In the movie, THE GUARDIAN, actor Kevin Costner plays Ben Randall, the instructor for new potential Coast Guard Swimmers. These are the ones who go into the water to save people often in frigid or dangerous conditions. In one scene, the recruits are in an ice-filled swimming pool with Randall when the commanding officer walks in. He’s shocked and says, 

“You were only supposed to teach them the stages of hypothermia, Ben!”

“In about two more minutes they’ll know them” Ben responds.

That’s the difference between classroom teaching and experiencing a situation.

In many churches we’ve turned discipleship into a classroom event or a Bible study. We learn the Bible, we discuss potential scenarios and train for them. We even pass tests and exams on it. But we’ve lost something. It’s efficient and organized but not the real deal. 

We’ve lost the real life element of Hebrew discipleship. The Greeks opened schools to train people. We like schools. They need one teacher for many students and teaching is knowledge based and segmented.

The Israelites, on the other hand,  walked day by day with in the dust of their rabbis. Living life with the rabbi, seeing how he lived, what he did and then going to do likewise. It was messy and real. That’s the element that we have lost in much of our discipleship. It has to be real life. Being a disciple has to be experienced as one life passes it to another, life on life.

It has to be real life…life on life.

Jesus’ disciples travelled with Him. They constantly shared meals and experienced life with Him. He gave them tasks to do and then talked about them afterward. It wasn’t a “what if you’re in this situation” but a debriefing of “so, what happened?”

In the classroom, we can learn principles but we don’t become disciples. We grow as disciples day by day in real life alongside ones who have experienced it before.

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Teaching Discipleship vs. Making Disciples