Reactive Discipleship

It seems to me that life is filled with interruptions. We are walking a path of intentionality and purpose when we are suddenly interrupted by an event, a person, a sickness, an injury, or a tragedy. These interruptions seem to come at the most inopportune time and mess with our rhythms of life. Even those with the best rhythms seem to face interruptions and need to adapt their current rhythm to the situation.

When I look at Jesus’ ministry, one of the things that jumps out at me is His rhythm of prayer, teaching, healing, and travel. Within this rhythm we see constant interruptions that don’t seem to throw Him for a loop the way it would for most of us, but He seems to embrace the interruption, address the person, and then turn the interruption into a teachable moment for His disciples.

I recently returned from some trainings that placed a great deal of emphasis upon the definition of discipleship. We cannot remove discipleship from Jewish culture and the context that all the writers of the New Testament knew well. What did they understand about discipleship? Why didn’t they explain discipleship with a clear definition? I believe that we can see a rhythm of proactive, deliberate, and intentional discipleship in the life of Christ that included interruptions and reactions to these interruptions.

Our American model of discipleship doesn’t have a framework that allows for constant interruptions and reactions. We believe that learning is done primarily through the transfer of information and we manufacture all kinds of structures to prevent interruptions to this process. To this end our sermons, books, Bible studies, and structure is designed around the transfer of information to our disciples. Sadly, this form of discipleship does not transfer our values – “The most important things in life are caught not taught.”

It seems that Jesus and His disciples (to say nothing of the entire culture of His day) understood that to be a disciple was to be with the teacher so that they would not only be privy to the information dispensed in sermons on the side of mountains or a boat floating near the shore, but that they might also see the Master react to the interruptions of life. The closest thing to a disciple that we have today is our own children – but they rarely go to work with us and see us react to the interruptions of the day.

Someone asked me my position on a particular social issue of the day. I answered them. If you spent any time with me, you would know that I do not hide from political issues but try to respond to every issue with a Biblical worldview – but rarely do so from the pulpit. I want to introduce people to the whole gospel of Jesus which speaks to every issue of our lives – but I refuse to chase the latest news feed. Those who choose to ask me my opinion will get my honest response and reaction – but I also hope that I am proactively studying the Word in such a way that I can be prepared to give a Biblical response to any interruption.

We need to rethink our view of discipleship. We need to understand that discipleship is best understood in the context of intentional relationships, but we don’t practice intentional relationships very well. The idea of inviting someone to live with us is intimidating. The concept of letting our disciples see our reactions to every situation is daunting. What would Jewish discipleship look like in an American context? I’d love to hear your ideas – but be prepared; if you offer your ideas, you are going to have to listen to mine as well!

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