I read a tweet tonight that was a few days old. (I’ve been “offline” for a number of days and am trying to catch up.) The Tweeter asked, “Who are you discipling? Who is discipling you? Blogs and vids don’t count. Imagine if the Amer[ican] dream was to disciple and be discipled.” While I understand the writer’s point, I would argue that blogs, tweets and videos are actually huge influencers when it comes to discipleship in our lives.
The author’s point is along the lines of intentional discipleship. Intentional discipleship is choosing an individual or group, communing with them regularly, caring for them, cooperating with them, and commissioning them to continue the work. (It took me a minute to get all those “C’s”.) This describes how a mentor/discipler looks for a disciple.
But what if we are constantly living as disciples, looking up to mentors and disciplers who may not have any idea that we are absorbing their examples, teachings, models and ways of life into our own? Or maybe, what if they are hoping that we are?
I think every good leader knows that the breadth of his influence goes far beyond where he can see. In the age of Facebook, Twitter and blogs it has exploded far beyond the already immense network of radio and television, books and magazines. As an example, this simple blog has readers from as far as Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Nigeria, and the Ukraine. How many times do you think the reach of well-known leaders has circled the world?
The books that we read, the people we follow on Twitter, the conferences we attend, the audio recordings we download… All of these and more are intentional methods of receiving discipleship.
I wonder if we consider enough that as much as we are open to the intentional inroads we have built for our hearts and minds, there are many that have built because we have not chosen to destroy or block them. There is a danger of unintentional discipleship that we have left ourselves open to.
“For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil.” (Matthew 12:34-35, ESV)
“But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person.” (Matthew 15:18-20, ESV)
The depths of our hearts are not only shaped by what we intentionally send to them, but are also developed by what we allow to enter them. Sometimes our defenses are low; other times are defenses are off. We have decided that as long as we are careful, we’re alright.
It isn’t quite so simple, though. Have you ever caught yourself lashing out and afterwards thought, “Where did that come from?” “That doesn’t sound like me.” “Looks like I’ve been hanging around so-and-so too much.” “I wonder why I reacted like that.”
What are the unintentional filters in your life? What is programming your mind and heart without your permission? What is programming you with your permission that you have no idea is actually influencing you? Think about the movies you’ve watched recently. Consider the magazines and articles you like to frequent. What music plays in your favorite coffee shop or department store? These are just a few examples of the unintentional disciplers of our hearts.
Set safeguards for your heart. As an example, I don’t listen to non-Christian music. Why? Is it because I think I’m more spiritual than the person who does? Not at all. I set boundaries on what I listen to because I believe in the power of the word and the emotional heart expressed through music. It is extremely powerful for me personally. As a safety net, I am mindful of what I allow my mind to learn and repeat. If anything, I recognize it as a potential stumbling block for me; so I must avoid it.
What about you? What are you guarding your heart and mind against? What is it open to? Take note of the disciplers in your life. Be intentional, yes. That will leave less time for the unintentional. But be prepared and ready for the unintentional to appear and to influence, because it will always be there.