For the past year I’ve been intentionally rethinking how I do discipleship. I’ve been folding disciples into my everyday life. This is a concept I’ve picked up from Mike Breen. You can read about it in his book Building a Discipling Culture.
Most of us are tired and busy. If you’ve got kids who are teenagers but who aren’t old enough to drive, you practically live in your car most evenings. Life can be very demanding. So how does one find the time to disciple people?
Our traditional view of discipleship is that it consists primarily of information transfer. It’s about taking everything I know and uploading (or is it downloading?) it from my brain to someone else’s. The western evangelical church is pretty good at this. We preach dynamic sermons, host seminars and conferences, offer classes and workshops – all with the good intention of seeing people formed into the image of Christ.
And sure, Jesus was a teacher. So were the apostles. Knowledge, truth and information are important. But are they sufficient to produce disciples?
Breen’s contention is that they aren’t. I agree with him – which can be a challenge for someone who likes to teach and a challenge for someone with a predisposition towards Enlightenment thinking. In Breen’s book he describes the three I’s of discipleship: information, imitation, and innovation. The first of these is pretty much self-explanatory. The latter of these is about how disciples take all that they have seen and learned and creatively apply it to their own lives. Just as Jesus told his disciples, ‘you will do greater things than these,’ a discipled person will step out and live for Christ in an innovative way in his or her context.
But it’s the middle ‘I’ that we so often miss and yet it’s probably the most critical element. If you really want to disciple people, you need to invite them into your life. Jesus invited his disciples to be with him. He not only taught them, he did life with them. Their greatest lessons were learned by rubbing shoulders with Jesus consistently. Most of us know intuitively that truth is better caught than taught. Yet we spend so much time teaching classes and facilitating small groups. What if we spent as much effort working on the organic side of discipleship rather than the organizational side? What if we allowed future disciples to get real close to our lives? What if they could see how we drive, how we parent, how we do commerce, how we exercise, how we recreate?
So back to the original question: How does one find time to disciple people? The key is not to add more to your life. Because, truth be told, your life is too busy already. The key is to fold your lives together. In other words, invite the person you are discipling to join you in what you are already doing. If you’re going to do something, why not invite them along? Or why not have them over for dinner? Invite them to do some of the mundane things you do every week, like picking up groceries, doing the laundry, renovating your home or changing your oil? Some of the things that have been working for me: lifting weights at the gym, going to movies, running stairs early in the morning, Ju Jutsu followed up by wings, home renovations, and community service. I’m really trying to convince somebody to come along with me while I drive my kids to volleyball – but I’ve got no takers so far.
Does folding work? It does. If you do it.
The most important thing to remember is that folding isn’t just about saving time. It’s about doing discipleship well, the way Jesus did it. Is there one person who you could fold into your life today?