“Discipleship is not cool, it’s hard,” I thought while drinking my six-dollar pour over coffee in a hipster coffee shop, wearing a cardigan.
I understand the irony of the statement above. But isn’t this what we have all been taught at some level in American Christianity? Doesn’t the best discipleship happen over a cup of ‘probably-overly expensive coffee’ in a hipster coffee shop? Maybe a McDonalds is more your speed? Nonetheless, I think we have all bought the charade that discipleship is for those who know what they are doing every step of the way.
When in reality, discipleship is so messy (and I mean ‘so’ with like a thousand o’s behind it). It takes time and effort. It means stagnation in your life and in the life of the one you are discipling. We are often too afraid to mention this, even in a blog post, because we are supposed to be the ‘experts’ when we begin discipling someone else. In a culture of ‘experts’ (because they spent 10,000 hours or some other arbitrary number in this craft or because they read a couple of blog posts on the subject which is more likely), discipleship is not one of those things we should ever feel like we have mastered. I would venture to guess there is only one person who ever believed they were worthy of discipling someone else.
The rest of us, who are not the Son of God, have found ourselves stumbling through a slew of awkward conversations which consist of many different ways of encouraging the younger believer to pursue Christ more fully in their lives, to see Christ as more magnificent than they already see Him, or to call them to repent of ongoing sin in their lives. All of these conversations are not simple. They are not cut and dry, black and white. They are difficult! Battling our own sinful flesh and our own pursuit of Christ is hard enough, but encouraging others to battle their flesh and pursue Christ is not easy.
This is why I am encouraged when I look at Scripture and see messed up, broken, sinful men and women who still see their role in discipleship as one which cannot given up. They knew the cost. They knew the difficulty. They realized that some of the people they discipled might not continue in the faith. But they all did something profound: They continued to disciple those who needed to be discipled because they believed in the message of the Gospel to change them. They believed in the Spirit which dwelled in each of them to bring to completion what was not yet complete. They believed that they were called to, as Paul wrote in 1 Thessalonians 2:8, share not only the Gospel of God but also their own selves.
So let me encourage you. Press on! Press forward! It will still be hard. But be thankful that Christ is always with you in your work to encourage, exhort, and disciple others. And we shouldn’t want it any other way.