Over the next few days I will share with you some of my thoughts regarding how we prepare young people to serve God. I believe that the most effective leaders are not the ones who are taught, but the ones who are discipled. Jesus knew what he was doing when he took twelve disciples to follow and serve with him for three years rather than opening a school offering classes on theology.
Discipleship requires teaching. Yes, discipleship is more than academic training. Yes, the best lessons our disciples can learn will come from the examples we give them. But if we are going to dismantle wrong ways of thinking and open their eyes to understanding relevant truths, we have to explain some things.
If we read in the gospels we will see Jesus telling the masses a lot of stories. Parables. Sometimes we assume that Jesus’ reason for telling stories was simply his folksy nature of reaching out to normal people. It is true that people will remember a story much longer than they will a theory, so using stories is an effective form of communication. However, there were political reasons, too.
When Jesus told his stories he often said something to the effect of, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” To ‘hear’ means to understand. Jesus wanted people to understand, but he wanted them to think about it, too. Those who would mull over the meaning of one of Jesus’ stories, and then figure out the meaning, would be one who had “ears to hear.” This also means that there would be those who wouldn’t understand the meaning of Jesus’ words. Stating plainly to the world, “I am the Christ,” would have some severe consequences. First, it would be a miscommunication knowing that most people had a misconception about who the messiah was to be and what he was to do. Second, such a statement would have gotten Jesus arrested a lot faster than he did. The time was not yet right as Jesus had to prepare his disciples first.
With that in mind, Jesus often pulled his disciples aside and explained to them the meaning of parables. He would teach them in ways not available for those in the general public who followed him. Even if the disciples didn’t have “ears to hear” for themselves, Jesus would explain so they could understand. And beyond explaining parables, Jesus often taught his disciples many lessons he did not share with the crowds.
Teaching people the truth is more than teaching doctrine. Jesus didn’t just want his disciples to be able to rattle off seven points regarding a particular systematic theology. No, he wanted them to understand. Understanding true things that were previously misunderstood is gaining the ability to “see” and to “hear.” Once we are hearing and seeing, we then become passionate about showing these truths to others so that they, too, can see and understand. Jesus said, “You will know the truth and the truth will set you free.”
Teaching our interns is an important part of our discipleship program here at our location even though it is not the only thing we do. Beyond reading the Bible on their own, our interns spend two hours each morning studying lessons and concepts regarding God and living according to his will. It is important for them not to simply be taught about God’s way, but for them to really grasp it, and to understand the real problems and issues people face in this world. One of our most common prayers we pray with our interns is, “Please give us eyes to see and ears to hear.”
Four post summary:
1. Jesus’ life was already an ongoing example of effective ministry, of which he later included them, before he called them and before he sent them out to do ministry on their own.
2. After spending time in prayer Jesus chose specific people to be his disciples, to live with him and follow him for about three years. He chose a limited number of people and poured himself into them rather than trying to get as many as he could.
3. Jesus didn’t simply make scheduled teaching appearances with his disciples but invited them to live with him 24/7. They did not only hear what he was about, they saw it every day.
4. Jesus spent time teaching his disciples important concepts and truths so they would have understanding. He taught them in ways that were not available for those in the general public who followed him.