Discipleship as Sport
This 5-week Bible Study is a challenge to take your discipleship as seriously as you take your sports. The bible often uses the arena of sports as a metaphor to help us understand Christian discipleship.
Five sessions include:
Surrounded. Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses... let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Hebrews 12.1 - 3.
Pursuing Holiness. Anyone who competes as an athlete does not receive the victor’s crown except by competing according to the rules. 2 Timothy 2:4–6
One thing. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on. Philippians 3:12–14
Run to Win. Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 1 Corinthians 9:24–26
Trained. For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things. 1 Timothy 4:8
Real discipleship is messy, imperfect, and honest. I wanted clean, “perfect,” and limited honesty. I preferred to disclose only my successes, to pass on my accumulated wisdom and knowledge while hiding my foolishness and ignorance. It’s not that I wasn’t making disciples; people gobbled up my platitudes and piety. The problem was the kind of disciples I was making, disciples who could share their faith but not their failures.
Why did I embrace this kind of discipleship? Who was to blame—the church or the parachurch? Neither. It was my fault. Although I didn’t understand it at the time, my motivation for obeying Jesus had shifted from grace to works. It progressed from attempting to earn God’s favor, to gaining the favor of my disciples. “Discipleship” had become a way to leverage my identity and worth in relationship with others. I was comfortable on the pedestal dispensing wisdom and truth. The more disciples I made, the better I felt about myself. My motivation for discipleship was a mixture of genuine love for God and lust for praise. I sincerely loved God and wanted others to fall more deeply in love with him, but my motives weren’t always pure. I quickly became a disciple who lacked authenticity and community.
Don’t get me wrong, there were good intentions and good fruit from these relationships, but in a sense, I was still following Jesus alone. The professional/novice relationship created a comfortable distance from admitting my failures in genuine community. I stood at the top of the stairs of discipleship, peering down at those who sat at my feet instead of sitting in the living room with my fellow disciples, where I belonged. I put the best foot forward and hid the ugly one. As a result, disciple became more of a verb than a noun, less of an identity and more of an activity. The center of discipleship subtly shifted from relationships centered on Christ to an activity centered on what I knew.
Jonathan K. Dodson, Gospel-Centered Discipleship (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2012), 15–16.