Decision and Discipleship
We talked in this session about what it means to be a "disciple". Simply put, a disciple is someone who follows Jesus. To be a disciple requires hearing a call from Jesus, and a decision to answer that call. One does not become a disciple by accident, but always intentionally. We talked about 5 basic "thresholds" or stages on the way to becoming a disciple of Jesus:
1. Trust: At this stage a person has no commitment to Christ and his Church, but they don't have any particular prejudice or hatred of Christianity or Christian disciples. They may have no interest in becoming a disciple of Jesus themselves, but perhaps they know a few committed Catholics, and they seem to them like good people. Without at least this basic trust in the Church, one can never advance further on the way towards discipleship.
2. Curiosity: At this stage a person is intrigued or interested in why people become disciples. If they meet you at a party and find out that you are a committed Catholic, they might ask, "How did that happen? Why did you choose that?" They usually still can't imagine dedicating their own lives to Christ, but they find it interesting that others do.
3. Openness: At this stage a person is not just "open" to different points of view, but is actually open to changing their life. To enter this stage, one has to decide to engage the difficult question: "If I were to really commit to being a Christian disciple, what would I have to stop doing, and what would I have to start doing?"
4. Seeking: At this stage, a person takes an active responsibility for informing their own faith. They are not quite a disciple yet, because they have not decided once and for all that Jesus is "the Way, the Truth, and the Life" and the only infinitely valuable relationship in their life. But they are seeking to find out. A person at the seeking stage is like a person who is dating someone not just for fun, but to decide whether or not they will marry that person. A person at this stage is seeking an answer to a question about the rest of their lives. The difference between a man asking himself, "Do I like her?" and "Should she be my wife and the mother of my children?" is the same difference between someone asking himself, "Do I like the music at this church?" and "Is Jesus really God, and should I trust Him with the rest of my life?" The person at the seeking stage is asking the more serious question.
5. Discipleship: This is the final, ongoing stage of discipleship. One has committed to a lifelong relationship with Jesus, where He is the one who decides the purpose of my life, how I spend my time, what is right and wrong, etc. A person at this stage builds their entire life around Christ, and is seeking to grow closer to him by everything they do, want, think, and say - prayer, work, acts of love and service, leading others to become disciples of Jesus, etc. When faced with any decision - big or small - the disciple does not simply ask "What do I want?", but rather, "What does God want?"
We also talked about 3 myths associated with Discipleship:
1. Discipleship is optional for Catholics: People say, "I'm just an ordinary Catholic, not a saint." There is no such thing as an "ordinary Catholic". Being called by Christ, being baptized into his Body, the Church, being saved from sin and death and called to eternal, never-ending happiness in heaven is not "ordinary", but extraordinary. Whether you are called by Christ to be a priest, a nun, a businessman, a housewife, a mechanic, a secretary, or whatever else - you are called to be a saint. The only people in heaven are saints, and we all want to go to heaven. The purpose of life is to discover in Christ the way that God wants to make you into a saint.
2. Discipleship makes you weird: People think that committing their whole life to Jesus will make them some kind of fun-hating, Bible-thumping weirdo. This is a lie! Turning your life over to Christ does not make you less like yourself, it makes you become more like the person you truly are. A person is like a light bulb - but a person who follows Jesus wherever he leads is like a lightbulb screwed into the socket. They are lit up!
3. Discipleship happens automatically: People often assume that if you grew up Catholic, went to church periodically, learned the basics about the faith, and haven't done anything truly evil, you will pretty much become a disciple automatically - kind of like the way a person just "picks up" a language in the home. A toddler doesn't have to take a class to learn English, he just has to listen to his parents speak it. The truth is, though, that becoming and staying a disciple of Jesus is not like learning a language; it is more like learning a musical instrument. We pick up our first language without thinking about it, but the only way to learn the piano is by dedication, practice, and discipline. As a matter of fact, the words "discipline" and "disciple" come from the same Latin word, meaning "Student". A disciple is a student of Jesus who diligently practices what he teaches.
We were left with the questions: What is your relationship with God? Do you believe that a relationship with God is possible for you? If you could ask one question of God and be guaranteed an answer, what would you ask?
- Click here for homework reading for next time.
- Memorize the "Our Father"