The Truth About Discipleship

There’s a saying I’ve heard that goes something like this: People won’t really care how much you know until they know how much you care.

As far as I know, this isn’t taken from scripture. But life experience has taught me that it is often very true. I can scream at the top of my lungs about all the things I am right about and you are wrong about. Or I can post it all over my Facebook wall, twitter feed, and instagram stories. But if you don’t really know me and know that I am speaking to you, will it ever really matter to you what it is I am saying?

I think we can see examples of this in the Bible as well. Jesus came to change hearts and give eternal life. Yet he often started by meeting a need. He fed the hungry, healed the sick, listened to those who society had pushed to the outside. And through those interactions he also declared truths that seemed outlandish and hard to understand. But still, they listened. Not everyone that Jesus helped or preached to really believed him. But the few who did found man who not only wanted to share his knowledge with them, but who knew cared for their very hearts and souls and bodies.

There are many books and sermons on using Jesus as a model for discipleship. In missions training they taught us to care for physical needs first. We were to share the gospel after providing food, shelter, and necessary care. But often this model looks at ministry in the light of one person who has all the need and another who has nothing at all. It assumes that the discipleship will happen across cultural and socioeconomic lines. And certainly in many cases it will. But the idea of caring doesn’t end (or perhaps even begin) with those we like to call less fortunate than us. And I believe it goes far beyond making sure someone is fed and clothed. Why? Because we are called to be a Family.

On my newsfeeds and as a listening ear privy to ongoing conversations I have noticed an age old trope being played: young versus old. Many a young believer has spoken out on social justice or other issues, making use of the platforms we have been given in this day and time. And many on older believer has replied in dismay at the young person’s thoughts and opinions. This is, of course, nothing new to our time. But now we can all see it played out through a string of comments for the world to see. And what is it that I see exactly?

To be frank, I see a lot of people eager to show just how much they know. Now and then I see someone who wishes to show how much they care. But most oft they are the exception. I could say this all surprises me, but truth be told it doesn’t. I think that rather than a new phenomena unfolding before our eyes it is merely the more visible format of what has long been happening in churches.

We are missing the very thing that we are called to do: discipleship.

I’m going to let you in on a little secret: the people who have made the biggest impact in my spiritual life aren’t those who told me how to act. But rather those that acted according to their convictions and let me into their life enough to show me how I can more wisely live mine.

Did you get that?

They didn’t change my life by telling me what they know.

They changed it by showing me that they cared.

Now this isn’t an all or none arrangement. Inevitably I went to these very same people to ask them for advice. When certain topics arose I listened intently, eager to hear the perspective of someone I admired and respected and who I know cares for and respects me. In other words, I cared how much they knew because I knew how much they cared.

So my point is this:

Younger generations: seek true mentors and friends who invite you into their lives before trying to change yours. Gravitate towards those who are more focused on their relationship with the Lord than yours or anyone else’s. And when you ask them for advice, listen. They won’t always be right, but many times they will have wisdom from experiences that you simply do not.

Older generations: before assuming that younger generations don’t want to listen because they are stubborn or misinformed ask yourself: have I loved this young person before today? Have I shown them I care in a very clear way? Have I invited them to observe my life and be a part of it in a way that shows them I respect them just as I want them to respect me? If the answer is yes, speak! If not, pray about wether the Lord is calling you to invite this young person into your life and guide them with your example.

The truth is discipleship isn’t a program, a set of activities, or something you do when you’re a church leader. It’s loving, caring, and guiding others out of an overflow of what God is teaching you as you walk with him. So before you try to correct or argue with someone you’ve never truly cared for, remember, they probably won’t really care what you have to say if you haven’t truly shown them that you care.

And one last word of advice: remember that you are making disciples for the Lord. Not disciples of yourself.

In grace and peace,


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