Monday, June 04, 2012

197. Discipleship and Imitation Part 1

Discipleship is one of those words that means so many things to so many different people. It really does depend on how many people you ask as to how many explanations you will receive. Two reasons come immediately to mind for this kind of ambiguity. First, there is a functional difference between being a disciple of Jesus (follower), and making disciples of Jesus(follower and leader). Making disciples of Jesus is clearly a broader function than being a disciple, and should take place, ideally, after one has been discipled by another.

For example, the 12 were disciples of Jesus for 3 1/2 years, but did not become disciple makers till after the ascension. However, notice they did not cease to be disciples when they became disciple makers. No, they merely matured into their role as disciples by imitating Jesus, the disciple maker. They became little Jesus' and called people to follow them in a discipling relationship. They were merely imitating the one who previously discipled them.

Secondly, the cultural distance between us and Jesus' first century, Palestinian, 2nd Temple Judaism context creates a little bit of a blur for us.  If you wanted to become a disciple of someone in Judaism (in Jesus' day  you would follow a rabbi), you knew exactly what you were getting into. You would literally follow the rabbi (teacher) around and attempt to integrate every facet of the rabbi's life into your own life. You would try to develop and acquire the knowledge, skills, rhythms and practices of their life. Your basic aim was to BE who the rabbi was. The nature of this disciple-rabbi relationship was a part of the very fabric of their culture. It was in this particular historical environment that Jesus called people to be his disciples. (In some ways, I think this relational structure of rabbi-disciple that was built into the culture of that day was part of the "fullness of time" mentioned in Galatians 4, buts that's another post :-)

We, on the other hand, do not live in a culture where discipleship is a part of the visual fabric of our society. The closest thing we have to discipleship is the concept of apprenticeship in which someone seeks to learn a trade like welding from someone who was traditionally called a master craftsmen. But even this current practice of apprenticeship falls short as it is typically only experienced in the technical college, classroom setting, for a brief moment. When compared to how Jesus defines and demonstrates what it means to "make disciples" the language of "apprentice" gets really close, but doesn't fully capture the meaning of the relationship.

The following video is a glimpse into the mind of a blacksmith master craftsmen, Notice how he talks about his craft and how it is learned. Not from books, not from lectures, but by actually doing it. If you wanted to learn how to be blacksmith, you would need to apprentice yourself to a master craftsmen blacksmith. You would have to watch what he does, and then experiment with it yourself. You would need to imitate him.

In the next post, I will talk about the essential components that need to be in place in order for imitation to take place.

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