Thursday, May 3, 2012

Following Jesus - Paul Martin

This is part of a blog series on discipleship. I asked a number of youth ministry and church voices to share their answers to these two questions: 1) What is discipleship? and 2) What is the greatest barrier to discipleship we're facing in youth ministry?

Today we hear from Paul Martin:

What is discipleship?
I don’t want to heap all the problems of the church on this one word, but it would help so much if we could come up with a deeper understanding of what exactly discipleship is. Some people would say education, while some would say small groups. While it does often have these aspects of church life, discipleship is so much more. 
Discipleship awakens possibilities in people, connecting them to a deeper understanding of who they are in Christ. It’s generous and challenging, always pointing to or acknowledging what is already in a person. As created people, discipleship reveals the inner design of our soul and releases it into the world to run free.
The greatest barrier?
Impotent expectations are the hurdle I see most often. Either, as is the case with young adults, a leader doesn’t believe a person can live as they are created to be, or they them self can’t or won’t act on that belief. Often leaders don’t expect much because they have never been effectively discipled. You can’t lead someone where you haven’t been or are unwilling to go. 
The individual’s resistance usually comes from a lack of trust. We don’t trust ourselves when we limit the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives to transform us into God’s people. At the same time, we don’t believe in God’s ability to change our nature from sin to saint. 
Jumping the hurdle
The church castrated discipleship when it took away expectations. Without a willingness and hope for change, it can’t reproduce. So if we really want discipleship to work, we have to be ready to participate in a relationship that interrupts us in very intimate ways. Any cursory glance at the way Jesus led his disciples shows their ability to listen and feel momentarily awkward. As a friendship develops, we trust more and lean in to people who believe in us. It isn’t just that it feels good. It becomes life giving.
Being ok with discomfort is just one step though. We need to embrace boldness in our dreams. Making a change (or just being open to it) without hope would just be torture. So when discipleship reveals expectations, they also need to show a path to hope.
Finally, leaders need to be willing to take up the mantle of authority. I see this so often in myself as I lead. I’m not afraid of making wrong decisions, but instead see leadership as arrogance. Someone once told me that all leaders are narcissists. Maybe so, but true leadership sees another person and wants to help. That is the confidence assurance that something better is not only possible, but would happen with their guidance. This kind of compassion is a hallmark of discipleship.

Paul Martin is a youth pastor, presenter, blogger and professional fool. Read more foolishness like this at or follow Twitter or Facebook.

What do you think of Paul's insights? Share your reactions in the comments!

1 comment:

  1. Well said, Paul! I love how different our responses were phrased, and yet, at their core they were very similar. Your personal and ministerial commitment to a true, meaningful discipleship comes out in your writing. Great thoughts. (Joel, so glad you're doing this series!)