My older son plays for his High School tennis team. This has been a learning experience for the whole family since tennis is a new sport for us. As a first-time player and as a freshman, he frequently competes against older and more experienced tennis players. Though his mechanics have improved drastically, and he’s put in lots of hard work, he isn’t always getting the results he hopes for – wins.
One of the assistant coaches made an insightful observation about his game recently. She noted that he is in the phase of development where he’s focused on his mechanics and not thinking strategically about his opponent. It was an “aha” moment for me. My son is so focused on his strengths and weaknesses as a tennis player that he’s not looking at his opponents’ strengths and weaknesses and thus he doesn’t play as strategically as he could which keeps him from playing up to his potential.
This “aha” moment was more than merely about my son’s development as a tennis player. There is a similar dynamic with regard to discipleship. When it comes to learning to live as a disciple of Jesus Christ we can become narrowly focused on a particular aspect of our discipleship. For example, it is not uncommon for new disciples to over focus on “feeling” God’s presence. For other maturing Christians, it might be focusing solely on a spiritual discipline like daily Bible reading or prayer. For others, they express their discipleship exclusively by advocating for others. Certainly, these are all important factors in maturing as a disciple. However, if these experiences are measured effective by what we feel or by doing the acts themselves we’re not likely to get the result we are hoping for – growing in Christlikeness. When we attempt to grow as a disciple without having a strategic plan, we’re not likely to see development we desire.
Without a strategy we’re also not likely to mature in a balanced way of discipleship."
Without a strategy we’re also not likely to mature in a balanced way of discipleship. Discipleship in the way of Jesus is found in the Great Commandment: love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind and loving you neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:37-40). The General Rule of the Discipleship and the holy habits of Covenant Discipleship (Compassion, Justice, Devotion, and Worship) help us to strategically live as disciples in all areas of our life. One unique contribution Covenant Discipleship groups contribute to a balanced discipleship is through accountability. Accountability comes through the covenant agreed upon by the Covenant Discipleship group as well as the other participants of the group. Additionally, the other participants of the group (and should be true for any healthy small group) serve as discipleship coaches to encourage and challenge participants to grow in new directions. They can remind us that discipleship is more than just about us or about our feelings or private devotions or advocating for others.
Much like growing as an athlete requires coaching and a strategic plan, so does discipleship. Covenant Discipleship and small groups with accountability are intentional avenues to helping disciples grow in love for God and love for neighbor.