In our weekly staff meeting this past Monday, one of our staff people raised an interesting question. She asked why we are so caught up in Discipleship but not in making Apostles. A disciple, according to the HarperCollins Bible Dictionary, is a learner, an apprentice, a pupil. An apostle is someone “who has been sent out,” a person commissioned to transmit a message. I’m not writing to debate whether or not there should be an official office of the church called Apostle, but rather how do we get people from being learners to leaders?
When one examines the Gospels, we see the various accounts of the disciples. They followed Jesus around for three years. The disciples learned by watching, observing, sitting at Jesus’ feet, and by doing. The disciples were prone to mistakes and misunderstanding what Jesus was talking about. But then something happened. When we leave the Gospels and come to the book of Acts, the disciples are filled with the Spirit and begin carrying on the ministry of Jesus. They have become Apostles. They have graduated their internship and commissioned to move out from Jerusalem to Judea and the ends of the earth. They face persecution where they previously fled (when Jesus was arrested). They are now even willing to die for their faith. These uneducated men have moved from disciples to apostles- from learners to leaders of a movement that is alive and well today.
I’m guessing that our church is like many churches around the country and world. We value discipleship. We value growing in our relationship with God. We value learning. We value learning so much that many who are in our pews have no desire to move out into leadership. Our church, like many other churches, offers a large selection of Bible Studies and small groups to help our members grow in their faith. Yet I think there is sometimes still a struggle to put our faith into action…to move from the classroom and into the world.
How can the church move members from being learners to leaders? It takes an intentional effort to disciple in a systematic way. Just as Jesus gathered 12 men around him, I believe that one of the roles of the pastor is that of a mentor who should gather people around them to encourage them in their faith and help them move from learners to leaders. When the time is right, those the pastor mentor will disciple a new group of learners with the hope of developing a group of Christians who will get caught up in the movement of Jesus Christ.
Does your church wrestle with moving from learners to leaders? How does your church approach discipleship? What are you doing to intentionally move from learner to leader? Talk it out below!