Discipleship Projects or People?
This past Sunday, I preached a sermon on the topic of discipleship. Proverbs 4:10 and 13 taught us that those who are newer to the faith should remain in posture to receive wisdom from those more experienced in their faith. Likewise, we saw from Proverbs 4:11 that mature believers should be involved individually with a less mature believer in nurturing their growth through sanctification. All of this is true, but a friend stopped me at the end of the service and offered some valuable advice. She reminded me, that those who are doing the discipling should remember they are working with people, not projects. My friend’s counsel comes from a background of pain where she was viewed more as a reclamation project than a person who was created in the image of God. People are fragile human beings who need more than admonition and instruction. They need loving admonition and loving instruction.
Of course, our Lord was an expert at this. Consider Mark 6:34 (ESV): ‘When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. And he began to teach them many things.’ I am so glad that Mark included this verse in his gospel. Three observations stand out, before Jesus began to teach. First, Jesus saw people. He saw them as human beings that needed restoration. Second, he was moved toward compassion upon them. Jesus truly cared about the crowd and wanted to teach toward their transformation. (Later in the passage you can see that compassion extended to their physical well-being as well as the spiritual). And third, what moved him so, was that these people were like sheep without a shepherd. They needed direction and our Lord cared to get involved with their lives. He would set himself forth as a loving shepherd to the group. He would intercede. And that was when he began his instruction to them.
As you consider discipling a young person or a new believer, make sure you see the person first. Though you are not perfect, and will no doubt make mistakes, you are forming a relationship where you exhibit the love and care of the savior. Allow your love and compassion for your brother or sister to precede your teaching. Make sure you are making a disciple of Jesus, not your own disciple.