What's my type? Explaining Gospel Discipleship

May 11th, 2020
This article is featured in the Growing Spiritually issue of Ministry During The Pandemic

Editor's note: This article is part of a series of articles from the author related to the release of Gospel Discipleship: Participant Guide and Gospel Discipleship: Congregation Guide (Abingdon Press, 2020). Read previous posts here and follow the six-week Wednesday night webinars beginning May 6.

“Every scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for showing mistakes, for correcting, and for training character, so that the person who belongs to God can be equipped to do everything that is good.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17, CEB)

I have recently written about how different discipleship types experience different types of anxiety and provided some pathways forward in light of that understanding. I have, I realize, gone a little out of order, because many of you have no idea what I mean by discipleship types. So let’s back up and cover the basics.

I was working with churches on how to understand a path of discipleship. There are a number of resources out there for that kind of work. I would read those resources and think, “Well, that will work well for X church, but not for Y church.” I was frustrated. All these works were talking in terms of how, and everyone’s why was the same (to make disciples who could serve and love Jesus Christ), but no one was asking the who question. Who are the people who are trying to be disciples?

The reason the who question is a difficult one to ask is because there is a great variety of answers to that question. How do you answer the who question in a meaningful way, a way that both allows for variety and consistency? Because it seems like there are some general expectations of being a disciple, but it also seems like those expectations are lived out in a myriad of different ways.

So, I went to Scripture. Imagine that! I particularly went to the last words Jesus speaks in each of the Gospels. I went to the last words, because it seemed to me that Jesus would tell us important details about what he wanted us to do as he left us, details that would help us live out our discipleship. We all do something similar. When you are getting ready to leave for a while, don’t you say the important instructions as you are leaving? Things like, “I love you. Don’t forget to feed the dog.”

"Gospel Discipleship" by Michelle J. Morris. Order here: https://bit.ly/GospelDiscipleshipParticipant

Somewhat surprisingly, all four Gospels have different last words. I say it is a surprise because wouldn’t you pay really close attention to the last thing Jesus said, and then collectively remember and agree on that? Except that is not how humans work. We remember the things that mean something to us. And the four Gospels are written to four different communities, and they are written by four different authors. Different people see things differently.

Yes. Different people see things differently. As I taught about those four endings, I came to understand (through a revelation from the Holy Spirit) that those endings served as a lens, and if you look through those lenses you see in the Gospels four different understandings of discipleship:

Mark ends with Jesus saying people are going to grab up snakes, drink poison, cast out demons, and heal people in his name. So Markans are Holy Spirit inspired disciples  unbound, creative, wanting to change things, believing in miracles, messy, spontaneous, demon casting out people.

Matthew ends with the Great Commission (go, make disciples, baptize, teach) which reads like a to-do list of a series of actions. So Mattheans are action-driven disciples  hands and feet working for Christ, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, making a list and checking it off, seeing physical transformation of the world around them, faith without works is dead people.

Luke actually ends in Acts (Luke and Acts have the same author) with Jesus telling disciples to start in Jerusalem with the people they know, go to Judea and Samaria to the people they kinda know, and then go to the ends of the earth to the people they don’t know yet. So Lukans are relationship centered disciples  love of God and love of neighbor at the heart of everything, potluck and fellowship, small group growing, community protecting, everyone is welcome people.

John ends with Jesus and Peter at the lakeshore. Jesus tells Peter what he needs him to do, Peter wonders about the other guy on the beach, Jesus tells Peter not to worry about that guy and just focus on what Jesus needs him to do, which is follow Jesus. So Johannines are mentor-apprentice nurtured disciples  look to the Great Teacher (Jesus) but in his absence Scripture and a great pastor will suffice, deep students of the Bible, high expectations for leaders, able to mentor others when they have a level of expertise they are comfortable with, lifelong students focused on soaking up the wisdom of the Master kinds of people.

The discipleship type assessment, which can be found at ministrymatters.com/gospeldiscipleship, reveals your type. It answers the who question of discipleship. Now, most of us have pieces of each of these types in us, because we have been shaped by all four Gospels, but usually one type resonates with you over another. That is your primary type, but we also identify your secondary type.

I encourage you to begin this journey by learning your type. It will give you clarity on why you love to do some things in church and in your walk, and why others seem absolutely repellent to you. It will also help you understand what next steps you can take in your growth. You will have a greater understanding of your walk with Christ, and a vocabulary to explain that to others (a vocabulary that is anchored in Scripture). So please, walk along with us. And send me any questions you have to info@gospeldiscipleship.net. I look forward to our journey together!

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