Active Apprenticeship

I’ve been spending a lot of time reading, writing and reflecting on disciplemaking – a fundamental aspect of being the church of Jesus Christ. You see, Jesus didn’t invite us to go and build the church, but to go and make disciples and to baptise in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. There are a few things that I’ve been mulling over which I’ll share in time, but one of the things I’ve been reflecting upon most is the question, ‘what is my mindset when it comes to discipleship?’ and ‘do I have a fixed mindset or a growth mindset?’

I think discipleship is a loaded word – loaded with a variety of meanings, understandings, preconceptions and maybe even misunderstandings. It can sound bookish, something that is for other people. I find words like ‘apprenticeship’ work well. Most people grasp the imagery of this and I think it is the modern-day closest equivalent to the idea of being a disciple. Some folks use ‘learner’, but we mustn’t forget many people have had bad experiences in the classroom.

Apprenticeship communicates the idea of active learning – the stuff we’ve learned to do intrinsically all our lives. We often learn to do stuff (like walk, talk, read, write, fix stuff, work stuff) by watching or listening to others doing it. If you look in the Gospels, this appears to be Jesus’ key strategy – the whole ‘follow me’ call was a call to watch and listen closely. Jesus then sent his disciples to do what they’d witnessed him do, report back to him and by that method, learn the ‘gospel trade’.

There is, I fear, a laziness that comes into the life of discipleship. Our modern culture, especially in church, backs away from any suggestion that we should be investing our whole lives in the pursuit of Christ. Somehow, the call to Christians to read scripture, to pray, to witness, to give, to offer their ministry in the context of the Christian community and the world seems like ‘too much of an ask.’ At times, I genuinely feel tangled by this whole culture. The ‘kick back’ from any suggestion of movement forward can be significant.

Whilst our relationship with God is a pure gift from him, the process of engaging in that relationship requires that we turn up and pay attention at the very least. Growth will inevitably involve investing significant time in the Bible if your Christian life is to be sustained. Regular prayerful communication is necessary. And, how will they hear unless someone tells them? etc.

Yet, even in evangelical settings, there can be a ‘church-goer’ mentality that kicks in and leadership in our churches can pander to that. We, especially us ‘professional Christians’, fall into the trap of putting on a half decent Jesus show that everyone turns up to watch. For many, that doesn’t negate that internal call to press in and grow as a disiple. But for many others, that ticks their faith box for the week. There are a zillion things that we’d rather do than build in a regular rhythm that enables us to encounter Jesus.

I ask you and myself these questions: does my life of discipleship look like an active apprenticeship? Do I let myself off the hook far too easily? Is my passion to grow in Christ stronger than my passion for any other thing? Am I regularly exploring all the means that will help me just take one step forward in Christian growth and learning?

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