Today I continue my 2013 Discipleship Interview Series with Philip Nation. Philip is an author, pastor, speaker, and publishing executive. You can connect with him at PhilipNation.net.
The three passages that often return to in thinking about discipleship are John 17, 2 Corinthians 2-7, and Ephesians 3:14-21. I go to John 17 to get a mysterious portrait of the unity we share and the glory of God bestowed upon us. The lengthy passage of 2 Corinthians 2-7 holds numerous descriptions about the identity of the believer. It is a critical element in discipleship that is often neglected. Finally, the prayer by Paul for the Ephesian church helps in recognizing that there are deeper depths to plumb.
Who has been influential to you in forming your view of discipleship?
Primarily, there are three people. First is Matthew Roskam who is about 8 years older than me and was an associate minister at my home church. From the time I was 17 until age 20, Matthew spent time on a regular basis (generally, weekly) to disciple me. Secondly, Jonathan Edwards. Known for his powerful preaching, I’ve always been struck by the amount of time he spent with the youth of his congregation. Finally is Henry Blackaby. We came to know one another while I served on staff at a church in Georgia where he is a member. One day when I was thanking him for spending time with me to “mentor” me, his reply was simply, “Philip, I’m not your mentor. I’m just your friend.” It forever changed how I view those in need of discipleship.
What has changed, for good and bad, in the practice or methods of discipleship in recent years?
For the bad, it is often cast as “biblical trivial pursuit.” We have allowed our knowledge of the biblical text to outpace our obedience to it.
For good, I see more leaders in Western culture leading churches to truly count the cost of being ambassadors of a foreign kingdom rather than “live at ease in Zion.”
How should a ministry define success in terms of discipleship? What does winning look like?
For me, forward progress in discipleship looks like multiplication. 2 Timothy 2:2 is a clear portrait that we are not to be satisfied in producing one generation of disciples after us. Rather, we should be disciple-makers producing disciple-makers.