The old truism still holds—experience is the best teacher. It is also the most expensive and frequently the least efficient. Yet there are some experiences from which one can learn only by living through them. Years ago a friend of mine gave up crop-dusting for Alaskan bush flying. “In crop-dusting you don’t learn from your mistakes,” he explained with his macabre sense of humor. Those of us who are led by some inner propulsion to “do our own stunts” often pay a very high tuition.
To provide a certain level of quality control, predictability, efficiency and safety, we all need teachers to walk us through necessary life lessons—a classroom teacher, a parent, grandparent, friend or boss.
Last time we focused on “making disciples” from the gospel commission in Matthew 28, noting that as important as the right decision at the right time can be in one’s journey to the kingdom, instruction is needed to reach that point. Discipleship is a linear process, never a singular pixilated dot on the personal timeline of life. This time I hope to expand our thinking on Jesus’ phrase “teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you.”
From day one, I loved school. Not all of my teachers, you understand, but most of them. I loved—and still love—learning. Elsie Cox taught me geometry. When doing church or personal construction projects, knowing those theorems has proved useful. But I learned more than theorems. I learned how various things relate within space to each other. Grace Ashton not only taught me algebra, she tremendously expanded my cognitive abilities by teaching me how to think.
Gerry Shadel taught me much more than the history of western civilization. He skillfully led the class to look for the divine hand in the play and counter play of nations and societies. In English (which I did not usually like), Morris Gutman set a higher bar for self-expression and demanded precision in word choice. I am still learning my mother tongue and am thankful for my editors. Those teachers and many others whose names should be in lights did much more than impart knowledge—they shared their lives. In teaching me they discipled me.
I walked through life with my parents; my dad discipled me for nearly 50 years. He inspired me in countless ways, as did my grandfather and my uncles. They led from the front while my mother supported, often from behind. I have been blessed to enjoy the sweet spot of being discipled by so many.
Teaching, in Matthew 28, is more than a seminar, more than a download, more than a hard copy lesson and more than a conversation— though those tools are often useful in the process. When Jesus’ group of 12 responded to His invitation, He took them in for over three years. They heard His words, they experienced His power, they found security in His caring, they relearned the eternal values of suffering and abundance, they learned to see the world through the eyes of their Master’s heart.
Jesus is still making disciples. We are abundantly privileged to hear His call through the pages of Scripture. And encouraged by the Holy Spirit, we can and we must spend time with Him in His Word in quietude and in stillness. Like Peter, James, John and the others, we too can actually learn to see our world through the eyes of our Master’s heart.
And while doing that we are privileged to reach out to others and let them walk with us as we walk with Jesus. That takes time, it takes intentionality, it takes a plan, it takes endurance and it takes a willingness to get hurt. But at the end of the story, it can be said of you and me as of those giants of faith in the first century, “They have been with Jesus.”