3 Common Discipleship Mistakes All-Too-Easy to Make

This is a guest post by Jeremy Postal. See the biographical section below for more information about Jeremy and his ministry.

The idea of discipleship is a strange one.

ThreeIf there is one thing we can all agree on it is probably that “change is constant and it’s impacts us all.” Traffic patterns change, Facebook privacy policies change, the climate is changing, relationships change, jobs change, and no matter where we look change is always before us.

Interesting, though, rarely do we see change in ourselves or – for that matter – do we even want to change. We’re who we are and usually a little stubborn about it; I’m just trying to be me and you’re just trying to be you.

This is what makes discipleship a strange thing; most Christians recognize others’ need to be discipled and we point them to books, resources, and processes by which others can become better followers of Jesus. It actually feels really good to disciple other people; it just doesn’t feel so good to actually be a disciple ourselves.

Being a disciple requires change and it draws out tension in our lives, it fights against our stubbornness and it confronts the deepest parts of who we are. To be a disciple means we live in the struggle of loving and obeying God the Father while working out how to live well within the mess of our lives.

Change is hard. It’s hard to be a disciple, but there are ways to make it doable. Notice I don’t say easier – just doable.

MISTAKE #1: Lack of Process

It is easy to create discipleship process and programing for other people but much harder to build and commit to one for yourself. Make a plan for your discipleship and begin to walk it out. Ask:

  • Who is involved in my discipleship?
  • What does a discipleship community look like in my setting?
  • What areas of my life are most resistant to following Jesus?
  • What resources can serve in my discipleship?
  • What is the most intentional thing I/we can do to follow Jesus well?
  • How will I know when discipleship has slowed? What are the warning signs?
  • Is my process cyclical, does it have a rhythm, or is it linear with clear steps?

MISTAKE #2: Unbalanced Discipleship

Within discipleship circles it is easy to put all of our focus on one aspect of discipleship, damaging other vital areas of discipleship. For example, focusing on a vibrant inner prayer life while neglecting justice, mercy, and walking humbly with our God is an unhealthy, unhelpful, and incomplete life of discipleship. True, there will be seasons where more focus is given to certain areas but the heart of discipleship is to become more and more like Jesus. This is why discipleship is best practiced in community; a community has the resources to follow Jesus much better than any one individual Christian can.

MISTAKE #3: Discipleship Without Mission

The final mistake often made in discipleship processes is to forget about mission. Conversely, within much of the conversation of mission and missional church, the hard realities of discipleship have also been left out. The truth is that mission and discipleship are one-in-the-same, have been originated and initiated by God in our lives, and compliment each other as we work them out. As we are being discipled we are pushed into mission and as we are in mission we are conformed to the mind and heart of Christ. When we loose sight of this, we’ve lost sight of the whole thing.

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” –Matthew 28:18-20