Two years ago, I attended a conference for artists, songwriters, and musicians, in Nashville, Tennessee.
The non-stop, action-filled weekend was highly enjoyable, as popular artists in the CCM (Contemporary Christian Music) industry shared life-lessons, practical tips, and abundant encouragement for all who attended.
But somewhere, between the endless stream of talks revolving around subjects like, "How to Land a Record Deal", "The Future of Digital Music Streaming", and "Is the Radio Dead?", someone took the stage with a bold question.
"Have you been discipled?"
Slightly confused, unsure glances spread throughout the auditorium as each artist glanced at their neighbor.
"Has someone poured into your life, on a daily, or almost daily, basis, discipling and training you up in the Kingdom of God?"
I can guess that for those of us who grew up in Christian homes, our minds traveled to our parents. (At least mine did.) Sure, I might've shrugged, My answer is yes. I've been discipled by my parents.
The speaker went on to challenge us with these words. "Forget the stages. Forget the music, and the lights, and wherever your life in this industry might take you. At the end of it all, will you be able to stand before Jesus and know that you made disciples? That you took the time to pour into one person, and raise them up in the ways of God?"
Those powerful words penetrated like an arrow.
After explaining more about his upbringing, and the first man who chose to take him under his wing and disciple him, he posed the question again.
"Raise your hand if you've been disciplined."
I glanced around the room, and felt as if less than five percent lifted their hands. My eyes widened in shock. Wait, this was supposed to be a Christian conference, right?
So why did it appear as though less than five percent of Christian young people haven't been (or are not actively being) discipled?
A few years ago, I wrote a post called, "Following the Leader".
In this post, I talked about Jesus' invitation to his OG disciples (the original twelve dudes who we read about in the Gospels) to drop everything and follow Him.
Without the proper historical context of what life was like in ancient Jewish culture, some of these passages can come across as a little odd. "Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men!" Um, okay...what?
Jesus was a Rabbi. The Word says He was "one who teaches with authority" (Mark 1:22, Matthew 7:29). During these times, Jewish men desired to study under the best Rabbi's.
It was common for young men who were hand-selected by a Rabbi, to leave their homes, and spend as much time as possible with their Teacher as they soaked in all they could.
It was common to eat, travel, and fellowship with their Rabbi - just like Jesus asked his 12 (and many others) to do!
Jesus set the ultimate example of what it means to make disciples, then He commanded his followers to do the same.
Sadly, in our current Christian culture, this idea is somewhat foreign. "Doing life together" is a phrase that's often thrown around in Church circles, but what does that really mean?
What does it mean to make disciples?
But even more than that, what does it mean to be discipled? What does that look like?
And maybe you're asking the question that I asked myself a few years ago...Do I even need to be discipled? Do I need a mentor?
I've always been a pretty independent individual.
One of the first books I learned to read as a little girl was titled, "I Can Do It Myself!" and that seemed to quickly become my life motto.
As I mentioned before, I was blessed to grow up in a Christian home, and my parents have always been kind, loving, and supportive. But to say I've been "discipled" by them, might be a bit of a stretch.
When I was born, my parents were still baby-baby Christians, so as I've grown over the years, so have they! In some ways, we've each been on our own, individual faith journeys, even though we're a family unit.
We each grew in different areas, at different paces, and sometimes, that made things a little challenging. I went through seasons of life where I felt like, even though my parents were understanding, they weren't exactly on the same page that I was spiritually, and that can be a little self-isolating.
I felt the same way with my friends. As much as I adored them and felt honored to help them with their struggles, they simply weren't able to pour into me the same way I did them. During my Middle and High School years, I didn't really have anyone actively discipling or mentoring me, and even though I knew something was missing, I told myself it was supposed to be this way.
What's crazy, is that looking back on those incredibly challenging years of life, I never prayed for a mentor.
I had never really seen discipleship modeled in my church or youth groups, so how would I know that was missing?
"Discipleship" was much more of a churchy buzz-word than it was anything attainable and duplicatable.
It wasn't until years later that I began to understand the power of alignment in Godly discipleship, God's design for healthy relationships within the Kingdom, and how much this matters to His heart.
I know that this can be a touchy subject for some. I think it would be safe to guess that we've all seen this concept abused in some way, shape, or form.
We've probably seen powerful, controlling people, with wrong motives create some kind of collateral damage with this concept - be in in our personal life, or in the life of someone else we know.
But the abuse of a truth, doesn't make the truth wrong. It just means it was handled wrong.
I truly believe that discipleship is a Heavenly blueprint that Jesus lived by. He set the example and gave us this gift to embrace, and duplicate!
So, to answer the question..."Do I need to be discipled? Do I need a mentor?"
I suppose the word 'need' is all relative. All you really 'need' to survive is water, oxygen, and food. But what if you want to thrive? What if you want to step into the fullness of the plan God has for your life, and truly flourish in your relationship with Him?
Then I'm going to give it a big YES.
Yes, we all need people speaking life, love, and hope into our hearts. (Now, not to say that God doesn't bring us through seasons of isolation and loneliness. Because He does. But those seasons aren't mean to endure throughout our entire lifetime. Seasons always change!)
So what about you? Have you ever thought about praying and asking God to bring a mentor into your life?
Someone who can disciple you, teach you the ways of the Kingdom, and help you grow in your walk with the Lord?
Oh how I wish I would've known to pray for this as a teen!
The first step, as I mentioned above, is to pray! Ask God to begin preparing your heart, and the heart of whoever it is that He desires to bring into your life, so that you'll be ready to connect when the time is right.
Sometimes, God won't bring someone like this into our lives right away. I believe there are several reasons for this, but one of the main reasons, is because He does NOT want idols in our lives!
It is so easy to place our faith and dependency on a human in place of our relationship with Jesus, and the moment we do that, we are stepping into dangerous territory.
Discipleship is a beautiful, strengthening, life-giving thing, but if it's used as a crutch or replacement to reading God's Word, spending time with Him, prayer, and personal worship, it is not a healthy relationship. Period.
The second reason mentorships can be reserved for later seasons of life, is because your mentor has to be in a healthy place herself.
If there's someone in your life who says they want to mentor or disciple you, yet she's not in a healthy place emotionally and spiritually, she might be trying to get her needs met through you in an unhealthy way.
The truth is, everyone wants to feel wanted. They want to feel important, and needed. But if someone is "ministering" with a wounded heart, feeling that they themselves need to "benefit" from the exchange of pouring into you...that is also extremely unhealthy.
Love is NOT selfish. (1 Corinthians 13:5.) Sadly, many women can be in such a desperate hurry to get their needs met, they rush out and find a "little sister in the Lord" and try to "mentor" them, not even aware of the fact that all their emotional garbage and spiritual junk is doing more harm to that young girl, than it is good.
I believe this is why God asks us to wait for mentor-type relationships, whether we are on the giving end, or the receiving end, in the same way that He often asks His single girls to wait a bit longer for marriage.
God wants our relationships to be healthy, and sometimes He has a little bit of growing up to do in all of us, before He can connect us with the right people in our lives!
So how do you find this person?
1. Begin Praying for Them
2. Start Preparing Your Heart
Root your heart in Jesus! There is no human who is going to make you feel 'more fulfilled' than Him!
3. Ask When You Feel Ready
Is there an older woman in your life (by older I mean someone older than you, they might only be a few months older, but spiritually, you can see their maturity and you desire to have that kind of relationship with Jesus!) who beautifully exemplifies her love for Christ through her everyday life?
Look at scripture, and examine her life. Does she inspire you to draw closer to Jesus? Does she walk in purity and love? Does she strive to live as a Proverbs 31 woman, and by the words of 1 Peter 3:3 and Titus 2:4-5?
Pray about the possibility of approaching her, and letting her know what you admire about her. Ask her if she would be open to praying about the possibility of discipling you.
Explain what that means to you. As we already covered, we don't all have a super clear vision of what that word means, or how to apply it to our lives, so don't scare her away with language she might not fully interpret. Share what you're envisioning and how you'd like to learn from here. Here are a few ideas:
(Note: This is by no means an exhaustive list or official example or definition of what 'discipleship' looks like. Ask God to define what this could look like in your life. These are just some ideas! :))
-Get together for a weekly Bible study. Pray together, and share thoughts on scripture, as well as life updates and whatever else comes up!
-Share a weekly meal together. If she's married with children, come to her house for the day and help with the kids, spend time together, and experience life together.
-Shadow her ministry or profession once a week, or as often as possible. Whether she's a speaker, worship leader, author, homeless shelter manager, or website designer - ask to learn from her real life highs and lows. Please keep in mind that this might sound like a frightening request to some...
We've grown so accustomed to living our own little separate lives, and aren't always comfortable with giving those around us a raw, authentic, "behind the scenes" look at our real lives. But what do have to hide?
If we can't be the same person at work and at home as we are at church, then maybe we've got some deeper heart issues to deal with.
With that being said, please know that if someone denies your request to "shadow" them, that doesn't mean they've got some deep dark secret they're hiding. It may simply be inconvenient, not the right timing for that person, or they're uncomfortable with the idea because, well, let's face it, this isn't the kind of "mentorship" and "doing life together" that we're used to in the Church.
I believe that in time, this style of discipleship will become more and more common, but it may take awhile for people to get used to an idea like that.
I hope this post has been both eye-opening, and encouraging to you!
I'd love to hear what your discipleship/mentorship life looks like! Do you have a mentor? Do you desire to have one?
Do you disciple others? If so, what does that look like?
Share in the Comments below! I LOVE hearing from you lovely ladies! Or, if you'd rather shoot us an email, you can do so here!