Some Thoughts on Jesus-Style Discipleship

kinnon —  June 22, 2014 — 14 Comments

If the church spent 10% as much time focused on true Jesus-style discipleship as it does on “leadership”, we wouldn’t be having the church leadership issues we are experiencing today. Badly discipled “leaders” don’t just badly disciple their followers, they leave a trail of broken people in the wake of their “ministry”.

Jesus-style discipleship does not take place from platforms or within classrooms.ⁱ It happens in lives lived together with laughter, love and, oddly enough, mutual submission. Demanded authority or domination are not remotely connected to true discipleship — they, like power & control, are simply symptoms of the fall. True disciplers are people who have laid down their need to be seen as leaders, to be the servants Jesus describes in Matthew 20:25. People who need or demand leadership titles rarely are able to be disciplers. Instead they cultivate the warped human desire for control over others.

In fact, we have warped Jesus teaching in the above mentioned passage by creating the oxymoronic “servant leadership” — with the focus on “leadership”. Servant becomes too easily a throwaway adjective, (much like we have down with the word “missional” which has been applied to so many different “programs” that it effectively has no meaning). Jesus uses “servant” as a noun in that passage. As we should. Or rather, as we must.

ⁱUPDATE: My friend and SPU Prof, Jeff Keuss says this via Twitter, “be careful with “always” “does” “does not” when it comes to how God works esp. w/ discipleship. God shows up in my classroom BTW


Other thoughts on discipleship:

Discipleship is Conspiracy

Church Discipline does NOT Equal Discipleship

Diss-Missional Discipline or Missional Discipleship

Sermons Don’t Make Disciples – Missional Discipleship Part 2

Zero-Sum Games & the Church

Releasing the UnLeader!

Undiscipled – It isn’t Change You can Believe In

Moving from Undiscipled to Transformed — Imbi Medri-Kinnon

The UK Real Interview – Was it of the Undisciplined or the Undiscipled?

Follow this link for more discipleship posts, please.







A television editor, writer & director since 1978. A Christian since 1982. More than a little frustrated with the Church in the West since late in the last millennium.

14 responses to Some Thoughts on Jesus-Style Discipleship

  1. I think what you are saying is very true.
    I have one simple suggestion to submit as perhaps a little fuel for further thought/dialogue: maybe our insistence on a literal, fundamentalist interpretation of the scriptures as we have them canonized presently is a major contributor to the confusion you write about?

  2. Unpack that for me in light of this particular scripture, Lloyd.

    • From what I understand that Lloyd may be saying…

      Matt. 20:26-27 in KJV (a primary source for much of our “traditional interpretive grid”);

      But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; 27 And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant:

      “Great” rendered in vs. 26 from “megas” and “chief” from “protos” seem to suggest a direct linkage to “rulers” and “exercise authority” in vs. 24-25. In reality Jesus is severing that linkage by saying a “megas” is a table server and the “protos” is a doulos/slave.

      As you wrote Bill, doulos does not modify “leader/top dog”. Rather, “slave” is the term by which a servant is referenced.


  3. I wholeheartedly concur with the thoughts expressed in your post. I’ve long said the phrase “servant leadership” is often just a device to make ungodly leadership sound laudable.

    (By the way, nice to see a blog post from you.)

  4. It can help to look at places certain phrases come from. I can remember the phrase “servant leadership” being heavily promoted by Ken Blanchard when he was taking some of his leadership training to mega church staffs back in the 90’s.

    It was simply a way for these rising mega stars to position themselves as a “humble servant” yet a leader. It is an oxymoron. But a lot of people bought into it.

    But lets face it, the word “leader” has changed. It does not seem to mean “one who has gone before” as in one who was in the trenches before us. Leader is now more positional in nature. It does not have the “trench experiences” behind the name.

    Had the word “servant” been the focus one wonders who glamerous Christianity would have looked to some. Not much, I would think because “servant” does not tend toward having followers or building empires.

  5. Bill

    Much agreement when you write…
    “People who need or demand *leadership titles* rarely are able to be disciplers.”

    I would say it’s pretty much impossible… 😉
    Jesus taught His Disciples to teach what He, Jesus, taugh them…

    Mat 28:19-20 NKJV
    Go therefore and make disciples…
    **teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you**

    BUT – I’ve noticed, Most, with “leadership titles,” pastor/teacher/leaders, Today, *Ignore* or *Twist* what Jesus Did, and Taught, and Commanded His Disciples. And, What His Disciples “Observed Jesus doing” and what they Did, and Taught.

    Jesus taught His Disciples…
    1 – NOT to be called teacher for you have “ONE” teacher, Christ. Mt 23:8 NKJV
    2 – NOT to be called leader for you have “ONE” leader, Christ, Mt 23:10 NASB
    …. And, NOT one of His Disciples called them self Leader.
    3 – ALL shall be taught of God. Jn 6:45 KJV
    …. His Disciple, John, the apostle, taught, “you need NO man teach you.”
    4 – ALL things, shall be taught you by the Holy Spirit, God. Jn 14:26
    …. Paul taught, the Gospel he preached was from God, NOT from man.
    5 – ALL truth, will come as the Spirit of truth guides and leads. Jn 16:13
    6 – Jesus, as man, does nothing of himself, and is taught of God. Jn 8:28
    7 – Jesus is the “ONE” Shepherd, the Good Shepherd. Jn 10:11-16.
    …. And, NOT one of His Disciples had the “Title” – shepherd/leader/reverend.
    8 – He who speaks of himself seeks his own glory. ( Titles/Position?) Jn 7:18.
    …. And, NOT one of His Disciples called themself – pastor/leader/reverend.
    9 – If I honour myself, my honour is nothing. (Titles/Position?) Jn 8:54
    10 – Peter, knowing Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the living God,
    …. received *the revelation* from Father *God,* and NOT from man. Mt 16:17
    …. NOT from Jesus, as man. Jesus gave “All” the glory, all the credit to God.
    11 – Jesus taught, “I am among you as he that serves.” Lu 22:27
    12 – Jesus taught, “He that shall humble himself shall be exalted.” Mt 23:12.
    …. Humble – A modest or low opinion of one’s own importance.
    …. Know many pastor/leaders who have a low opinion of one’s own importance?
    …. And, ALL His Disciples called themselves “Servants.”

    And Jesus, taught a lot in the Streets and had His Disciples DO what He DID, in the streets. Luke 9:2, And He sent them out to preach the kingdom and Heal the sick.

    Don’tcha think? It’s Kinda hard for those who call themselves teachers/leaders, to Make Disciples of Jesus. Because, Jesus taught His Disciples NOT to be called teacher, and NOT to be called leader?

    If someone “Ignores” what Jesus taught His Disciples?
    If some one “Opposes” what Jesus taught His Disciples?
    And, calls them self leader?
    And allows others to call them leader?

    Are they one of His Disciples? 🙂

  6. I have to agree with Prof. Keuss!

  7. Bill

    When I thought I was “making disciples” as I was taught by my “Leaders,”
    All I accomplished was making a disciple of Amos and what Amos believed. 🙁

    I finally had to admit – I Never made a “Disciple of Jesus.”
    Disciple – A learner, pupil. – Learning directly from Jesus. – NO middle Man. 🙂

    Never figured out how to get someone to “Deny Themself?” Mat 16:24-25 😉
    Never figured out how to get someone to “Forsake All?” Luke 14:33 🙂

    Matthew 16:24-25
    Then said Jesus unto *His Disciples,* If any man will come after me,
    let him **deny himself,** and take up his cross, and follow me.
    For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever
    *will lose his life for my sake shall find it.*

    Luke 14:33
    So likewise, whosoever he be of you *that forsaketh NOT ALL that he hath,**
    he can NOT be *My Disciple.*

    These few verses alone convicts me that I can NOT make a “Disciple of Jesus.” 🙂

    I doubt whether todays pastor/leader/reverends….
    Actually know what a “Disciple of Jesus” looks like… 😉

    Seems – In the Bible…
    NOT one of His Disciples had the “Title,” shepherd/leader/reverend…
    NOT one of His Disciples called themself, shepherd/leader/reverend…

    When you believe the lie you start to die…

  8. Bill

    I doubt whether todays pastor/leader/reverends….
    Actually know what a “Disciple of Jesus” looks like. Oy Vey!!! 🙂

    And, How can a pastor/leader/reverend make a “Disciple of Jesus?”
    When they do NOT *Forsake ALL? When they do NOT *Deny themselves?*

    When they, pastor/leader/reverends, do NOT forsake ALL the…
    Power, Profit, Prestige, Honor, Glory, Recognition, Reputation?
    That, today, comes with the “Title/Position” pastor/leader/reverend?

    Jesus, as Man, humbled Himself, Made Himself of NO reputation…
    And took on the form of a “Servant.” Phil 2:7-8.

    Today, when someone has the “Title/Position” pastor/leader/reverend…
    They now have a reputation – Whether they want it or NOT…

    Why do today’s, pastor/leader/reverends, promote themselves? So much?
    And make that “Title“ Pastor a “graven image?” An “Idol?”
    “Engraven” on diploma’s, that are placed on office walls,
    “Engraven” on business cards, that are handed out, books written,
    “Engraven” on office doors, and the secretarys desks,
    “Engraven” on the Sunday morning bulletin, on the street sign,
    And everyone who reads them knows who “the Pastor” is. Yes?

    Is that “self-honoring?” And “seeking glory?”

    Seems Jesus warned “His Disciples” about those things. – Yes?

    What is popular is NOT always “Truth.”
    What is “Truth” is NOT always popular.

  9. my apologies for late response Bill, it’s a complex issue to unpack, but perhaps something I posted 4 years ago might shed a little more light on what I was suggesting?
    link to

    – Lloyd

  10. Three and a half years late to the party, but I’m guessing I’m not the only person to stumble across a blog such as this, finding it helpful while exploring these themes of how we may serve God completely outside the church structures and institutions. I’m going on 7 years now, and this after being involved in a house church for 12 years!

    In any event, I just had to respond to the footnoted update you appended to your post with this: Certainly God does show up where He will, when He will, and how He will, but I’d rather meet with Him and His disciples in circumstances somewhat more pleasing to Him than say, on Mount Carmel with 450 prophets of Baal.

    • Thanks for the comment, Marc. One of these days I will return to writing here.


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