Choosing Authentic Discipleship
Everything in our society, it seems, is geared to the here and now. Every whim and desire known to man is available online through the quick use of your credit card or payment app, and is accompanied by the claim (whether real or fabricated) that those desires can be granted sooner than you ever dreamed possible – everything from weight loss to finding your soulmate to becoming a best-selling author overnight.
But Christian discipleship requires discipline, intentionality, and time… not exactly values topping the charts these days.
In my recent podcast, People Are Not Numbers, Rabbi Abraham Cooper and I reflected from the Torah on the truth that people are not mass ‘numbers’ to be counted, but individual lives each with value and meaning.
With the next generation of our young people, are we (the Church) offering them a worthy alternative to the hollow enticements of this world – or are we lowering our standards, cheapening our message, and trying to compete for their souls as mere ‘numbers’, using the same tactics as those trying to lure them away?
As a leader in the body of Christ who has been discipled and been discipling for close to forty years, I would like to submit to you three core areas I feel we need to focus on in our quest to disciple the next generation.
1. Discipling the Next Generation in THE WORD
Our Judaic heritage teaches us the supreme importance of God’s Word. In this culture, the learner sits at the feet of the Rabbi and memorizes the written Word. As the child progresses, public reading of Scripture becomes part of the learning process; then later, it is followed by discussion, reasoning, and working out its application.
In our own culture, there is an urgent need for the Word of God to be given its proper place in the life of every young person, every disciple who desires to walk in the ways of God. Memorization and the public reading of Scripture should be prioritized by every pastor and youth pastor so that we will have the solid foundation on which to build lives of truth and moral excellence.
2. Discipling the Next Generation in PRAYER
The farther the Church spirals away from the discipline of sustained, corporate intercession, the farther it grows away from the heart of God. Prayer that is grounded in the Word of God should be the very bedrock of our spiritual lives, as it was for David and the prophets of old.
Other cultures understand the purpose, power, and unifying force of prayer. The value placed on prayer surpasses the value of all else in, for example, the world of Islam. And here, prayer is not reserved for a certain few. It is, rather, the common denominator of their religious life. How unfortunate that we need look to those who set themselves up as enemies of the cross to learn (if it were possible) what our own loving and personal Savior came to earth to teach us.
Friends, if we are to see God move through us, we must move ourselves to the place of prayer. We must help those we disciple to internalize the importance of devotional and intercessory prayer and live these out as not just a practice, but a lifestyle.
3. Discipling the Next Generation in CHARACTER
It has been said that character is who you are when no one’s looking. Character is not what we hope to be or what we think ourselves to be, but what we are. In a society such as ours, in which the instantaneous is lauded, character is naturally marginalized. What we value is what we will teach our children to value. Do we value talent – or the proper stewardship of that talent? Do we value the anointing of the Holy Spirit – or the ability to administer that anointing in holiness and faithfulness?
We must ask ourselves if we are cultivating in our protégés the kind of diligent hearts and minds that will pursue a life of godliness, or if we are prizing the end result above the process. In our desire to produce anointed, power-filled ministers of the Gospel, are we half-baking our efforts to the end that the exteriors look ‘done’ while the interiors remain raw?
The fruit of righteousness will not be reaped if it is not sown. Apples do not just appear out of thin air. A seed must be planted and nurtured before a harvest is seen. Are we planting that seed by challenging young people to persevere to true spiritual maturity? Or are we putting our energy and resources into artificially manufacturing what appears to be a ripe, gorgeous, appealing apple, but is in fact inedible?
The world is hungry. The spiritually-orphaned youth of this generation are starved for something real, something authentic, something that will nourish their souls; and fast-food discipleship is not the answer.
I want to issue a challenge to you today to enter into intentional discipleship with someone in a real way. Jesus didn’t offer anything to His disciples but the truth. Even when they began to forsake Him, claiming His teachings were too hard to bear, He did not compromise the integrity of His message. If we are to fulfill our commission to raise up disciples after Christ, we must be willing to do the same.
Want to learn more? The Bishop and The Rabbi is a dynamic and informative weekly podcast, hosted by Bishop Robert Stearns and featuring different guest Rabbis from the Jewish community. It presents discussions on topics like the content of this article, the Hebrew Scriptures from Jewish and Christian viewpoints, current events in America and the Middle East, and the future of Jewish-Christian cooperation. Tune in now to the latest episodes by clicking here!