S45P8 – Notes on discipleship: the service of discipleship

1 Cor. 4:1

This, then, is how you ought to regard us: as servants of Christ and as those entrusted with the mysteries God has revealed.

The contrast in leadership styles was glaring. The first partner to be my boss seemed to work tirelessly at reinforcing the fact that he was in charge. Whether he was assigning work, providing feedback or just speaking generally, it was clear that we resided within a certain hierarchy. I remember being resistant to certain assignments not necessarily because the work itself was difficult or oppressive but because of the manner in which I was addressed when assigned the work. The second partner to be my boss was the complete opposite. The attitude he projected was that, instead of me working for him, he was there to aide me in my work. He understood that the effective leader cannot support his team unless he comes under them and lifts them up.

When we enter into a discipleship relationship, we must be careful not to let leadership go to our heads. If we have a warped sense of our power and authority in that relationship, we can become authoritative when it is not our right to be so. Discipleship is really about leading someone from underneath. The teacher is the servant in this relationship. The whole purpose behind discipleship is to serve through love in order to lift up and develop a brother or sister. It is about encouragement, education and compassion. Although the teacher will experience some development through discipleship, the focus is on developing the student. In serving God through this process, the teacher is also a servant of the student, and he must assume that role with humility.

We all can think of examples of leaders who have let their positions take them to unhealthy places. Any time that we occupy the role of leader over someone, whether that is in ministry or in the workplace, it is critical for us to remember the humility with which Jesus Christ lead others. God himself was on his knees washing the feet of unworthy men in an act of humility that is the example for us to follow. Before we begin a discipleship relationship, perhaps we should ask ourselves the motive behind it. If our goal is to serve another, that is a good start. If our goal is to be in charge and feel important, we may want to rethink this. Father, give us humble hearts that understand and walk out the proper service of discipleship.