I recently attended the covenanting conference for The Fellowship of Presbyterians. During that time the group shared their mission “to build flourishing churches that make disciples of Jesus Christ.” There is no arguing that the Gospel according to Matthew concludes with Jesus charge to his disciples to go out and make more disciples, but does that mean us too and how do we do that today? I suppose before we answer these questions we must first define the word disciple. At the time that Jesus was calling his disciples there existed a system of apprenticeship. The closest thing that we have in our culture is an internship, but these are often not the same in practice. An internship is a temporary assignment that may or may not include pay that is often required credit for your degree in higher education. An apprenticeship is a low paying entry-level experience that typically does not have a strict timeline; the instructor determines when you leave the training program.
A student in an internship hopes to acquire some useful skills to apply to their career. An apprentice submits themselves to be molded by the instructor into an accomplished laborer.
So what does it mean to be a “disciple” of Jesus? Total submission. We can not approach this as we would an internship, because being a disciple of Jesus is not 12 step-how-to-be-the-best-me program. You don’t say “yes” to being a disciple of Jesus and think that it only applies to the “relevant areas” in your life, the places where we determine we want to see changes occur. It is all in. There is no other way.
We as a culture may have learned how to avoid introspection and have stopped believing in “sin.” However, as N.T. Wright points out we have failed at being able to eliminate shame and pain. People toady desperately want something more than a constant message of “be happy” God loves you. People need to be disciples and apprenticed by those who know that God’s love is the sacrifice of His Son and that gift of grace is given to take us exactly as we are and mold us into the people we are meant to be as God intended.