Is Being Discipled a Need or a Luxury?

What would you say? Is being discipled a need or a luxury?

Think carefully before you respond. Your answer will determine what you expect from yourself and others you disciple. Let’s explore both options:

Option One: A person needs to be discipled by another to reach maturity and fruitfulness. This isn’t to say that it can’t happen without being discipled, but simply that you shouldn’t expect it.

Option Two: A person doesn’t need to be discipled by another to reach maturity and fruitfulness, but it does help. Some will have the luxury of being discipled and others never will. Regardless, such a person should reach maturity and fruitfulness.

It’s an important question. In fact, your answer to this question will impact how you engage in disciplemaking. Most people go with Option One. Here’s why:

If you’ve been personally discipled then you know the power of having a person who loves you like a best friend, challenges you like a personal trainer, and inspires you like a three-year-old is by his dad. Even if your experience is only a glimpse of these things, then you’d still have a powerful testimony of how being discipled helped you reach maturity and fruitfulness. Option One is obvious to you.

If you’re a disciplemaker then you, too, are more likely to believe Option One. As you pour your life into others you can see the Spirit working to grow them as you disciple them. You also know that the person you’re discipling hadn’t reach a point of maturity and fruitfulness prior to being discipled by you.

You’re also more likely to believe Option One if you are a Christian who isn’t mature or fruitful. It’s certainly more appealing than blaming yourself. Most Christians feel that they’ve basically done what they were told. They believed in the Good News of Jesus and were baptized. They attend church regularly, read their Bibles occasionally and have joined small groups. As the years have passed they’ve experienced a little growth, but they’ve also noticed a nagging sense that there should be more. When disciplemaking is promoted, many people naturally blame their immaturity on never being discipled.

There’s one big problem with Option One though. It’s not what Scripture teaches. Here’s how I know:

If being discipled was needed for maturity and fruitfulness, then 2 Peter 1:3-4 couldn’t be true. He has given us everything we need for life and godliness. John 15:5 couldn’t be true either. If I remain in Jesus then I will bear much fruit. As we’ve seen before, fruit bearing is the chief mark of maturity.

When being discipled is a luxury and not a need, it changes how we approach growth outside of a disciplemaking relationship.

The responsibility to grow to maturity and fruitfulness is laid on our shoulders. Those who take seriously the command of 1 Timothy 4:7 to “train yourself to be godly” actively pursue the growth opportunities all around them. This means that maturity is likely a reflection of the truth of this A.W. Tozer quote: “We may want God, but we want something else more. And we will get what we want the most.” If we never get the opportunity to be discipled, it doesn’t impact our ability to grow to maturity and reproduce. Don’t get me wrong. Though it’s our responsibility, we don’t do this in a vacuum. The community around us helps uncover areas of immaturity.

When being discipled is a luxury and not a need, it changes why we disciple others.

Discipling others is a way to abide in Christ. Discipling others helps us know Christ more fully, become more like Him, and participate in His work. As we disciple, we become co-workers with Jesus. As He helps us mature, He allows us to help Him mature others and nurture them towards reproduction.

When being discipled is a luxury and not a need, it changes the dynamic inside a disciplemaking relationship.

There’s a vast difference between discipling someone who sees their growth as your responsibility and someone who sees growth as their responsibility. If a disciplemaking relationship lacks momentum, sometimes it’s because the disciple is content to sit back and let you grow them. Their lack of energy towards growth puts a drag on the relationship that many disciplemakers are unable to identify or rectify. A disciple who owns their own training, however, infuses the relationship with both momentum and direction.

In Christ, you have everything you need for life and godliness. God desires that you train yourself in godliness as you abide in Him. Out of that abiding you will bear fruit, more fruit, and finally much fruit (John 15:2-8). You don’t need to be discipled by another person to be a powerful disciplemaker of others.

These are dangerous ideas. If true, they put the burden of responsibility for your growth squarely on your shoulders. If you don’t grow to maturity, if you don’t make disciples, there’s no one else to blame. But they also empower you to mature until you are just like Jesus. This means that with God you can impact the world and eternity in profound ways. The choice of your maturity and your impact is yours.

So go, train yourself to be godly. And as you go, make disciples of all nations.

If you enjoyed this blog, you might also enjoy the podcast I host with my friend, Pastor Tony Miltenberger. Subscribe to The Practitioners’ Podcast and get weekly disciplemaking insights wherever you get podcasts!

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