Discipleship is a word that is thrown around a lot in churches and Christian circles today. it’s become a bit of a buzz word. Every church or Christian will have their own idea of what discipleship looks like. For some it will mean sitting in skinny jeans sipping hipster coffee whilst reading the Bible. For others it will mean walking along the beach talking about the ups and downs of the Christian life. For others it will mean opening up your home and bringing someone into the family. Discipleship takes on many different shapes and sizes.
But there’s a type of discipleship that does more damage than it does good. We’re all aware of practices that are harmful to people and so we stay away from them. But there are subtle things that we do that can harm people and you may not even realise it’s happening.
Here are two of the practices that I’d describe as dangerous discipleship…
The Book Launcher
“What’s the Christian response to this?” or “How does this passage fit in with that other passage?” People ask questions, we’ve all probably sat on both sides of the questions. But one of the dangerous things to do is simply to throw a book at someone who has a question and think that you’ve done some discipleship.
Can reading be a form of discipleship? I think it can be a valuable contribution. But launching a book in someone’s direction is not the most helpful thing to do. It doesn’t help the person talk through their questions, it doesn’t convey the message that your ‘average Christian’ is capable of teaching and discipling. Launching a book at someone can sometimes come across as if you’re saying “I don’t have time for you right now, but here’s the answer” or words to those effect.
The Constant Cuddler
There are time when people are hurting and they need comforting. There are times when you need to cuddle people, by that I mean reassure them and help them, rather than actually cuddle them. However, another mark of dangerous discipleship is constant cuddling. The idea that you cannot say anything that may offend or cause discomfort for the other person.
I think that many affluent churches are particularly bad at this. We don’t like to rock the boat. We don’t like to say things that may cause offence. But the reality is that you’re calling someone to live a Christ-centred life, which means calling out and putting to death sinful behaviour.
Constantly cuddling someone and reassuring them in their sinful behaviour conveys the message that it is ok to be a Christian and keep on intentionally sinning. We need to be involved in discipleship that is born out of a genuine love for the person that we can’t help but be blunt and call out sin. We don’t do it to hurt or to scorn, but we do it out of a care for their souls and a desire to see them glorify God.
There are more forms of dangerous discipleship that does not help, but can actually hinder, a person’s spiritual growth. But we all know what they are because 1) we’ve either been on the receiving end of it, or 2) we’ve done it ourselves.
The defining matter now is, what do you do with that realisation. Do you see the error and move to a better model of discipleship? Or do you forget about it and carry on as is?
We need to remember that as Christians we are ambassadors of Christ to the world. That means that we should be living in such a way that we point people to Christ. The same should be true in our discipleship. Therefore, there will be times when you need to be blunt about sin that ensnares the soul. It means that you need to be honest about the struggles of life and it means that we should live in constant prayer for the Spirit’s help to make us more like Christ every day.