June 28, 1994
“I’m going to church every Sunday,” explained Vernon to his pastor. “I really don’t need more training on how to live like a Christian. Hearing a good message once a week is enough.”
The pastor didn’t argue with this new Christian. Instead, he talked of other matters, and as he talked he reached down into a small bucket and scooped a handful of water toward an assortment of bottles a few feet away. Some were open, others had lids on them.
Vernon wondered if his pastor was working too hard. As their discussion continued, every few minutes he reached again into the pail and tossed water at the bottles. Finally Vernon asked, “What are you doing with that water?”
“Oh, I’m trying to fill those bottles over there.”
“But why don’t you pick up the pail and pour it in, one bottle at a time?”
“Well, Vernon, doing it this way is something like preaching. I know not every bottle gets filled up like it should, but I do my best.”
Vernon laughed. “I get your point. So when are you going to start discipling me?”
Some form of personal training is an important part of learning how to follow Christ. Jesus modeled it when He selected and taught the twelve men who were His disciples. He spent three years showing them and telling them how to minister to others. The instruction was tailored to their individual needs.
This form of teaching, usually called “one-on-one discipleship,” was stressed by the Apostle Paul in his letter to Timothy: “And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others.”
While that verses uses the word “men,” it is in a generic sense. The idea of discipleship certainly included women. Paul told another pastor, “Teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can train the younger women...”
Individual discipleship is very important for several reasons. First, as the mentor gets to know the disciple, he or she has opportunity to help them with specific problems and needs. New Christians particularly want individual attention and feel uncomfortable sharing personal problems in a larger group. Sermons may help them, yet sermons are not always directly related to the need of the moment for every person listening.
Second, new Christians have many questions. They need to discuss these, as well as give opinions, and test their ideas in a non-threatening setting. Some issues may trouble them, even to the point that when they come to church they are so preoccupied they do not hear what the pastor is saying. They are like jars with lids on them. With a personal mentor, they can raise questions and discuss issues.
Third, faith is reinforced when the one who believes can verbally express exactly what they believe. Even though some worship services allow a time for people in the congregation to share, practicing with a mentor makes sharing less intimidating and a more natural part of a believer’s experience.
Jesus did preach to the multitudes and a few responded positively; however when it came time to decide, it was the small group of disciples who continued to follow Christ. They had been well trained and would go on to train others.
In contrast many, who at one time crowded around Jesus, eventually cried out, “Crucify Him, Crucify Him.”