Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)
This is discipleship, pure and simple. This is what makes discipleship, according to Jesus, simply brilliant. Jesus wants us to personally pass on everything He has taught (and is teaching) us so that we are always teaching what we know. The curriculum is always being developed, so it is always fresh.
What makes teaching difficult is when you are expected to teach what you don’t know to someone unfamiliar. That’s when we err by faking it – by acting like we know more than we really know, and if we’re with people we don’t know very well, our ignorance can go undetected. Whereas teaching someone you know is much more revealing. You can’t fake it with your wife or your own kids.
(Ask any pastor to tell you about their toughest audience, and if they don’t say their wife and kids I would wonder if they are telling you the truth.)
Teaching is not about imparting information; it’s about imparting a life. I keep wanting to do the former. Give me a curriculum and an appointed time to teach it and I can do that, but tell me you want me to impart what I know to someone as we walk and talk, and that is something else entirely. Yet that is the method Jesus used. They walked and they talked.
- The disciples left Jesus at Jacob’s well and went into town for food, only to find Him talking with a Samaritan woman when they returned, and upon her departure back to town, Jesus proceeded to teach the disciples all about the great harvest of souls He was predicting.
- They passed by a fig tree and Jesus taught the disciples about bearing fruit.
- They passed by a vineyard, and Jesus taught them about abiding in Him.
- They faced a storm at sea and Jesus taught them about faith.
Class was always in session because the lessons were all from and about life.
If we can teach someone at an appointed time and place, but not as we walk and talk, the question must be asked as to how well this teaching has been integrated into our own lives. Compare what you teach out of a book to what you impart over dinner, and ask yourself which experience of learning is most likely to stick.
I have always struggled over this with my own kids. The Old Testament tells me I have a responsibility to teach my kids and train them in righteousness, but I’ve never been able to get them to show up for Discipleship 101 taught by Dad. In fact, that’s when they seem the least teachable – when I’m trying to teach them! No, they show up for life, though, and that’s what it’s all about.
Lord, teach us to walk alongside and talk deeply with, not just disseminate information. Anyone can do that. Teach us to disciple by being disciples. Teach us to impart how to live by living openly. Not perfectly, but openly.