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Discipleship should take at least 3 years

Partly it’s our puritanical drive for efficiency.  Partly it’s our microwaved McMuffin approach to life.  We want to cut corners on discipleship when we need to take at least three long years.  We outsource our discipleship to youth groups and give them a few hours a week.  Bu…
By Seth Barnes

Partly it’s our puritanical drive for efficiency.  Partly it’s our microwaved McMuffin approach to life.  We want to cut corners on discipleship when we need to take at least three long years.  We outsource our discipleship to youth groups and give them a few hours a week.  But to do what? Sprinkle them with spiritual fairy dust?  Whatever our intent, we need to rethink our methods – they aren’t working. 

Jesus took three years to disciple his disciples and they still looked like a mess in the end.  Three years of intensive, personal, challenging life together was just barely enough to get them to a place where they were succeeding as much as they were failing.

Jesus’ best disciple, Peter, the rock upon which Jesus said he’d build his church, was like a spiritual toddler falling down as he learned to walk.  There he is walking on water one minute and chopping off a soldier’s ear or denying Jesus multiple times the next minute.

It took about three years and along the way, Peter got plenty of real life faith tests followed by immediate debriefings from Jesus.  Each time he failed, Peter could look at his spiritual reflection and see his brokenness.

If you’re in the business of discipling others, there is no way around it.  If the Master took three years and his best pupil was still failing half the time, then how long should you and I be prepared to devote?
 
I calculate that Jesus invested approximately 15,000 hours in his disciples (5,000 hours/year of constant modeling, teaching and debriefing).  Then their spirits were seared by watching him die, and then they spent days waiting for the empowerment of the Holy Spirit.  Who are we to do any less?
 
Most of my adult life I’ve sought to find a way around the long road of commitment that Jesus’ pattern of relationship requires.  I’ve done the Sunday youth group and thrown myself at Bible studies and pizza parties in an effort to disciple young people.  And they all have their place.  It just takes a lot longer than I realized. You have to walk with them – they have to be able to see your model.  You have to risk big and fail big in front of them.  They have to see that both are possible. They have to see you at play and see you when you’re tired.
 
It took my own children to show me the depth of investment necessary.  Ask them and they’ll talk to you about a process that spanned years and years.  They’re in their twenties now and we still talk all the time. I couldn’t be prouder of the way they follow their master.
 
That’s the kind of discipleship pattern that Jesus modeled. There really are no short cuts.

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