When it comes to sports, I don’t really know how the points work (like at all). I pretty much just care about which team has the best colors and cheer when everyone else does. (Yay! Do the thing! Win the points!) But despite my utter lack of knowledge about athletics, I do comprehend what a dream team is: a handpicked group of uniquely equipped individuals who strive together for a common goal. Or as Google puts it, a team of people perceived as the perfect combination for a particular purpose.
Each believer is gifted for and geared toward something that drives the kingdom forward. We are God’s dream team. There are millions of us, but we are handpicked and uniquely equipped to accomplish His mission together. He perceived that we would be the perfect combination for His particular purpose. It just so happens that discipleship is my jam. (I’m a wreck when it comes to other areas. Believe me. But I’ve always gravitated toward the concept of mentoring, and this is my niche.)
Growing up, I was never intentionally discipled. Sure, I was at church every time the doors were open, and my mom taught me a lot of basic Christian beliefs over the years (thanks, Mom!). But whenever the sermon would target intentional discipleship, I was bummed: none of the older girls bothered with me.
So I picked my own mentors: C.S. Lewis, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Beth Moore, Matt Chandler, David Platt, Elisabeth Elliot… even though they wouldn’t know me from Adam if we met (well, I mean, hopefully they would, because Adam’s a dude), they taught me how to walk out this faith in a way that made sense to me. They’d always be there for me when I needed to learn something specific for a season or when I was hungry for knowledge in general. Books, sermons, Bible studies, blogs—God has been gracious to allow such amazing teaching to be widely available.
But there’s just something about meeting with a person regularly.
Books can’t look you in the eye and call you out on what you’re struggling with. Sermons can’t show you exactly how to apply this truth to this circumstance you face or cheer you on as you experience victory. The American Church is extremely well resourced; but life-on-life relationships are more important than ever.
Titus 2 holds a rhythm for discipleship. I’m taking a class on mentoring right now and have to memorize the whole chapter. (Put the verses to music, and you’re golden. Talk about rhythm!) More mature Christians are called to show less mature Christians how to operate. This is beautiful because I’d bet you can think of one believer who’s more mature than you and one who’s less. The ideal, then, is for you to learn and then teach, learn and then teach, learn and then teach. It’s not complicated. We’re neither meant to hoard all of the learning for ourselves nor to painstakingly reinvent the wheel in every aspect of the Christian life.
Those who have gone before us are meant to be a gift of grace to us in our journey. And we are meant to be a gift of grace to those who come after us in their journey.
Both sides of this relationship, mentor and mentee, require courage and wisdom. It takes guts to offer to lead someone for a little while and brains to know how best to do so. But it also takes guts to admit your need and brains to listen to sound advice. Every mentor will fail at some point because, hey, they’re still human. But the simple fact of knowing someone’s watching your example provides a bit of incentive to progress in your faith. Every disciple will fail at some point because, hey, they’re still human. But the simple fact of knowing someone’s watching your progress in the faith provides a bit of incentive to keep working at it. Do you see? Both parties push each other to be better. It’s a win-win.
Discipleship is too scary! I don’t have anything worth passing on! I don’t have time! Nobody’s interested! There’s too much pressure! Listen. Older believers are to teach. Younger believers are to learn. Not my rules. If you don’t like it, sorry—take it up with Jesus. Not liking it doesn’t mean we’re excused from obedience. The need is too great to keep talking ourselves out of following through. We won’t take much to heaven with us. There will be a day when most of what we spend our time on will be burned up. What will be left? Not your money or your power or your toys or your accolades or your favorite TV shows or your comfort zone. Your relationship with Jesus and your investment in others.
If you’re not involved in discipleship right now, I dare you to begin praying about it and looking around for someone to lead you and for someone to lead. There’s really no good reason any believer today should be an autodidact (a fun word I recently learned meaning one who’s self-taught). Abandon the excuses. Be brave and step up to the challenge: we need every big brother and big sister the kingdom has to offer. This dream team has work to do!