I have spent the last several months going through an in-depth study on the book of Acts, while also speaking to our students from the Gospel of John every Wednesday night. God has challenged and restructured my view of spiritual formation more than I could ever imagine. Most of the time and energy I have spent developing spiritual formation programs has been in the context of coaching and mentoring, but very rarely have I focused deeply on true discipleship. Coaching can be expressed through talent and skill development. Mentoring will take coaching to a deeper level relationally and may involve training on goal-setting and basic life application. A good mentor will often speak wisdom into their students’ life, but they may never reach a level of deep, intimate challenge based on Scripture.
As Christians we are called to be disciples – true, authentic followers of Christ. We are not only called to a life based on skill and knowledge, but rather a life focused on living every second for Christ! A discipling culture will always take coaching and mentoring to a level of Christ-like intimacy. In Luke 9 and Luke 14, Jesus describes the expectations that come with discipleship. We must first prioritize the cross of Christ above everything else – above every human relationship, every talent and ability, and everything we either have or don’t have. Being a disciple is all about following Jesus. Choosing to continue to follow Jesus when the coaches are gone and the mentors have left. Following Jesus isn’t about belonging to a club or a group. It begins with a passionate ‘at once’ followed by a series of mistakes, failures, questions, and most of all a committed focus on becoming more like Christ everyday!
There is a much deeper cost in discipleship as well. If you desire to become a professional athlete, it takes total commitment, total dedication, tons of time, energy, and money. As a general contractor, if you were to build something, you must sit down and think through whether or not you want to give all that you have into what you are building. The same is true with our relationship with Christ – We must count the cost to follow Him – we could lose everything. It may cost you friends, relationships, popularity, and opportunities to have the spotlight put on you.
Are you willing to give everything up for Christ? Material fades away. As time goes on things get rusty, brake, and you have to replace them. Cars, houses, the latest fad all fade but NOT Jesus. His love endures forever. His kingdom will never end.
True discipleship also provides us the ability to live with a purpose that goes far beyond anything we could ever imagine! In his book, Purpose Driven Life, Rick Warren says “It’s not about you. The purpose of your life is far greater than your own personal fulfillment, your peace of mind, or even your happiness . . . If you want to know why you were placed on this planet, you must begin with God. You were born by his purpose and for his purpose.”
A true follower of Christ has purpose that goes beyond themselves, beyond scoring the winning touchdown, beyond being the most popular student in their class, and beyond getting straight A’s. While all of those things can help fulfill our purpose in Christ, it must not become the central focus.
I recently came across an article by Greg Laurie. In it he writes this… “While every disciple is a believer, not every believer is necessarily a disciple. Many may think that the term disciple refers only to the early followers of Christ. We know that they were a praying, worshipping, loving, giving, and evangelizing group of men and women who refused to keep the truth of the gospel to themselves. Yet, God still desires disciples today – ordinary people like you and me whom God can use to do extraordinary things. The Christian experience of the believers in the first-century church may seem radical to many in the church today, but to those early believers, it was normal Christianity. And these men and women, empowered and motivated by the Holy Spirit, turned their world upside down for the sake of Christ. In short, they were true disciples of Jesus Christ.”
My desire is to see our students turn their schools, their sports team, their communities, and even their families upside down for Christ! My prayer is that we see a generation rise up that is in love with God’s Word and is passionately on fire for Jesus Christ! I don’t see this happening through a skill-based coaching program or through the knowledge and love of a mentor, but I do see it taking place through the invitation and challenge of a discipling culture!
While I do not have all of the answers, I have seen the impact a discipling culture can have on a student ministry. When students live out what it means to be true disciples of Christ, a revolution takes place, spiritual and numerical growth occurs, and most importantly, lives are radically transformed for the cause of Christ!
As we seek to build a Christ Centered Student Ministry, our spiritual formation must take place through true, authentic discipleship. Through conversation, community, seeking the Holy Spirit, and studying Scripture my goal over the next weeks, months, and years is to layout what it looks like to create a discipling culture within student ministry.
I would love to hear your feedback. What are you doing that is working? Where are you struggling when it comes to spiritual formation within student ministry?