Discipleship Takes Time
Discipleship is a word that continues to be applied in a multitude of ways. To some, it is the process of growth for a believer. To others, it is how we bring someone to faith. The word is used to describe both blocks of time in church programming and the whole foundation of a church’s ministry. It is intensely personal and broadly congregational. However, the word is used, there is a base understanding that it carries. Discipleship is a the word that we associate with a person learning from, following, and obeying Jesus as Lord.
Gaining understanding, maturity, and any level of accomplishment for all disciplines require time. Our faith is no different. No matter how you think about it, discipleship takes time. But, time is a precious commodity. In fact, oftentimes, it is my most valued commodity. We are rushed to accomplish more in less time and sacrifice any time for rest. Additionally, through digital mean, we have instantaneous access to more information than we could ever consume. For the life of the church, in any given city, there are more hours of church ministry and programming that is possible to be involved in during any given week. All of this often adds up to a feeling of hurrying through discipleship.
My encouragement is to realize that growth takes time. Lots of time. Why? Because you are dealing with relationships. As I wrote in Transformational Discipleship, it is more than merely consuming information and modifying your behavior. It is relating day-by-day to Jesus and His church. To think about this more clearly, I put down these five principles to carry with us as we think about discipleship.
1. Slow learning. The new show Intelligence features a soldier who has a chip implanted in his brain so that he can access the information grid of Internet, surveillance cameras, cell phones, and all the rest. He can access all information on the planet instantaneously. But that is not all there is to learning. Learning from Jesus takes time because it requires us to process what we learn and apply it to our lives.
2. Crockpot community. In a recent gathering of church planters in Nashville, one of guys used this phrase to describe how they establish relationships. It is a brilliant phrase and accurate. Discipleship is highly relational and we need to allow time for those relationships to form, develop, and bear fruit. We would be wise to stop randomly throwing people together into groups and, instead, allow for deep friendships to form over time.
3. Messy relationships. Ministry, in all forms, is messy because people are involved. Being in a discipling relationship requires you to enter into the mess of another person’s life. It also requires you to allow others into the mess of your life. The truth inherent in that mode of living takes a great amount of time to form, develop, and sustain.
4. Authenticity. It is a principle that is under the surface in the last two ideas but needs to be stated plainly. Sadly, though, the term “authenticity” has almost fallen to the place of a buzzword in our churches. You can be honest in the flash of a second but to be authentically relating to other people takes time. The one being discipled and the only doing the discipling must prove to be trusting and trustworthy over the long haul. It must move beyond quips of self-deprecating humor to the honest conversations about the state of our souls.
5. Delayed gratification. The great key for many of us in discipleship is the willingness to delay instant gratification while we and others are in the growth process. If maturing were easy, everyone would do it. But it is not and so many fall away from the journey. As a leader or a follower, we need to show patience as the Lord shows it continuously. As we delay our infantile need to gain complete satisfaction by our own efforts and the efforts of others, then we will better enjoy what God is currently doing among us.