Hey Missy – great to hear from you. I think mouth-shooting must be a pre-requisite for blogging.

    And it goes in the opposite direction to the mouse for me.

    Dontcha wish you were with WordPress?

  4. Dave K

    No, I think that’s quite perceptive.

    Maybe it comes down to the habit we all have of putting some sort of mediator between us and God.

    So we seek to follow the way of following Christ, instead of simply following Christ. It’s a bit like:
    “We trust the bible which is given from God”, not “we trust God who speaks through the bible”, or “we obey the church which is given authority by God”, not “we obey God who expresses his authority through the church”.

    Subtle differences in language which reflect subtle errors in our thinking I think. In some ways its not a big deal. But it does keep God at a safe distance, and prevents things becoming too personal (in either a comfortable or an uncomfortable way).

    Those are my first reflections anyway.

  5. Pete

    Not sure about the snow – can feel like when you’ve been looking at the light for too long and spots appear in front of your eyes – then again maybe that’s the idea… (Might need to put a warning for epilepsy sufferers?!)
    I like the focus that we should “just be disciples”/followers – if only being disciples was as easy as arriving at the neat definition/answer!
    In the light of your correction let’s keep the energy output firmly on encouraging fellow believers to run the race and follow Jesus more closely, and maybe not worry so much about agonising over watertight definitions etc. Or…

  6. Heather

    “Not sure about the snow – can feel like when you’ve been looking at the light for too long and spots appear in front of your eyes – then again maybe that’s the idea… (Might need to put a warning for epilepsy sufferers?!)”

    Yeah, a warning would also be good for those of us who tend to get dizzy while driving in a snowstorm.

    I dunno Glen. Maybe the snow IS too distracting. ;)

    When God finally got it through my head that He’s building a family (rather than a multi-level marketing corporation), my vision concerning authority structure suddenly became much clearer.

    Even the concept of “elders” finally made perfect sense. We’re looking to elder siblings in faith, not micro-managing business supervisors.

    And the more mature brothers/sisters are supposed to be constantly pointing the younger ones to our Daddy. We all grow together.

    I believe that a mark of a good preacher/pastor/elder is that he understands what John the Baptist meant when He said :

    ” He who has the bride is the bridegroom, but the friend of the bridegroom who stands and hears him rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice. Then my joy is fulfilled. He must increase, but I must decrease.”
    (John 3:29-30)

    Teaching has a purpose. And an honorable one.

    But the point is not to build a cult-like following of spiritually crippled dependents. The point is to be leading the charge as we all run into Christ’s arms together.

  7. Glen

    Dave – you said “So we seek to follow the way of following Christ, instead of simply following Christ.” That’s exactly what I was trying to say. Well put!

    Pete – yeah, forget ‘definitions’. And forget disciple-craft as well. Just follow Jesus.

    Heather – never thought of ‘elder’ as ‘elder brother’ – I like it!

  8. Gav

    Christianity isnt in the bible either…..so is that significant also…..nah.

    I looked up Wiki and found this:

    “The term disciple is derived from the New Testament Greek word “μαθητής”. coming to English by way of the Latin discipulus meaning “a learner”. Disciple should not be confused with apostle, meaning “”messenger, he that is sent””. While a disciple is one who learns from a teacher, a student, an apostle is sent to deliver those teachings to others.”

    Our Christianity Explored group is looking at Discipleship Explored. As you will do doubt already know: its a study group that looks at Philippians that “is a letter written to young Christians, encouraging them to stand firm and live for Christ.”

    I reckon keep it.

  9. Glen

    No you’re probably right, Gav. Let’s get rid of ‘Christianity’ too! :D

    Imagine if CE was called “Introducing *Jesus*”

    And then the course after would just be called “Following Jesus”.

    I think it would set things on a better footing.

    But maybe you think I’m being pedantic.

    Do you think I’m being pedantic Gav?

    Do you?

  10. Gav

    Yes I do Glen :D

  11. Glen

    hmph

  12. Gav

    lol

  13. pgjackson

    I’m with Leithart and am ‘against Christianity.’ Though for ease I do use the word. It descends too easily into consigning the gospel merely to the realms of ideas, to being a system of thought, to being another of the world’s ‘isms’ in the market-place of ideas. Being a Christian ends up becoming ‘assenting to this set of ideas rather than this other set over here.’

    Of course, Christ does change the way we think about everything. It’s another case of ‘not less than but far more than.’

  14. Paul Huxley

    I’m with pgjackson with Leithart with Jesus.

    Anyway, on discipleship; I always thought it was the “making of disciples” – ie. evangelism and edification.

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