The levels of discipleship modeled by Jesus

Subject: Religion
Type: Evaluation Essay
Pages: 5
Word count: 1276
Topics: ChristianityHuman NatureLeadershipTheology
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Introduction

Today, ‘successful’ leaders and mentors possess a primary focus on reaching out to the masses. As such, they often host popular radio and television programs in addition to attending big conferences. They attempt to increase their influence and popularity as much as possible in an attempt to disciple the masses. Although this is a contentious strategy, especially in the 21st century, Jesus Christ used a different model or approach to the concept of discipleship. Instead of seeking publicity and popularity, He discouraged it.  After performing a miracle Jesus told him “See that you tell nobody, but go show yourself to the priest…” (Mathew 8:4).  Rather than seek publicity and popularity, Jesus modeled his strategy around the effect it will have in the long run. Also, he focused on the strategy’s depth. A disciple was hence required to become a disciple himself. According to Hull (1988), a Christian is spiritually barren if he/she does not have the ability to reproduce or multiply. In light of this, the paper will evaluate and analyze the levels of discipleship modeled by Jesus during His incarnation. Additionally, the model Jesus used will be critiqued in light of modern leadership theories such as behavioral theories and trait theories. Lastly, the paper will highlight the extent to which a leader should or should not assume the role of a disciple-maker/mentor at each of the three levels modeled by Jesus.

The three levels of discipleship modeled by Jesus during His incarnation

In Mark 3: 13-19, Jesus while on the mountain commenced the act of discipleship. He called out and chose 12 individuals to be His disciples. As disciples, they were required to be with Him, imitate Him, and then be sent out to multiply. Crow (2008), illustrates Jesus’s three levels of discipleship as Discipling, mentoring, and coaching. These levels are based on the characteristics or principles of rabbinical schools. The rabbinical schools emphasized the need for the disciple to submit to his mentor/ teacher, imitating his teacher, learn the teacher’s style of ministry, and then he (disciple) was required to multiply by finding his own disciples to teach and mentor.

Level 1: Discipling

Discipling is the first level of Jesus’s discipleship model. At this level, a disciple submits to a teacher who hence teaches him. This level primarily deals with new believers. They are helped and guided by the teacher to follow Jesus. A disciple has to submit to his teacher. In Mathew (28: 20), Jesus instructs his disciples to “teach them to obey everything I have commanded you”. Thus, a teacher in the first level of the discipleship model helps new believers to grow spiritually. The first level has a high input from the teacher to the disciple. The teacher provides basic teachings about Christ in addition to answering the disciples’ questions. Therefore, the first level is a call to follow Jesus. The notion of being called to follow can be viewed as a rabbi walking ahead while his student follows from behind. It is the first step toward learning about the ministry and Christ. During the Discipling stage, the teacher rabbi, or leader is in charge of the process. There is no input from the disciple but to observe and learn from the rabbi or leader. Bucknell (n.d) states that the Discipling stage is vital in establishing young or new Christians.

Level 2: Mentoring

The mentoring level is an intermediate stage of discipleship. It is often temporary as the disciple’s spirituality grows. The leader, during this stage, helps the disciple or emerging leader to clarify and implement the word of Christ (Crow, 2008). He, therefore, empowers faithful or emerging leaders for service.

The gospel is about the life and behavior of Jesus. Jesus urged the disciples to imitate him, his behavior, and his actions. Apostle Paul also asked his followers to imitate him as he imitated Jesus Christ. The call by Apostle Paul challenges and requires Christians to try and mimic Jesus Christ (Adam, 2001). The leader during the intermediate stage helps and empowers the disciple/emerging leader to grow by imitating him (Bucknell, n.d).

Mentoring is an essential skill for leaders and teachers. Apart from motivating and managing individuals and people, a mentor helps his disciples to learn, grow and subsequently become more steadfast in their spirituality and dedication to Jesus. Mentoring is a relationship-based concept. The teacher or leader should have a close relationship with his disciples for him to be effective. Jesus chose the twelve disciples to be “with him” (Mark 3: 14). By being with him, he was creating a close relationship with them in order to be able to effectively mentor them.

Level 3: Coaching

Coaching is the last and final level in Jesus’s model of discipleship. It is often referred to as the advanced stage of discipleship. The basic aim of coaching is to equip mature leaders or disciples with the relevant knowledge and skills for the ministry. During coaching, the mature Christian or leader is refined over a period of time. At this stage, he discovers his own strategies and solutions (Crow, 200). He can chart his own path as taught by his teacher. Just like a father gives rise to children, a coach helps the mature Christian or leader to bear fruit. For instance, the mature Christian or leader at this stage possesses the power to help others develop and grow in Christ (Bucknell, n.d). He contributes to the growth and multiplication of the church.

A Critique of Jesus’s Model In Light Of Trait Theories and Behavioral Theories

Leadership is among the most widely covered topics in social science literature (Bennis, 2007). Leadership literature over the years has analyzed heritable attributes which made leaders be effective. Subsequent scholars have found that traits and behavioral characteristics predict the effectiveness of a leader (Derue et al., 2011). Jesus’s model of discipleship integrates elements from both trait theory and behavioral theory of leadership.

Ghee & Daft (2004) claimed that traits are the characteristics of a person or leader. Leaders exhibit distinguishing characteristics such as intelligence, honesty, and self-confidence. On the other hand, behavioral theorists believe that leaders behave in certain ways (Derue et al., 2011). People have different traits and behaviors. As such, Jesus commanded his disciples to follow and imitate him thereby curbing the excesses of their personalities. By personally Discipling his disciples, Jesus made sure that they adopted his behavior and traits. This is seen in the actions of the early church leaders such as Paul who were deeply involved in mentoring disciples. By Discipling, mentoring, and coaching, Jesus’s model would transform and mold or impart the disciples with the relevant skills and knowledge to make good leaders. As such, their traits and behavior would be developed over time in order for them to become successful leaders.

The extent to Which A Leader Should or Should Not Assume the Role of A Disciple Maker

Mentor or teacher involvement across the three levels varies as the disciple grows spiritually. At the Discipling stage, the leader assumes the overall role of disciple-making. The leader is in charge as he helps the new or young Christian grow in Christ (Crow, 2008). This is because the disciple is new and thus lacks enough knowledge about Christ. On the other hand, both the leader and the disciple share accountability during the mentoring stage. The leader only empowers the disciple. His role in disciple-making reduces. Lastly, the disciple is in charge during the coaching stage. Hence, he (disciple) is accountable for his actions and decisions. He is required to go out and become a leader himself (Crow, 2008).

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  1. Adam, A. K. M. (2001). Walk this way: Repetition, difference, and the imitation of Christ. Interpretation, 55(1), 19-33, https://lopes.idm.oclc.org/login?url=http://search.proquest.com.lopes.idm.oclc.org/docview/202734620?accountid=7374.
  2. Bennis WG. (2007). The challenges of leadership in the modem world—Introduction to the special issue. American Psychologist, 62, 2–5.
  3. Bucknell, P. J. (n.d). The three stages of spiritual growth & the flow. The biblical foundation for freedom. Retrieved from: foundationsforfreedom.net/Topics/Disciple/Flow_Discipleship.html.
  4. Crow, D. (2008). Multiplying Jesus mentors: designing a reproducible mentoring system: A case study. Missiology, 36(1), 87-109, https://lopes.idm.oclc.org/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=rfh&AN=ATLA0001633251&site=ehost-live&scope=site.
  5. Derue, D. S., Nahrgang, J. D., Wellman, N. E. D., & Humphrey, S. E. (2011). Trait and behavioral theories of leadership: An integration and meta‐analytic test of their relative validity. Personnel Psychology, 64(1), 7-52.
  6. Ghee, L. & Daft, R. (2004). The leadership experience in Asia. Thompson learning Singapore.
  7. Hull, B. (1988). The disciple-making pastor: The key to building healthy Christians in today’s church. Grand Rapids, MI: Revell.
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