The school where I teach has a simple four-step policy for student behavior and discipline: teach, train, bless, and curse. Too often we discipline children at home or in school for things we haven’t taken the time to teach them, so our school has made a commitment to first teach students the standard.
Next, we train students on that standard through practice and instantiations, incarnations, or examples or what it looks like to follow or break that standard. When students have been taught and trained and then do the right thing, we bless them. We encourage and praise them for living well. When they have been taught and trained in the standard and then break it, however, they are appropriately (that is, lovingly and redemptively) disciplined (i.e., “cursed”).
Discipleship, I am convinced, should follow this same pattern, and our failures in discipleship are often a failure in the first three steps. To tell a person to make disciples and then criticize (i.e., curse) them for the failure to do so is, rather, a failure on our part, not theirs."To tell a person to make disciples and then criticize them for the failure to do so is, rather, a failure on our part, not theirs." @kyle_rapinchuk #collegiatedisciplemaker #collegeministry #makingdisciples Click To Tweet
Teaching Disciples to Make Disciples
First, we must teach them how and why to disciple. We must teach them the gospel, the doctrines of the faith, and the Christian vocation that we are all called to live into, not just pastors and missionaries.
Training Disciples to Make Disciples
Having taught them these things, we must also train them. That means first pointing them to the perfect incarnation of discipleship in the incarnate God, Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus is the instantiation and example of ultimate discipleship. Reading the gospel and gazing upon Jesus as revealed in the Scriptures is perhaps the best use of our time in discipleship training.
Beyond this, it is helpful to train disciples in disciple-making by encouraging them to be with us as we disciple others. To watch how discipleship is done in our context, in this present, is an invaluable experience. Not everyone can take a universal principle and put it into practice in a specific context; seeing it done is immensely helpful. Imagine coaching a sport when someone had never seen the sport played—it’s utter nonsense, yet I am convinced that we have numerous people in our lives who have never seen the “sport” (forgive the analogy here) of discipleship being played.
Blessing Disciples as They Make Disciples
If we will in fact teach and train others in discipleship in these ways, then we must be prepared to praise them when they do well. I am not an encouraging person by nature—it is certainly one of my many and most glaring weaknesses. But I have been so blessed when others have encouraged me in the good work that they see me do, and knowing how that blesses me has led me to work much harder at encouraging and blessing others likewise.
Rebuking Disciples in Love
Finally, however, having completed these three steps, we must not be afraid to hold one another accountable by “cursing”—that is, correcting, rebuking (2 Tim 3:16)—them in love. When we see failures in discipleship because of laziness, insensitivity, carelessness, selfishness—in short, because of sin—we must call it out and encourage repentance.
Discipleship is Hard
Discipleship is really hard, but not because it’s complicated. I really think these four steps would yield dramatic discipleship wins. But discipleship is hard because teaching is hard, because training is hard, because blessing is hard, because “cursing” is hard, and because we are all sinners. My advice: repent, and get back to the work.
Thanks be to God for His mercy and grace!