All our words, from loose using, have lost their edge. – Ernest Hemmingway
Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. – Jesus (Matthew 16:24)
What is discipleship? It is a word that has come to mean both everything and nothing and this is largely because our efforts to define the word normally relate to the actions associated with discipleship rather than understanding the core issues involved. This is why in some circles discipleship has come to mean evangelism, in other circles it means bible study, scripture memory, and the pursuit of personal holiness, still in other circles it means being active in missional engagement.
But these things are the fruit of discipleship, not the tree itself. To define discipleship in these terms would be like describing marriage as sex, or parenting, or filing for joint bank accounts. It certainly CAN describe the word, but it definitely doesn’t encompass it.
And if we’re honest, this is a big problem right? Jesus left us with a central command to go into all the world and make disciples, and many of us can’t even agree on what that means practically. But if we’re honest, our problem doesn’t really come from a lack of understanding, it comes from our unwillingness to swallow the distasteful words that Jesus plainly speaks. Deny yourself, take up your cross, follow me.
The truth is that we have selfish and rebellious hearts that chafe under the command to humble ourselves and submit to the will and authority of one who is higher than us. The truth is that we are afraid of any cross, because we are afraid of death and pain. And the truth is that our claims to “follow Jesus” are related much more to our minds and words than to our hands and feet. At least this is the truth about me.
Is it really more complicated than that though? Has the word discipleship lost the edge that it was intended to have? At WDA we’ve thought about this a lot; take some time and check out some more of how we’ve tried to work this out in the day to day and please share your thoughts in the comments.