The DNA of Discipleship?

I’m enjoying reading Marcus Honeysett’s 100 Leadership Lessons blog series (not least to see if we get all the way to 100), and its no surprise to see that discipleship features heavily in the leadership mix so far.

Now I’m glad we’ve got 87 more lessons to go, because the Bible has a lot to say about how we train younger christians. But if we had to define what we are trying to do when we enter into this sort of intentional relationship, what would we say is at the heart (or in the DNA) of discipleship?

This weekend I’m giving some training for young leaders in the church (teenagers leading younger children’s groups). I was going to focus on growing the fruit of the Spirit from Galatians 5, but then I was reminded of this exhortation from Peter in 2 Peter 1:5-8.

For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness;  and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love.  For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Now there isn’t anything wrong with seeing these things as ‘fruit’ but I guess that Paul’s analogy is less meaningful today than when he first used it. When we think of ‘the fruit of the Spirit’ we are in danger of having the same attitude to this growing process as I have towards the apples in my back garden – i.e. I just expect to wake up one morning and their will be apples. And if I leave them long enough, eventually they will ripen and fall off the tree and I can collect them if I’m in the mood, or leave them for the wasps.

Friends at church run a small-holding and their attitude to fruit is very different. It takes time to plan, cultivate, prune, feed, protect and pick fruit, and the same is true for seeing transformation in our lives.

That’s why (on this occasion) I’m going to use Peter’s list of ‘fruit’ to explain what Christian leadership (discipleship) is all about. Faith is the starting point, but Peter is clear that unless we are actively seeking to grow in these areas (making every effort), we are in danger of being “ineffective and unproductive in [our] knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

So how do we nurture the growth of these qualities in the lives of young believers, and how do we ‘seek to poses them in increasing measure’ in our own?

 

2 thoughts on “The DNA of Discipleship?

  1. Interesting – when I think about passing on the leadership baton I think about 2 Timothy for obvious reasons – however Chapter 3 is interesting in light of what you write.
    In teaching Timothy what to look out for and how he can know Paul is trustworthy – and from that draw the example of a Christian leader we are left with Paul comparison of himself to the people who will “be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, 4 treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God” – which seems to be the opposite of the fruits of the spirit. Indeed his ‘counter’ list of his own “10 You, however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, 11 persecutions, sufferings—what kinds of things happened to me in Antioch, Iconium and Lystra, the persecutions I endured.” could be based on the fruits of the spirit but with some more practical application.
    It starts with faith to which we add goodness and to goodness knowledge – 2 Tim 3 again agree – “14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, 15 and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God[a] may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

    If discipleship is about equipping God’s people – here then lies the heart of it – that fruit must grow (as you say) And both these passages then suggest that scripture (for that is surely how we gain knowledge of God) is the route for that, but also for many of the other fruits…

    Passage in full below.

    2 Timothy 3

    1 But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. 2 People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, 4 treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— 5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.

    6 They are the kind who worm their way into homes and gain control over gullible women, who are loaded down with sins and are swayed by all kinds of evil desires, 7 always learning but never able to come to a knowledge of the truth. 8 Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so also these teachers oppose the truth. They are men of depraved minds, who, as far as the faith is concerned, are rejected. 9 But they will not get very far because, as in the case of those men, their folly will be clear to everyone.

    A Final Charge to Timothy

    10 You, however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, 11 persecutions, sufferings—what kinds of things happened to me in Antioch, Iconium and Lystra, the persecutions I endured. Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them. 12 In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, 13 while evildoers and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. 14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, 15 and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God[a] may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

  2. Thanks Tim, this is a helpful reminder that our growth in the fruits of the spirit must be rooted in scripture, or it is in danger of just becoming moralism. We need to make every effort, but scripture is the main tool for doing it. It also reminded me of the farewell discourse in John where Jesus promises we will bear fruit if we remain in Him. Scripture and a focus on Jesus are key for fruit-bearing

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