[Guest Writer - Karen Dilbeck] I Don't Believe In Discipleship

The concept of discipleship was ingrained in me early:

Who is discipling you? and Who are you discipling? were familiar questions.

It was normal to be in a discipleship group--a group that taught the ways of Jesus. The motive was, and is, pure and good.

However, over the years, I have discovered that neither the words discipleship nor discipling are in the Bible. Those words were made up over time to describe what we are doing.

Apparently, we in Christendom, pure heartedly, have veered off course. Way off course.

At age 24, I went to seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. While there, I found a church that I liked, and better yet, a Bible study teacher that was full of life. Dr. Stan Lee.

Each Sunday a few of us arrived early in his class, just so we could watch him as he prepped to teach. He would stand in front of two chalkboards for a bit and just stare at them. And then, as if an unseen checkered flag dropped, he began to write—he wrote and wrote until both chalkboards were filled up. And the words he wrote were full of RAW LIFE. Then Dr. Lee took the next 45 minutes or so and spoke about all the words on the board. Again, LIFE. I was mesmerized, challenged, and hungry for more!

One Sunday I got up the nerve to ask Dr. Lee one simple question, “will you disciple me?”

Unfortunately, I was naive about the taboo male/female discipleship thing. However, I was very pure hearted and eager to get more of his life-filled teaching.

Awkwardness appeared. Dr. Lee looked angst. Yes, my query was definitely troubling him.

He looked away, looked back at me and looked away again. He opened his mouth, closed it, and after a few more seconds, he spoke slowly, methodically, and this is what he said: “Only One disciples. And His name is Jesus. I disciple no one.”

I smiled politely, curtsied and excused myself. 

I was so embarrassed. What the heck did he mean?? I had asked a very common Christian-type question and he, figuratively, slammed me.

However, I really heard what he said. I thought about it a lot. And over the days, weeks, months, and years to come, it resounded. It resonated. It made sense.  

And it altered my life’s trajectory. 

On that day, Dr. Lee contributed to making me a disciple as well as giving me a much greater understanding to what making a disciple means.

“Go and make disciples…” was what Jesus told us to do in, what we call, the Great Commission.

Disciple means a devoted follower. 

Jesus did NOT tell me (or any of us) to disciple anyone.

If I disciple someone, then they are following me.

If someone is discipling me, I am following them.

If I am making disciples, devoted followers, then I am pushing them, or compelling them (believers and unbelievers alike), to follow the One and only person that God wants us to follow, that is Jesus.

I am His disciple. Over time, I have learned the simplicity of what it means to go straight to Jesus. I am still learning how to walk with Him and talk with Him and most of all, listen to and follow Him.

Yes, I teach. (And listen to other’s teachings.)

Yes, I mentor. (And have mentors that I can call on.)

Yes, I equip. (This is what I think most people are doing when they are discipling others. I do think the semantics are important.)

And, yes, I am making disciples. (That is now normal, and very easy.)

The Challenge:

The next time someone ask you for advice, ask them what God is saying to them about their concern. then encourage them, spur them on, and/or affirm what they are hearing.  (If they haven't taken their concern to God, encourage them to do it at that very moment.)