I just finished recording a podcast with Stephen Crosby a couple of mornings ago. Since it’s summer break here and most of our students have gone home, I’m freed up to get some writing, editing and podcasting done. That being said, the episode I recorded today will not go live for a number of weeks, possibly months. The subject was discipleship and community.
That being said, yesterday as I began to edit and get that episode ready for the process I go through to edit and upload to my podcast’s server, I saw that D.R Silva posted a link to the following Frank Viola article on his Facebook page which I’m going to use as the spring board today for sharing my thoughts.
By the way, at the time of writing this I’m a few hours away from calling Silva to record a podcast with him as well.
Regarding discipleship, Viola says of Paul in the article,
Interestingly, during the time that Paul trained these eight coworkers to carry on his work, he paid for their needs. Rather than taking money from them – to pay for their training or “internship” – he supported them during those years of spiritual apprenticeship.
Is Discipleship a Paid Internship?
He proceeds to share an excerpt from an email he received asking him questions about these matters.
Why is it that so many churches and organizations have “internship” programs for young adults, and in almost every single case, the young adult has to raise money for these usually very expensive programs?
Oftentimes, if one wants to “really get involved” in the inner workings of a group, or have any opportunities for leadership, one has to cough up anywhere from $5,000 to $10,000 for “leadership training” in a “school” or “internship program” with their organization.
It seems that organizations have found these internship programs both a good way to raise up new leaders, but also a great way to finance the already existing leaders with fees from the new interns, and I don’t see ANYONE out on the blogosphere questioning what’s going on here.
I have a conflicted view of this since, generally speaking I enjoyed and appreciated my time in ministry school in my early twenties as a beneficial way to lay a good spiritual foundation in my early adulthood. And I’m teaching in a discipleship/leadership training situation here in Peru. But to say my time in Bible college prepared me for the mission field would be a long shot. Most of what has formed me in terms of mission has come from doing it and learning AS I do it.
My perspective has changed and is a little bit biased to the idea that practical stuff is more beneficial than ‘class room’ per se. Especially if you’re in a large class with hundreds of other students with the same access to one teacher. Discipleship doesn’t happen this way, at least not in the Jewish rabbinical sense New Testament believers would have experienced.
As I’ve said elsewhere, Jesus taught the five thousand but he discipled the twelve. Paul told the Corinthians they had many teachers but few fathers. More intimate life-on-life imitation happens in relationship and not classroom.
What We’re Trying To Do in Oikos
In what we’re doing here in Peru, our ministry provides the food, room and board to our students and Oikos gives each of our six students a type of allowance each week they can spend on food and bus fare. This is provided largely from supporters.
Then for the second year we’ve asked each of the returning students to raise 500 soles (about just under $200 US which is about what they could earn in a month but have 3 to come up with) before the year starts to help pay into the expenses of the school which are the rent, food, etc.. again.
Part of this is for necessity as the school practically doubles in size from 6 to 12 this coming year, but also to help teach them how to live by faith and raise support like we are. They can work to obtain the money during the break or ask friends, family, churches, etc. But we feel it’s a necessary part of the process for them.
From being on both sides of this as a student and as a teacher in a ministry/discipleship setting, I see the why behind some of the “fees” that need to be charged because there are truly legitimate expenses.
Like I discussed with Stephen Crosby in the podcast that has yet to go live, truly living life together is hard work. Classroom attendance is easy.
Not everybody will be called to invite people to come live in their own home, but in our busy schedules inviting people into our homes to share a meal and discuss life and build relationship is still doable. Discipleship by and large doesn’t happen as much in ‘formal’ settings as we think, but often times in just the relational interaction with one another in community.
This might be very inconvenient to us personally, but it’s very effective and personal experience has shown me it’s very fruitful.
What If We Discipled Like Jesus & Paul Did?
I think if every member of the Body of Christ looked for ways they could pour themselves into like 3 people who are “less mature” than they are spiritually, and taught them and lived life-on-life for at least two years, teaching them how to do the same and pouring into disciples of their own who reproduce into others, and repeat this process over and over, we’d see a real revival, revolution or whatever you want to call it in a few years.
And of course many of these types of paid training centers would disappear fast which may not necessarily be a bad thing in some cases.
To close, let me borrow one of the questions Viola asks at the end of his post;
If you are someone who is called to the Lord’s work, how do you personally go about finding a mentor or someone to train you . . . what’s your process or has such idea never occurred to you?