Because of this many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him. So Jesus asked the twelve, “Do you also wish to go away?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.”
I recently heard a Pioneer Priest refer to "the church of slimming world" and, immersed in exploring discipleship models as I am at present, that phrase resonated with me.
Our communities, not least our church buildings, are populated by all manner of motivational groups for healthy living, groups that attract because people are unhappy with their lifestyle or with their body image. (The kind of media that encourages that dissatisfaction or dictates what is ideal is a whole other story) People sign up to these groups to be mentored through change. They become part of a community that stimulates and encourages the kind of changes that they perceive are necessary. Within those communities they experience motivation and accountability.
One of the interesting facts is that few people go along to such a group, learn the basics, pick up a schedule and then decide to go it alone - or if they do, they soon return to the community looking for help. Because the encouragement and accountability are necessary parts of the plan. And leadership is important too - someone dynamically bringing that all together, discerning when to be gentle, when to be more confrontational, when to encourage or cajole.
What's more, such groups often really do offer supportive community. They are open, accepting and affirming, groups that most are comfortable inviting their friends to join.
Clearly there are parallels here for the church as an Attractional model.
But, alongside these groups, there is also an intensive leadership programme - and a different layer of community being formed among those leaders. A community that is intentional in training, in equipping and in empowering. A community that holds its members accountable and that expects results. A community that invites folk to step up, own the challenges, celebrating success and analysing failure. A community that expects leaders to model the programme.
Aren't those the kind of demands we want to make on those involved in discipling others? Those who have themselves experienced the kind of change that following Jesus brings, whose lifestyle demonstrates that change and who are willing to put themselves out there as a model of the transformative power of the love of God. Those who set targets and also deliver. Those who, in community will share openly and honestly, constantly learning new skills, finding growth in their journey of discipleship that will enrich and shape how they disciple others.
The question is: Would you want to be a disciple who disciples others?