For discipling people, I like to use the analogy of rubber bands and shoelaces. People need both enough stretch (rubber bands) and enough support (shoelaces) to be able to move forward. One without the other is incomplete. People need to be stretched and challenged in order to grow. They also need the connectedness of being tied in with others for support.
The writer of Hebrews outlines the dual needs of stretch and support in the context of community:
Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who has promised is faithful. And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching. (Hebrews 10:23-25, NRSV)
Let’s unpack this rich passage, as it has a great deal to say about how we are to disciple one another:
- “let us consider…” The word consider implies intentional thought about how to help another individual. We are to take our time, sit down and consider the best way to spur one another on, recognizing that it may look differently for different people.
- “how to provoke one another…” This phrase speaks to the very nature of community. Some translations use the phrase “spur one another on,” which implies both challenge and encouragement. Community is designed so that we might encourage one another on toward growth. That growth happens in the context of community, and we help move each other toward it.
- “to love and good deeds…” And toward what end are we spurring one another on? To love and good deeds. Not just love, not just good deeds—both. Here we see the highlighting of both the internal and the external, the being and the doing. That’s holistic discipleship.
- “not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some…” Consistent meeting together speaks to the intentionality of the relationships. In any community of people, relationships can fade out if we’re not careful. We need to be intentional about maintaining our discipleship community.
Too often when we think of discipleship, we think of the practices of an individual. Yet Jesus never intended discipleship as something to be done alone. What are some of the specific ways we can support one another in community—as rubber bands and shoelaces—as we go about our journeys of living as disciples of Jesus?
I personally think of three categories: relationships, environments, and processes. As leaders whose goal is to make disciples of Jesus, our work is to create the kinds of environments, relationships, and processes that facilitate discipleship.
- What kinds of environments facilitate discipleship?
- What types of relationships facilitate discipleship?
- What kinds of processes facilitate discipleship?
- And lastly, what can you do to make these types of environments, relationships, and processes readily accessible to anyone touched by your ministry who wants to grow in their walk of discipleship?