Saturday 21 March 2015

The need for discipleship

Discipleship is a strange term that we band about in Christian circles. It’s a kind of mentorship with a focus on drawing people closer to their relationship with God, rather than ploughing them with their own ideas. However, when discussing this outside of the mission environment, I prefer the term mentorship as a more accessible term.

I regularly mentor one or two students studying at the local Youth With A Mission (YWAM) campus, here in Muizenberg. We go out and have a coffee at a local haunt and have a catch-up. The difference is, rather than a friend, I am a mentor. This means that I have a certain aim with which I have the meeting and there are certain roles to perform, although the tone of the conversation remains relaxed and friendly. The purpose of each student receiving a mentor is to help them grow in what they are learning and directly apply some of the concepts, not just theoretically in their head, but practically in how they live their lives.

A mentor needs to be mentored
One key element to mentorship is that each mentor needs to be mentored themselves. I, myself, am mentored for about 2 hours every two weeks by a senior staff member who challenges me on areas in my life that he feels I need to grow in. There are some statistics that encourage me to pursue these small meetings and see the value in taking time with the individual.

OK, let’s  return to the term discipleship. If I have one person who disciples (or mentors) me and I in turn disciple (mentor) two others, meanwhile teaching each of them to invest in the lives of two others, within 31 years we would’ve reached a billion people! We cannot underestimate the importance of spending quality time with people and encouraging them to grow.

My learning curve this year is twofold: learning to listen better and learning to ask good questions. As I learn to listen more intently to my mentee and bring questions that deepen his understanding of concepts, I learn also to be comfortable in the silence that follows the impact of a good question. The question isn’t meant to stump the mentee, but make them stop briefly in their tracks and become more self aware of what they are sharing and how it is impacting them right now; allowing them to go deeper into what God is doing in their lives and how it impacts their circumstances and affects others around them.

Discipleship vs. mentorship
Discipleship is about listening: first to God, then to your mentee. It’s about walking alongside someone as they traverse the challenges of their life. It’s about saying: I care about you, where you are going and what you’re doing; I’m praying for you and I want the best for you.

People are valuable to God. The great commission is there and still hasn't been fulfilled. Jesus commanded us to go and disciple nations. 

Each individual is valuable to God and we must hold what they share with us as precious as we do our own lives. The impact a good mentor should never be underestimated. 

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