Here’s a phrase you’ve never read in Scripture: “And Jesus called aside the apostles saying, ‘take up your discipleship workbooks and gather for the lesson.’”
There is no doubt that Jesus was a disciple-maker and there is no doubt that He taught the apostles lessons. However, there is great doubt that he ever announced His discipleship in this way.
Certainly, in calling the apostles to “follow” him, He announced a general call to discipleship. But when it came to day-to-day learning, Jesus utilized a more potent method: hidden discipleship.
Hidden discipleship simply means it was unannounced. Instead of being situated in a classroom, Christ’s discipleship was wrapped in real life.
For instance, Jesus didn’t announce, “Today I am going to teach you lesson seven: God will supply your every need.” No, instead, He took advantage of a real-life situation where masses of people were hungry. He involved the apostles in searching for a solution. Then, he took their incomplete understanding -five loaves here and two fish- (Matthew 14:13-21) and demonstrated His sufficiency. He even put an exclamation point on the lesson by giving each apostle a basketful of leftovers.
Jesus took advantage of another real-life situation when the apostles were sending children away. Instead of saying, “Okay Twelve, let them through –we’ll talk about this later in lesson eight: The nature of the Kingdom,” He spent time in the midst of the situation to explain how you must be like a little child to enter the Kingdom (Mark 10:15).
Further, Jesus allowed His apostles to observe Him in real life as he prayed, cared for the sick, displayed compassion on the hurting, and loved the unlovable –all lessons that are better caught than taught. It wasn’t until the end of His life, in the upper room, that Jesus spent extensive time teaching the apostles lessons.
Jesus was the master of hiding lessons in real life. But to be like Jesus, I don’t think we necessarily have to make extravagant plans for such “learning moments.” It’s not as if we have to pay a host of actors to portray a “single-mom-with-a-flat-tire” scene in front of us as we drive our disciple down the street at exactly 4:03 pm. No, life has enough “learning moments” already built in. An effective disciple-maker just has their eyes open to take advantage of the moments God puts in front of them each day.
Of course this requires two major factors: 1) the disciple-maker must live out a Christ-like example all of the time so that these “hidden discipleship moments” are a part of their daily consistent walk, and 2) the disciple-maker must spend enough time with their disciple for these “hidden opportunities” to arise. (Its probably not going to happen one hour a week in a classroom).
Is this method effective? Beyond the obvious answer –“it worked for Jesus”- is the affirmation of testimony. Recently I have interviewed several people asking them to describe the person who has had the greatest spiritual impact upon them. Guess what? Not one person described someone teaching a class or preaching a sermon. They all described people who invested their life in them and intentionally taught them Truth from Scripture as situations arose in real life.
One lady shared how, when her parents divorced, a friend’s grandmother took her under her wing and made her a part of their family. Through all of the hardships and difficulties of the divorce, “Mamaw” would point the girl to God’s faithfulness in Scripture.
Another person explained that while stationed stateside in the Army, he visited a local church. After the service, Bob invited him to eat lunch in his home. That began a long-term relationship in which the two men spent time together in normal activities –golf, hunting, sports. Over the years, when situations arose, Bob was a consistent example of Christ-likeness to the young man –even in death. When Bob developed lung cancer, the man spent hours with Bob in the hospital. Why? Because Bob had taught him compassion through his lifestyle over the years.
These are the kind of “learning moments” that last for life –and they rarely happen in the classroom. Instead, the truth of the lessons is most effective when imbedded in the context where it applies –real life. If we were meant to live life in a classroom, it would make sense to teach life in a classroom. But that’s not the case.
The classroom creates many obstacles to learning –it separates truth from life, it creates an artificial motive for learning –“finish the workbook/lesson,” and can become a burden rather than a blessing.
That’s not to say that teaching or preaching in a classroom or from the pulpit is ineffective. But rather, it seems that the classroom and pulpit are most effective when a person has been transformed in real life contexts first. It would be like a coach drawing x’s and o’s on the chalkboard for a bunch of guys who have never set foot on the field -its hard to wrap your mind around information when there has been no transformation. And transformation typically takes place in the “hidden discipleship” moments where truth is wrapped in real life.
In order to take advantage of “hidden discipleship” a disciple-maker must:
1) Already live consistently as a disciple of Christ
2) Spend plenty of time with your disciple in real life situations
3) Keep your eyes open for learning moments
4) Be intentional to direct each moment to Scripture –not just “man’s wisdom.”