The commission of every believer is simple. Jesus commanded us to “go and make disciples of all nations, …teaching them to observe all that I have commanded….” (Matt 28:19 ESV)
Much of the disparities of modern Christianity, I believe, can be primarily traced back to the neglect of this one commission. Believers no longer value the nurturing strength of being a disciple or the eternal impact of making disciples. Many followers of Jesus are “converted” and remain as immature, temperamental, and even carnal Christians for most of their lives. The need for discipleship has been made evident to me. Discipleship, among other things, leads one to turn from a self-satisfying faith to a self-sacrificing faith. When a believer commits their heart to be a disciple, they are making a long-term commitment not only to Jesus but to those whom He has set in place for the “equipping of the saints for the work of the ministry.” (Ephesians 4:11-12)
Probably the first road block of replicating discipleship is that very few have been raised as a disciple in the faith. In a culture of independence, the idea of submitting one’s life and actions to someone else at times seems counter-cultural. However, humility is the doorway to honor. (Proverbs 15:33) Many object to completely submitting their life to a pastor or godly leader stating that we can build our walk with Jesus independently and that men or women of God are only cheerleaders. The problem with this logic is that when there is no one to show you how to mature in following Jesus, you are left to your own immature, untrained perception of God. God teaches people through people. That is why Jesus came as a man and taught men and women as His disciples. He commanded them to do the same. Cheerleaders for the most part know very little about how the game is played. Players need coaches, coaches who have done what they are doing and done it well. We can’t expect serious growth with only the mere comforts of smiles and cheers. When we seek out and submit ourselves to men or women of God we will correctly transfer the message of the gospel from one generation to the next. Think about this, for almost thirty years after Jesus’ ascension the church following this principle of discipleship reached the known world with the powerful demonstration of the gospel. They did this through being trained by the apostles Jesus raised up. They had no technology, seminaries, or evangelistic church growth conferences. They didn’t even have a written Bible. Who is teaching you the pathway to follow Jesus?
I know some may cite an incident where a spiritual leader abused their position or power. Yes, that happens. However, just because there are some abusive, unhealthy parents out there it doesn’t mean parenting altogether is a failed authority. There are good parents in the faith who are more concerned for the developing of the next generation of believers above their own well-being. Good leaders in the faith sacrifice for their children. Children who have been raised in the fear of the Lord make good fathers in the faith for the following generation. Unless you find those in your life who can teach you the way of honoring authority, you will find that submission to authority will always be a point of contention in your heart.
It’s a fallacy to think that the ones whom you submit yourself to must be complete, flawless spiritual leaders. It’s as foolish as looking for only completely perfect disciples. Samuel honored and learned from Eli in spite of Eli’s faults. David honored King Saul rather than exposing his weaknesses to Israel. The honoring of godly leadership by genuine submission opens the doorway for the Holy Spirit to work in our hearts the fundamental truths of humility, honor, and dependence on Jesus. How are you honoring those whom God has put over your life?