Business books are big business. They help you hone skills, build winning teams, and improve your game. Every title boasts great stories and lots of win-win.
Biographies and histories are similar. Learning from others is entertaining, provides context, and yields wisdom. It’s hard to beat having examples to follow.
Discipleship books are a hybrid of both. They highlight best practices, tell stories, and inspire vision. They’re also very different from each other. I recently read the tables of contents from eighteen popular discipleship books. Not one of them was the same — evidence that there’s more than one way to do it. What’s crucial is to do it.
During our interviews with ministry leaders, my friend and I distilled this general description of discipleship: a group of believers who, through their close association with one another, are intentionally becoming more like their Leader.
That’s an excellent model because it reflects the group’s dependence on each other. It also keeps every eye on the goal — becoming like our Leader. We can’t “do” discipleship without knowing what He’s like.
So, what is He like? Here’s where the “character qualities” of discipleship emerge. Jesus Christ is loving and kind. He is humble, wise, and good. A man of peace, patience, and kindness. Yet, also strong enough to authoritatively wield justice and righteousness. He is the kind of person you trust, respect, and want to be like.
Consider someone who knows the Bible well, yet also has a strong temper. That’s not what Christ was like. That temper needs to be discipled away. Or, take the guy who avoids sinful habits, yet is highly self-centered. Was Christ self-centered? What about someone who is eloquent in prayer, and also in criticizing others?
All the features of our human sinfulness fall within the purview of discipleship. It informs the kind of persons we become. If I’m an angry person, it will take a learning process and a loving community to guide me toward patience and grace. This is hands on, carefully biblical, courageous, and loving work. It’s both personal, and communal. That’s why it takes shepherding, gifting, and love to make it happen.
It also takes the mind of Christ, so we’re not simply trying to “be this way instead of that way.” Discipleship runs deeper than behavior. It’s rooted what’s true.