As Christians, we are called to discipleship. Not simply as a package deal that comes with believing in Christ but as something continuous, as something reflected in all we do, say and think.
Discipleship is not a belief.
Check out this quote from a French communist to a Christian:
The Gospel is a much more powerful weapon for the renewal of society than is our Marxist philosophy; but all the same it is we who will finally beat you. We communists do not play with words. We are realists, and see that we are determined to achieve our object. We know how to obtain the means. How can anybody believe in the suprememe value of this Gospel if you do not practice it, if you do not spread it and if you neither sacrifice time nor money for it? We believe in our communits message and we are ready to sacrifice everything. Even our life, but you people are affraid to soil your hands.
So what does all that really mean? Basically, what he's saying is that as Christians we have a powerful message but none of us actually live it out. We are not effective.
Ouch. That kinda stings doesn't it? Fear not! There is a solution; and that solution is Jesus.
His mission in life was not just to spread teachings but to instil this new way of life; a life of love and community that brings change.
So what does a life of discipleship mean practically?
Let's go back in time a little.
In Jesus' days the concept of discipleship was a common one because Jewish tradition encouraged it. Between the ages of 6 - 10 all kids started to study the Torah. At 10 the best students were picked to continue studying and when they were between 14 - 15 years old they would have their 'final test'. If the boy passed that test they were asked to follow in the discipleship of the Rabbi. This was a big thing - like being picked for the Eurovision. The boys that didn't quite make the cut would be sent back to their families to learn a trade in hope that when they had children maybe their son would be picked. There was always this hope to become a disciple and hopefully one day a Rabbi.
Jesus however, changed things.
His follwers didn't have to jump through hoops, pass countless tests, be the best of the best. They were the 'leftovers', the people that the Rabbis hadn't accepted.
We too are personally called by Jesus. Sometimes we might think, 'Who? Me? I'm no one. I can't speak like that guy can, I can't sing and lead worship like her, I can't play an instrument, I don't have the brains to plan an event, my faith isn't strong enough'. Being a disciple of Jesus, however, doesn't require any of those things.
We sometimes get stuck on the idea of being chosen. We even make it sound like we chose to follow God all on our own. But you see, even before we even considered giving our life to God, He knew about us, He loved us, He called us. HE chose US.
Think of those moments in school when the teacher called out two leaders to pick teams. Do you remember that feeling of 'oh no, I might be picked last'? Well, God didn't pick you last. He called all of us at the same time. We were all called as disciples and we were all called at the same time, as one block.
Let that sink in. God didn't call us as individual followers but he called us within the context of a church and a community. He calls us into a common discipleship. It's a discipleship that doesn't make sense alone.
Let's go through the different callings that come with being a disciple:
1. We're called to Jesus as a person
Jesus called us not to be a disciple of His teaching but a disciple of how He lived. He has to be our number 1 priority.
2. We're called to obey
Although boasting large numbers the Church in the West is probably the least effective. Most members of the Church are happy to go to meetings, sing loadly, raise their hands; but when it comes to translating that obedience into our lives we tend to fail and if we're not doing that, then it's for nothing.
3. We're called to serve
Jesus himself was a servant. He humbled himself in a tremendous way and we need to do the same thing. If we're all trying to dodge being a servant than we're not doing 'discipleship' right. Think of all the times we complained because we had to go out of our way for someone, or because we didn't feel appreciated enough for working so hard. Jesus never complained and it was never about Him. He was called to a simple life, which means we are called to a simple life too (queue number 4).
4. We're called to a simple life
Everyone likes stuff. An abandunce of stuff can make us comfortable and when we're comfrotable it is very hard to shake away that comfort. It is important that we do not get blinded by it. Life comes in seasons - there will be times when we have a lot and there will be times when we don't. If our life centers around all the things we have the pinch is going to be much more painful when those things are gone.
Service as disciples can also have it's temptations - temptations that Jesus pointed out to his own disciples.
Firstly, part of discipleship means correcting each other. This does not mean we can blatantly tell someone 'Oh, that was so bad. You're doing it wrong'. We must learn to correct each other productively and help each other grow.
Secondly, Jesus corrected his disciples in their service. The first was their over ambitious service. The disciples had conversations about who would be the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven, they argued over who would get to sit next to Jesus, over who would be seen as the 'best servant'. The second was a self pitying service. Peter told Jesus that he left everything behind for Jesus, he pitied himself.
We must be careful in our service.
5. We're called to suffer
Jesus suffered in every aspect of his life. In the same way we're called to be His disciples till the end, even if that means suffering.
So, let's go full circle. We're called irrespective of our qualifications. Being a disciple, following in the footsteps of Jesus, does not require you to have a certain amount of degrees, to know how to sing, to be a charismatic person.
The Holy Spirit uses you no matter what, as long as you're open to Him. The bottom line is summarised in 1Corinthians 1 : 26 - 27
26 Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth.27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.