The ages of these people range from 20 to 45, but they all have one thing in common: they are leaders. I love identifying, raising up, training and walking alongside such leaders. Not only does it bless me to hear about their ministries and challenges; it also keeps me sharp in my own learning and growth.
Despite years of experience, I know I still have much to learn. So I am a sponge for all manner of books, articles, seminars and wise mentors. But last night I was reminded that Jesus is still my best teacher. In our home group we spent some time reading through Luke 9:1-17, where Jesus sends out the disciples to start learning how to minister. As it says in the opening lines, he "gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal." Sheesh -- no big deal, right?
After reading this passage on our own and sharing our impressions in our study, one person pointed out something I had failed to notice, that really blew my mind... she noted how the disciples are described in the whole section:
- Vs. 1: "Then Jesus called the twelve together..."
- Vs. 10: "On their return the apostles told Jesus all they had done."
- Vs. 12: "The day was drawing to a close, and the twelve came to him..."
- Vs. 14: "And he said to his disciples..."
It is important to read through the passage yourself to see what happens, but in a nutshell: the twelve are sent out to extend the ministry of Jesus by casting out demons, healing diseases and proclaiming the kingdom of God; the apostles come back with glowing reports of what happened; the twelve are tired after a long day and want the crowds of thousands to be sent away; and the disciples are schooled in what it means to truly care for people.
It would be fun to really dig in and do some extended word study on each term. I do know that the "apostles" are the "sent ones," and the "disciples" are "learners" or "pupils." In our group we enjoyed seeing the arc of the disciples' leadership development in a very short span of time -- they went from being empowered and sent out to being humbled and needing to learn... again and again and again.
I'm here to report that, through repeated trial and error, I have discovered that this cycle will never end! As we grow in faith we are empowered and sent out, but we will stumble and trip as we go. The question is not if, but when.
Surround yourself with people who want to be apostles and disciples. Learn from them, learn with them. And study the life of Jesus together for the best training possible.
(For further study and learning, I have also grown from the pursuit of spiritual disciplines. Here is a set of articles on the twelve classic spiritual disciplines that I wrote last year...)