Dealing with disciples and the disappointment they cause is one of the hardest things to overcome as a leader in the body of Christ. Whether your relationship is that of a spiritual father/mentor or elder brother, few things hurt as much as when those you mentor turn their backs on those things that have cost you so much to teach them.
In your heart of hearts you know it’s not personal, but your tears and the feelings of betrayal say different. Love hurts! Especially when you have poured your time, money, and virtue into someone. Here you thought if you were totally transparent and shared your wisdom concerning what pitfalls to avoid, they would listen and make better choices than you did. Well, what a surprise when you watch the peer pressure from this society and culture suck them right back into their (and your) old mess!
Here are some immediate questions:
- How do you handle the overwhelming desire to never help anyone again?
- How do you keep yourself from entering a period of denial & depression?
- How do you find a way to love them in the midst of their rejection?
Here are some things that have helped me over the years:
First and foremost, ask yourself “Were these people assigned to you?”
I cannot begin to tell you how many times I have been disillusioned by someone whom I have shared my heart and wisdom with, only to be disrespected and rejected by them. Everyone is not called to you! RELATIONSHIPS are key! For real transference and understanding to move between two people, a relationship has to exist. There must be an understanding of the hearts for trust to work. You can love them to death and want the best for them, but if they don’t esteem your gift of counsel, it will bounce right back in your face.
How do you know if the Lord has asked you to care for someone? I believe that there must be much more than a desire to set them straight. I believe that a burden must come from the Lord, and the person being discipled must have a desire to change and see you as a gift to them from the Lord. This can happen instantly, or the person can come back to you after many years when they finally realize what a blessing you were to their life.
I used to have a burden for all leaders who suffered under the weight of the religious system, but now, after many heartaches, I wait for the Holy Spirit to confirm that this person is assigned to me, and that now is the right time to share my heart with them. Only years of experience and a keen ear for the Holy Spirit can teach you these things.
First, realize that you are in good company!
The Lord Jesus
Our Lord was and is still today betrayed at some time by all His disciples. Peter who denies Him three times verbally after His resurrection walks away and goes back to fishing. The “first pope” of the Catholic church leads the first disciples away again from their purpose and their destiny!
John 21:14 This is now the third time Jesus showed Himself to His disciples after He was raised from the dead.
How does the Lord Jesus respond? The Lord sees what we don’t see and instead of giving up on Peter, the Lord comes to him for the third time. Not only does He give all the disciples one more chance, but the Lord blessed them with an abundant catch and made them breakfast.
Myself sometimes, I just want to grab them by the neck and reach in and get back all the breakfasts, lunches, and dinners I paid for! Not the right response, but I am being honest. We are living in a very ungrateful society today. As disciplers we must pray for strength daily to overcome the darkness and continue to serve His Body humbly.
The Apostle Paul
The apostle Paul is my hero! Only under the power of the Holy Spirit could someone survive the amount of betrayal and rejection Paul experienced.
2 Tim 4:9 Be diligent to come to me quickly; 10 for Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world, and has departed for Thessalonica
2 Tim 4:16 At my first defense no one stood with me, but all forsook me. May it not be charged against them.
Paul’s response to the betrayal is, “May it not be charged against them.” What? Are you on drugs Paul? Are you super human? Do you not feel the pain inside? Could it be that Paul’s perspective about ministry is what we are missing today?
Focus on what the Lord says about ministry!
When a disciple walks away from truths you hold dear about Christ and His Church, they are not walking away from us personally but away from Christ. They are His disciples, not our disciples. We don’t own them. We don’t minister in our name. We minister in His Name.
We must all learn to not take these things personally. Listen to what the Lord said to Samuel in the Old Testament. Surely if it was true then, isn’t it even more now?
1 Sam 8:7 And the Lord said to Samuel, “Heed the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me, that I should not reign over them.
I always use this example. If you go to a cemetery and yell at the people lying there, why do you not get a response? Because they are DEAD, and so should we be. If we take offense, then it’s because we have an idol that is blinding us to the Lord’s reality. Believe me, I have been there when dealing with disciples! Sometimes the Lord has used an ungrateful disciple to show me my idol and my immature heart. In the Lord’s economy nothing is wasted!
The greater the idol we serve, the greater our anger and hatred against the offending party. Whether that idol is our “church”, “ministry”, “doctrine,” or “name,” they must all die to Christ. The problem gets convoluted when we think our idol is Christ and a disciple’s rejection of our un-Christlike nature is rejecting Christ.
We must remain faithful to the end!
If we focus on presenting the Lord, then the decisions a disciple makes are on them. I have known many times that I was simply being used in a relationship, but the Lord reminded me that He too was used. You must be really mature in Christ to keep serving in obscurity, to a thankless people, without an agenda, but that is our privilege and our calling.
Dealing with Disciples requires that we focus on being FAITHFUL not SUCCESSFUL.
Contrary to all your Church-Growth conferences, SUCCESS is NOT a Biblical word!
As we pray for the Lord to send workers in the fields, may we also pray for the Lord to raise up Godly Leaders who will live like Christ before those they lead. Manifesting His true nature and walking as a living example before this world is the only true discipleship.
The Lord never said to go and make members. He said to go and make disciples! Teaching a membership class, discipleship class, or catechism class is the biggest waste of time. True discipleship is a daily lifestyle, not a weekly class. Equally of no value in the discipleship process is preaching love from a pulpit which is not lived before a disciple daily. Information without love is the work of the dead and dry religious system. That is why the religious system is not dealing with disciples and has no true disciples. In the religious system only money, power, and position create followers. The problem with that is when the check stops, then they realize that they were only dealing with hirelings. When you get to the place that your ego doesn’t need to finance a following, then and only then are you ready to be a discipler.
Concentrate on the daily Joy of serving and leave the score up to the Lord!
3 John 3-4 For I rejoiced greatly when brethren came and testified of the truth that is in you, just as you walk in the truth. 4 I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.
There is no greater joy than to see a disciple following after the footsteps of Christ whom you have had the privilege and honor to disciple. After the tears, the ups and downs, the many hours listening to their pain, there comes the resurrection and the sunrise. All glory goes to the Lord because dealing with disciples is not easy unless the Holy Spirit gives us the strength to hang on until that day.
I leave you with these words;
John 3:30 He must increase, but I must decrease.
This is the Kingdom battle cry!
Jose L. Bosque
for great articles on Discipleship
Steve Crosby see Planting Churches or Making Disciples
David Fredrickson see Servanthood – The Highest Calling
Michael Rose see Making Disciples or Making Clones by Michael Rose