Today I continue my 2013 Discipleship Interview Series with Ben Trueblood. Ben serves as the Director of Student Ministry for LifeWay and has served the local church as a student pastor for twelve years. In addition to his role at LifeWay Ben currently serves as the student pastor at Grace Church in Hendersonville, TN.
Who has been influential to you in forming your view of discipleship?
My dad. I was fortunate to grow up in a home with a godly father who took serious the call to disciple his family. It was something that he did in both structured settings and just as he lived. By watching my dad live when I was a child, and even now, I see the importance of discipling someone through a relationship. It is a lesson that has greatly impacted the way I see discipleship in student ministry.
What has changed, for good and bad, in the practice or methods of discipleship in recent years?
Something that has changed for the good is this generation’s desire to be on mission. They quickly gravitate toward a cause and see the connection between following Jesus and serving and loving others. Discipleship should always point us to action, and this generation of students want to be part of that, they want to be part of something bigger than themselves. There is also a danger with this. It is easy to support a cause and jump into the next big social justice need. However, as disciples we are called to do that for the purpose of pointing people to the gospel. If we don’t train our students that service, mission, and meeting people’s needs are for the purpose of spreading the gospel, then we are missing the mark.
In your mind, is discipleship one aspect of church ministry or the totality of all a church does?
I believe it is the totality of all the church does. I don’t believe you can separate things like evangelism, worship, mission, and even fellowship from this one word “discipleship.” As churches follow the instructions in Matthew 28:18-20 (evangelism, baptism, teaching) they are involved in the discipleship process. As pastors equip the people of the church to do ministry, it is a discipling act. It is what we have been blessed and commanded to do as the church.
How can technology help or hinder discipleship?
There are many ways technology can help the discipleship process. Relationally, you can connect easier and more often with people. Resources can be available at any time for reading, prayer, and study. There is a massive amount of information available from authors all over the world both alive and long-dead at our fingertips now because of technology. The downside is that even though you can connect with more people fast through technology, it is still not the same as sitting down with someone and having a conversation or walking through life with someone. It is easy in our social media world to count those interactions as relationships, but for the purpose of discipleship we have to make sure we maintain interpersonal relationships. Specifically for student ministry, I think that technology is contributing in some ways to biblical illiteracy in students. I think it is really important for a student to be able to navigate their way through the Bible. To me, this is something that is being lost with the growing popularity of Bible apps.
Is there such thing as “fully-discipled” in this lifetime?
No, I don’t think so. We should always be on the journey of becoming more like Christ, there should be progress throughout a lifetime but we will never reach that mark in this lifetime.