Today I continue my 2013 Discipleship Interview Series with Jason Dukes. Like me, Jason is a New Orleans native. He currently serves as pastor at Westpoint Church in Orlando and is the author of Live Sent and Beyond My Church.
Discipleship is such a broad term, often a junk-drawer term that has been used to describe many things. How do you define it?
Personally, I try to avoid using the word. When said in church culture, it seems to be a descriptor for biblical intellectualism rather than actually learning and living the ways of Jesus. Intellectualism is not a bad thing necessarily. But studying the Bible to know more while not surrendering to be changed to love more is a bad thing. Furthermore, it is a term that typically is used separately from “missions,” as though separate from the planting and watering of the Gospel into our relationships and encounters, and connected to the term “evangelism,” as though the next step once someone is “converted.”
This is not the case to Jesus. His teachings indicate no such dichotomy in these words. His teachings suggest that His church is to be sent to make disciples, planting and watering the Gospel into lives, learning and living the ways of Jesus, inviting those lost and those following to together journey along. It includes scripture study as well as scripturally grounded conversations. It happens in daily rhythms while drinking coffee or over a meal or while serving someone even in the simplest of ways. And it is best embodied in the midst of a group of people following Jesus together, proactively loving one another, grace upon grace counteracting ongoing issues, and uniting selflessly around the mission of Jesus surrendering selfish agendas.
Family of God inviting those lost and lonely to be family, to learn they are loved, to then live loved while giving love as it has been given to them. We learn best when we teach. We grow most when we give. Jesus said as much in His challenge for us not to hold tightly to our lives lest we lose them, but rather to give life up that we may gain life.
To make disciples – to learn and live the ways of Jesus with a few folks inviting others along that they may learn and live His ways inviting others along that may learn and live His ways, etc.
Who has been influential to you in forming your view of discipleship?
My father. My brother. Dr. George Guthrie. Doug Dees. Erwin McManus. Eugene Peterson. Mike Breen.
Do you see distinction between personal discipleship (a believer on his own) and corporate discipleship (a believer does in the community)?
See the answer to number one. To add to that, a person invites others along to learn and live Jesus with them. A group embodies the grace and truth and love given as they endure both the beauty and hardship of growing toward the maturity of oneness in Christ and oneness as His followers. Victories celebrated. Conflicts not ignored but faced and embraced. Walking away set aside for walking together.
On the personal, confession and repentance are necessary daily. Denial of self and taking up of cross. Both regarding our own sinfulness as well as our tendency toward self-improvement. Because otherwise, idols of the heart stick around and we not only miss out on what Jesus is teaching us personally but we shortchange those with whom we walk because we get distracted with ourselves.
On the corporate, growing in Christ cannot be measured with a mirror, but only in community. The corporate provides the environment of relationships in which people can be encouraged and rebuked as well as equipped and sent.
In terms of discipling new believers, what is of chief importance?
- To stress the ongoing need to preach the Gospel to ourselves daily, remembering our profound need for Jesus and being grateful that He has come near.
- To encourage and equip for more than “reading the Word” and “prayer.” Rather, to encourage and equip for “relating with the Word” as we “listen and respond.”
- To challenge them at least every year to ask Jesus “with whom” and “to whom” are You sending me, because we will always tend toward form over function and preservation over mission.
How should a ministry define success in terms of discipleship? What does winning look like?
Winning is evidenced when the definitive question of people’s lives shifts from “what do I need?” to “what do others need?” Winning looks like the interests of others mattering more than my own, and new believers moving toward selfless mission rather than self improvement.
Is there such thing as “fully-discipled” in this lifetime?
Absolutely not. A disciple is a “learner.” May we never stop learning Jesus.