Discipleship – going for coffee or life of obedience?

Kathy Keller: "I have something to teach you about discipleship.  Want to go for coffee?"

Kathy Keller: “I have something to teach you about discipleship. Want to go for coffee?”

This week I was re-reading for the third time Kathy Keller’s helpful little e-book, Jesus, Justice, and Gender Roles.  It was in preparation for ongoing dialogue about broadening leadership in my congregation and all the related issues.  * for the record, I’m in agreement with Keller’s conclusions about gender and eldership but that’s not the point of today’s post  *

The point is that near the end of her little book, there is a wonderful little surprise.  After stating her case, she makes this profound statement:

So, there is something being commanded the church that we must find a way to obey.  Dismissing, ignoring, throwing up one’s hands in despair of finding clarity are not options.

In this simple almost off-hand statement, she reveals a powerful truth about the nature of Christian discipleship.  Did you catch it?  Let me paraphrase:  

If there is a command – we must find a way to obey.

"Hey, man.  Want to be discipled?  Pull up a stool."

“Hey, man. Want to be discipled? Pull up a stool.”

Discipleship is a funny thing in the Church today.  It is often thought of as an activity, whether programmed or informal.  The image is usually one of an older believer spending time with a younger Christian, in order to mentor them.  Small groups, Bible studies, having a mentor, going for coffee – all these things come to mind.  The noun discipleship is morphed into the verb, discipling.  Okay, absolutely nothing wrong with this.  Making disciples will involve some kind of activity.  Go for coffee.  Let’s all go for coffee.  The hipper the coffee shop, the better.

But discipleship (noun) is not mere activity, it is an orientation to life.  Jesus famously said to make disciples.  Let’s assume He meant it.  What did He mean?  This is one of those passages that has almost a built-in 3 point outline.  There is one central command – Make disciples – surrounded by three descriptions of what that will look like:

1)  Going (let’s assume this means telling too, so… missionary evangelism),

2)  Baptizing (into the name of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit), and

3)  Teaching to obey everything commanded

A disciple is one who has learned to obey everything – everything – that Christ has commanded.  Through His own words, through the writings of the apostles – everything.  A disciple is one who obeys.

Why is this so powerful?  Why is this so important?  What secret nugget about all Christian discipleship is nestled here in Kathy Keller’s little book about a very specific subject?

It is this:  If there is something to obey, we have to find a way to obey it.

But what about commands that are difficult?  Unpopular?  Counter-cultural?  What about them?

Find a way to obey.  Did Jesus say it would be easy to follow Him?

But what about all the commands in the Bible?  How can we know if/how/when they apply to my life?

Good question.  There’s lots of Biblical commands in the Old and New Testaments. There are context issues for some commands (usually OT ones).  You can eat shellfish in the New Covenant.  But are you using the complexity of some parts of the Bible to find a way out of obedience?  Learn, study, and find a way to obey.

If I try to live the way Christ wants, maybe I’ll look different than those around me?

Probably will.  Find a way to obey.

Discipleship is a description of an orientation to life.  It is one where we follow the Lord and look for what He asks of us.  We know that we are not approved of by God because of our works.  But the same Christ who saves us apart from works, calls us to pick up and follow Him in cruciform obedience.  Would you like to talk about what that means?  Maybe we should go for coffee.


3 thoughts on “Discipleship – going for coffee or life of obedience?

  1. I really like your post. I have grown up thinking ‘discipleship’ involves that mentor relationship in which we go for coffee 😉 I’d really like to know more about what discipleship should look like. Do you think there is still a place for mentoring in the church?

    • Ashley, thanks for dropping by and for commenting. I think your bringing up the term ‘mentoring’ is apt. Mentoring is vital and can play a role in disciple-making. My point here was that while discipleship (disciple-making) is certainly not less than mentoring, it is far more than that.

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