We’re called to be disciples and make disciples, but this call often feels overwhelming.
However, discipleship doesn’t have to feel this way. Our tendency is to overcomplicate it and think of it as something it’s not.
Here are nine common myths we believe about discipleship:
1. I can’t disciple someone because I’m not “godly” enough.
Though some people are at a place where they should not be discipling others, most people sell themselves short. You don’t have to have a Ph.D in theology to meet with other believers and grow them in their love for the Lord. Even the average Christian knows enough to pray with people, confess sin, worship the Lord through song and read the Bible. Jesus’ command to make disciples is not just meant for the pastoral elite.
2. I can’t be discipled by someone unless they are far godlier than me.
I’ve met many people who are waiting for a Yoda or Gandalf figure to come in and radically change their life. Unfortunately, that is not usually how it works. It is okay to learn from those who are imperfect because nobody is perfect. Don’t ask someone who is less spiritually mature than you to disciple you, but also don’t wait to be discipled until the apostle Paul comes around. Seek out a mentor now.
3. Only older people can disciple younger people.
Most older people don’t want to learn from someone younger, but it is not wrong for the discipler to be younger. Paul even tells Timothy to make sure people don’t look down on him because of his young age. You should also feel free to disciple people around your same age. Spiritual maturity matters more than age.
4. I can’t have a “co-discipling” relationship.
One person doesn’t have to be the “disciple” and the other the “disciple maker.” You can both disciple each other. This is what the Bible means when it talks about “iron sharpening iron.” If you know several people who are not “above” or “below” you in spiritual maturity, co-disciple each other.
5. I have to get all my discipleship from one place.
You need to get your discipleship from several places. One person is not going to provide all your spiritual growth. In addition to having a mentor, you will also need to read books, listen to sermons, attend worship services, serve at your church, take classes, etc. Discipleship is a holistic exercise that involves more than one venue.
6. I can’t disciple others while I’m being discipled.
The opposite is true. We should always be being discipled and discipling others at the same time. We are always in the “middle” with people “above” and “below” us.
7. I can’t disciple others because I still struggle with sin.
Welcome to the club. If we couldn’t disciple others until all our sins were conquered, then we would never disciple anyone! True, there are certain deeper sins that disqualify someone to disciple for a time, but everyone struggles with sin as long as they are alive. Disciple others and be transparent with them about your ongoing battles.
8. I have to spend an equal amount of time with everyone I disciple.
This is not true. Jesus spends more time with Peter, James and John than with the other nine disciples. You provide general care for everyone, but you will only have the time to go deep with a few. Choose people who care about being discipled and spend most of your time with them.
9. I have to spend all my time on the person I don’t want to disciple.
There are times when we should just force ourselves to love, serve and disciple someone with whom we don’t really “click.” Jesus set our example for this by going to those whom nobody else loved. However, this does not mean it is wrong to disciple people you actually like—people with whom you actually want to hang out. Do both. Love friends and love the unlovable. That’s what Jesus did.
Now that we’ve debunked these myths, I pray that we would move forward and live out our call to be disciples and make disciples.