It is worth noting that in the first century, it was common phenomenon for a spiritual leader to have disciples. John the Baptist had disciples (Matt. 9:14); and Pharisees had disciples (Matt. 22:16). Jesus himself had many disciples other than the renowned twelve (Matt. 10:1; (Lk. 22:11).
Jesus called his disciples to a new and different life. The new life called for a paradigm shift in their thinking, affections, actions, reactions, worldview, and perspectives.
Disciple, learner, follower– these words describe different aspects of the same relationship. The word ‘disciple’ means a learner. The original word in the New Testament is the Greek mathetes — meaning learner or student.
Dearth in Learning
I have served God through the Uniting Church in Australia for over 31 years. One thing I have observed is a dearth in learning amongst her members. There is little interest or enthusiasm in learning. Before my Synod placement I was serving in three congregations for a total of 20 years. The three congregations were different and yet very much the same. And the one similarity is a lack of interest in learning. When I was at Mt Martha Uniting Church, a local Anglican congregation could persuade over 30% of members to annual Advent or Lenten studies. Truth be told in three congregations we never could persuade more than 10% to attend any kind of studies. Since then, I have been asking the question, WHY?
People are Busy
The most common answer given to me over the years is ‘people are busy’. It seems we are all cursed with this disease called ‘busyness’.
Do you wear your busyness like a badge of honour? I know it’s a harsh question but please stay with me as we reflect together on this thing calls “busyness”. Raj Raghunathan Ph.D., in a Psychology Today article, suggests humans are miserable if they are not busy. I think it’s sad to think that way. Unfortunate but true, somewhere in the last few decades, someone seems to have invented the nefarious connection that the busier you are the stronger your productivity or the greater your achievements. He adds, ““It seems plausible that the happiness people get from being busy can potentially blind them from examining the intricate web of consequences, both good and bad, that emerge out of their actions.”
If we are too busy to exercise regularly, we know that there are possible health consequences. If we are too busy to make time for spouse or children, we know there are relational consequences. If we are too busy to make time for ourselves (selfcare) we might suffer burnout.
I don’t know about you, but I hate to use these three words, ‘I AM BUSY’. What I really mean is, ‘This is not my priority.’ It’s easier to say to someone ‘I am busy’ rather than ‘It’s not my priority’. I know it sounds less offensive and more palatable to the ears. I don’t know about you, but I can’t do everything that I want to do. I can’t meet all the demands or expectations of family, work, and others. The only way for me is to prioritise and to do what’s important. For example, if I you are invited to a BBQ and you have other commitments, instead saying ‘I am busy’ we ought to be saying, ‘I would love to come for the BBQ but weighing against all other commitments I have at the moment, it will not be my priority to attend.’ I know it might sound awkward but that’s what we mean. Don’t use the three words, ‘I am busy’ as an excuse because we are all busy, but we prioritise.
We do what’s important. Don’t we?
Disciples of Jesus never arrive; instead, they are in constant process of learning and becoming. Therefore, to be a disciple/follower of Jesus one needs to embrace learning as a lifelong pursuit.
The hard truth is if we don’t learn we stagnate. We don’t grow. If we don’t continue to learn we just repeat what we know. NEVER STOP LEARNING, whatever your age. Make lifelong learning your priority as a disciple/follower of Jesus.