That belief became a story that I took with me long into my adult life. The women in my life were nurturing mothers, teachers, and Girl Scout leaders, contrasted by the Gloria Steinem’s in the media who were viewed as radical in my childhood home. But there was one reoccurring problem… my wiring contains a propensity for leadership. Jesus modeled discipleship, or mentoring over the course of three years. In contrast, I wonder what do we as leaders today hope to gain through periodic meetings and a handbook? Is it only our knowledge that has value, or is there something to be gained from the relationship?
It was through relationship over time that Jesus revealed Himself to his disciples, and they came to know Him as the real deal. It’s pretty easy to offer good advice and pleasant company over an occasional cup of coffee, and a meeting here and there. It’s another thing to take someone with you, to walk with them and to allow authenticity and experience to become a mutual instructor. For example it’s one thing to know your future spouse over fine wine and dining. It’s quite another thing to work with them in the trenches. As leaders we need to be willing to walk with others. Even if it seems like it will slow us down, or interrupt personal agendas. Investing in others holds the promise of doubling the workers for the harvest.
Whether we are leaders, co-laborers, or following others, it’s through relationship that we learn about another person and their strengths, and about ourselves and our weaknesses. It means pushing back against culture, and the expectation of instant results with minimal investment of time. It means letting go of our independent, pride based ways that carry a toddler’s “I do it!” mentality. We were made for relationship. Jesus knew his disciples, he knew their strengths and weaknesses, and He knew God’s purposes for each of them. How well do we know the people we lead? How much of ourselves do we allow to be known by those we lead? Are we humble enough to learn from those who follow us?
During His time with the disciples Jesus gave them a glimpse of what he was creating in them. Paul exhorts believers, "encourage one another and build each other up." We all need encouraging mentors or role models who recognize what God is doing within us and join with Him. Paul exhorted Timothy to use the gifts that were given to him. Timothy’s calling was reinforced through the Holy Spirit, through experience, and through the reflection of Paul’s discipleship.
For me, there was one more significant life experience that lacked discipleship. At the age of 13, I accepted Jesus as my Savior during an evangelical service. Though I would go back to that church over several months, the weekly message remained the same, “Repent and be saved!” I never grew to understand my new faith beyond my own failure to live a life free of sin. There was so much I didn’t know to ask, and there was no one to guide me with the next steps. But Jesus is faithful! Ten years later he led me to a fellowship where I not only met Jesus, but the Word, and people who were willing to walk with me. A lot happened in between those ten years, and sometimes I wonder “what if, what if I had been discipled in my faith?” Rather than dwell in the past however, I am looking to the future, and asking Jesus to remove any obstacles within me. I want to be fully equipped as a worker for the harvest.
An additional question that occurs to me as I contemplate the subject of discipleship, is one I have to ask myself today, “Why haven’t I sought a Christian woman leader as a role model and mentor?” For me the answer is longtime fears, a fear of being rejected in the role itself, and a fear that I would be asking too much of another person’s time… What are your thoughts? What if anything is holding you back?
"Let us not give up meeting together as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another --and all the more as we see the Day approaching." Hebrew 10:25