Discipleship is an important rite of passage that has always significantly impacted its occupants. For the mentor, they receive validation and recognition. Their words and ideas and knowledge have an impact. As they speak and teach, it challenges them to develop more and to think deeper – to be worthy of the honor. There is a responsibility inherent in mentorship for actions often speak as loud as the words spoken. For the disciple, being mentored provides growth and direction. It provides security and a sense of belonging. It is also affirmation and recognition. “You are with me (we are together), I am proud of you and I will be with you through your struggles and stay objective and focused and help you find your way, (I will heed your words and take them to heart and seek to follow in your steps for I recognize them as wise and useful).” The immense satisfaction of such a relationship is immensely helpful in development and growth for all have need of security and affirmation and belonging and direction.
The relationship of discipleship should be readily available and obvious. A father for his son, a mother for her daughter, an aunt or uncle for niece or nephew, an older established cousin for a younger cousin, grandparents for any family member are normalized choices. There are often those who out of necessity or love take on disciples. “I need an apprentice so someone can take over for me one day, or so I can be freed to pursue additional growth”, or “This person really needs someone like me and I can be an encouragement to them, or I want to be around this person and help them on the way.” There may be a younger person that an older person sparked an instant connection to or recognized some of their self in enough to know how to help. Maybe someone was down and out and someone extended a hand and showed them new ways of thinking and dreaming and doing. There are so many possibilities for discipleship that, even assuming blood-related family is lacking or far, there should be community members to fill the gap.
The damage to discipleship is devastating in modern times. This could be specified as due to popular culture, lack of responsibility, lack of reality, lack of realization of personal impact, and such a desperate neediness to find satisfaction in all the wrong areas, but in reality can be tied explicitly to lack of discipleship. When people lose a generation or two of discipleship, when fathers are absent, and/or family is scattered, and people are too busy to spend devoted action to showing someone the way, then such a huge gap in affirmation and recognition and direction leads to a canyon-sized gulf that seems near impossible to cross. Mothers are too busy working or playing to show their children the way, to speak to them, to demonstrate and guide holistically. Fathers are absent or working or tired and wore out and stretched to capacity, content to veg on the couch in front of the TV or seek release in funny videos on social media. People are so overwhelmed with technology and constant impact of stimulus that they cannot just sit and be still and enjoy uninterrupted teachability. The older generation wasn’t discipled, so the next generation loses some of the impact and it spirals downward until all is just a farce and fun and games and self-seeking attitudes and actions. People aren’t told no, or that their actions are wrong. People say “Who am I to judge?” and “You can’t tell me what to do!” in all ages and stages of lives. They take the cop-out, the easy way, the I am offended and will remain that way so that I don’t have to grow and face the truth and the consequences. There is no recognition or affirmation or validation – three very crucial needs in a human’s life. When discipleship needs on both ends of the spectrum (mentor and disciple) aren’t met, coldness and hatred and hostility and apathy abounds.
This knowledge on discipleship and its true nature and implications could be a plea or a challenge or knowledge that breeds actions. Is it possible to change this tremendous downturn in personal responsibility and accountability brought on by discipleship without role models showing the way? Aren’t role models themselves the ones who show us how to accomplish these types of relationships? Is not Discipleship itself the very action of Role Modeling that teaches the healthiest types of actions and responses that are lacking today as well as the respect for the process and for the figurative elder guiding the way? It is very challenging to begin such actions without seeing it and having it demonstrated in day to day life. For some, finding a mentor can be finding someone with great aspirations who rose to the top of their field and seeking to emulate them although not personally knowing them. This way is not complete though because we still lack an important element of affirmation and validation and recognition. The best way to grow is through mutual reciprocation – for when we take out the “being known” in addition to the “knowing”, a solid sense of belonging and security is still missing. Relationship is what challenges and develops and grows us. Discipleship changes lives and gives us the tools needed to be a part of the necessary cycle of accountability and respect – although we all know this is no easy task and why many seek to avoid these types of relationships. It is not good to avoid relationships, it is not good to avoid being an example, it is not good to keep silent lips and allow people’s actions to go unchecked, rather it is an imperative matter we speak out and allow others to speak to us in humility of heart and action, for in doing so, we all reap the greatest benefit.