S45P3 – Notes on discipleship: first student, then teacher

Col. 1:28-29

Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ.  For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.

When the mentorship began, they both were hopeful.  The mentor had never been charged with bringing up a young lady, and she relished the opportunity to have such an impact on someone’s life.  Likewise, the mentee never had anyone to serve as her example and show her the way.  It seemed like a match made in heaven.  They started by getting to know each other and naturally moved into practical life advice and instruction.  That is when the mentoring relationship began to crumble.  You see, the mentor could be polite and caring with her mentee.  She could listen to her problems over a meal or a coffee and encourage her to keep her head up.  However, when it came to giving practical life advice and wisdom, the well was dry.  She had nothing to offer beyond the surface of this friendship.  It was the realization that she could not show this young lady to how navigate life and womanhood because she herself was floundering.  No one ever gave her those skills.

The thing about discipleship is that the end goal requires that the teachers have been disciples themselves.  Today’s scripture tells us that our aim is to present everyone mature in Christ.  It is not for us to feed our disciples milk and leave it at that.  It is not for us to take them for only a short spiritual walk then call it a day.  It is for us to bring people into maturity in Christ, which means that we first must be mature in Christ ourselves.  We have to have been disciples first, having been taught by another how to grow in Christ.  Discipleship requires that we impart knowledge and wisdom, which first requires that we gain that knowledge and wisdom.  We are only conduits.  We are filled, and then we poor out into others.  If we are not first filled, then we have nothing to give.  If our desire is to lead disciples, we first must desire to be disciples.  There is no other way to gain the knowledge and wisdom required to walk someone along into Christian maturity.

From a practical perspective, we can understand this concept.  We expect our teachers in any discipline to have been students first.  One cannot teach calculus without first learning calculus.  The same goes for music, language, law and any other subject.  We should expect the same to be true of our spiritual teaching.  Growing in Christian maturity is not only about learning concepts or ideas but is also about experience.  That is what scripture is all about.  We learn about God by seeing how others have experienced him, his instruction and direction, his leading and withholding.  Our disciples are looking for experience in us as well.  Those experiences serve those who follow behind us.  Let us hope that when we look back at that walk, we see others following our steps.  Father, make a people who seek discipleship for ourselves before we take charge of discipling others.