As I’ve given my attention to what it means to be a disciple and how Jesus went about making disciples, the one thing that I’ve come to understand is that discipleship is a process in maturity. This means that discipleship is specifically designed to develop a person from one level of understanding to another. Paul mentions to the Corinthians that there was a time in his life that he did things as a child, but as he matured he put those things aside. He was emphasizing the importance of love in relationship to prophecy.
It can become so easy to become enamored by the deep things of God that we neglect or devalue the foundational things that are at the fundamental stages of our spiritual development. Discipleship, like anything that requires developing happens in stages and through the process of time. Just as a construction company doesn’t fully erect a building in a day, neither is our spiritual maturity as disciples. They prepare the ground, lay a foundation and frame the structure before any of the real building takes place.
As disciples who are charged with making disciples, the process is no different. just as we don’t become fully mature overnight, neither do those we disciple. This means that we must commit to setting frameworks that will aid in the growth and development of those we disciple.
Christ committed himself to three and a half years to develop twelve men that would eventually be commission to go out and make more disciples. It is evident that author of the book of Hebrews had an expectation that disciples should reach a given level of maturity by a certain time. The writer says, “Although by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the basic principles of God’s revelation again. You need milk, not solid food (Hebrews 5:12 HCSB).”
It is also apparent that the fivefold ministry was uniquely established with the intent of ensuring of the development of disciples into mature saints to become fully enabled to make other disciples and perfecting the Church as the Whole Body. Paul told the Ephesians “He (God) gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelist, some pastors and some teachers, for the training of the saints in the work of the ministry, to build up the body of Christ, until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of God’s Son, growing into a mature man with a stature measured by Christ’s fulness (Ephesians 4:11-14 HCSB).”
Discipleship isn’t automatic and therefore we cannot have an expectation that just because we are at one level, that those who are not as mature as us should be. Nor should we feel condemned or guilty because we are not at a certain level of maturity like another who may have a degree more maturity than us. We each have our own walk to walk and our own race to run. What matters is that we remain committed to be discipled by those who have committed themselves to discipling us. Likewise, we should be committed to discipling those we have taken on the responsibility to disciple.
Both parts of the process are meant to develop and strengthen us. I’m quite sure there were times when Jesus felt frustration in dealing with his disciples. Why else would we find passages where he said, “How long must I be with you (Matthew 17:17 HCSB)?” Commit to being patient with those you lead, even as you desire those who lead you to be patient with you. Show mercy, even as you desire mercy to be show towards you. Remain teachable, even as you endeavor to pass on the teachings which helped you, remembering always, that discipleship is a process in maturity.
QUESTION: What are some things that help you remain mindful of the maturing process of discipleship?
- A Season of Fivefold Discipleship (apreachaskid.wordpress.com)