I thought I’d try to do a round up on different takes leaders and Christians have regarding one-on-one discipling including Kip Mckean, Henry Kriete, Douglas Jacoby and others. I’ve taken many quotes from around the time of 2003 and some more present day, and I’ve been surprised how big a task it’s been (having to read through documentation) so I haven’t provided my views or comments much on it yet, and I will have to do another post to finish.
This is from Henry Kriete’s Honest to God letter, released in 2003. Previously up until that point discipling was standard practice in the ICOC. The letter is long, and discusses many issues plaguing the ICOC congregations of the time, but I’ll just refer to his statements on discipling, and I think they summed up in many ways problems with discipling. This is a quote:
We have assumed, wrongly, that the sheep are stupid. We have trained them to depend on men, on us in fact, and not on Christ. ‘Did you get advice’ for the most part means ‘Did you get permission?’ Yes of course, they are vulnerable and open to attack, but they are not stupid. It is we who have been stupid, Biblically and spiritually. Should we not assume, rather, that a true, spirit-filled Christian desires to please God, not a rebel?
(He then quotes Ezekial 36:’I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you…’)
Through our discipling partner theology, we have attempted, like modern-day Pharisees, to put a hedge around God’s law. In trying to protect or control the Christians, we have routinely violated their liberty in Christ. We have not trusted disciples to live by their own convictions and decisions (and mistakes), and have fostered in them an unhealthy dependence rather than freedom to grow and mature. Many of our discipling guidelines are nothing more than ‘rules taught by men’, condemned by Jesus as burdensome and legalistic. No control mechanisms, or traditions of men, or rules and culturally accepted regulations will keep anyone faithful who does not want to be faithful in their heart. But they will create rebellions and criticalness among sincere and liberated Christians. We did not become new creations to be controlled by men; rather ‘it is for freedom Christ has set us free’.
Later on he uses a term ‘formalized discipleship’ which I think raises an important point: the concept of ‘discipling’ isn’t bad in it’s bare definition of teaching, correcting, training, leading etc… But in the ICOC discipling formed a culture all of it’s own. Then he lists discipling in number 20 under “Wide Scale Problems and Concerns”:
The concept of discipleship partners as presently practiced in most of our churches has failed. Perhaps more than all else, our discipleship hierarchy with all its ‘little leaders’ has caused more damage, heartache, and criticism than any other thing. Among the tens of thousands of untrained and ‘unspiritual’ disciples, advice has become permission, opinions have become orders, and the dignity and ‘right’ of our God given freedom has been denied. The nature of our hierarchy and the ‘baptism is best’ theology, when mixed with our sinful human nature has in many cases been a disaster. Paul said, ‘I am free and belong to no man’ and to the Corinthians, ‘You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of men’. This is a command of God, not good advice. And to the Galations, ‘It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery’.
In our discipling relationships, we can warn, plead, share from experience, and of course, open the Scriptures – but in the end, each Christian must work out their ‘own salvation with fear and trembling’. Intrusive interference in matters of opinion is simply unacceptable. Pulling rank is sin. A godly man will seek advice, but another godly man will never bind advice. Of course, some will fall and make bad decisions – and in some cases disastrous decisions – but they are their decisions, not ours. We routinely make ourselves the judges of another man’s freedom; another man’s life. But who are we to judge? The Ethiopian breaks every rule of discipleship we have. He was left dripping wet, and Philip was immediately taken away. Are we wise than God? Or more competent than the Spirit of God?
…What started out as a sincere desire to protect the sheep has degenerated into a mechanism of control… The need for imposed discipleship relationships to maintain our system of things is so crucial that to say ‘no thank you’ has meant banishment from some of our churches. Kips own quote from LA is now world famous. That is why a sincere Christian would even think to ask, ‘Is it a sin not to have a discipleship partner?’ Well, is it?
And he continues to reveal how much advice in discipling relationships stemmed from agendas of those up the leadership chain. He also refers to scriptures demonstrating Christians are competent to make decisions and judgments for themselves. Then he ends the section with:
I do not deny the phenomenal amount of good that has come about from godly ‘discipling’ relationships- but as a formalized, authority laden institution it is doomed to fail and must therefore be dismantled. Why? ‘Because where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom’.
Finally, at the end of the whole paper, he gives some practical guidelines to leaders around the world (the document was intended for leaders to read, but later available on the internet). Regarding discipling partners he advises:
We must dismantle authoritarian DP relationships. All of these ‘little leaders’ have not been immune from bad theology. There should be more prayer, more love, more seeking God’s will. All Christians should be encouraged to seek advice and examine the Scriptures, yet liberated to choose a course of action or application to their own conscience.
From what I gather Henry Kriete currently leads a church in Canada called Maple Ridge, which you can check out here,(but you won’t find the Honest to God document here, best to just google the title)
Kip Mckean and Mike Patterson
If you’ve read this blog or followed the latest literature from Kip Mckean you’ll know that not only is he pro discipling, he states his belief that optional discipling within a church is a heresy. However, going back to around 2003 and in light of the Honest to God letter, I thought I’d refer to his ‘From Babylon to Zion: Revolution Through Restoration III’, and to the section towards the end ‘Reaffirming God’s Revealed Truth, part 7, where he says:
Every disciple must be discipled by God, by the Scriptures and by man. God is sovereign and disciples us through our experiences of both victory and defeat. (Hebrews 12:1-15) The Scriptures disciple us and mature us as we learn to obey them more and more. (Hebrews 5:11-14) Jesus exemplified discipling in his relationships with the apostles and then commanded discipling not only to become a Christian, but also after baptism … “teach them to obey everything I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:20)
Though the methodologies of discipleship partners, prayer partners, discipleship groups, as well as the changing nature of the discipling relationships mature from being a parent/child to adult/adult may all be debated, being discipled is an absolute command of God and makes God’s true movement distinctive.
Later in a section devoted to disciping he goes into more detail. He starts of with Hebrews 3:12-19 regarding the role of Christians being involved in each other’s lives and guarding against ‘sin’s deceitfulness’. He also cites examples of Moses discipling Joshua, Samual and David, Elijah and Elisha and then goes on to Jesus:
In the New Testament, Jesus preached the Word publicly, but he focused his energy into a few. He chose 12 men to be his apostles. Jesus, our perfect example, discipled them as a group. He discipled them one-on-one. And, yes, even one-over-one. And then he paired them up and sent them out on their first mission. He focused on the few, so that “they might be with him, and that he might send them out to preach.” (Mark 3:14) After daily walking with them for three years, he called those same apostles in Matthew 28 to go and make disciples of all nations. This enormous, seemingly impossible task of evangelizing the world could only be accomplished by the God-given principle of the multiplication of disciples. In other words, one disciple makes another disciple: the two of them each make another disciple…
From this concept comes the ideal of global evangelism which he claims that churches could not grow they way they did in the ICOC without discipling. He continues regarding its necessity:
Discipling is not only for the salvation of the lost, but I believe it is the salvation of the saved. All of us, at one time or another, struggle even to the point of disconnecting with God. It is at these times that those who are involved in our lives can rescue us from the fire because of their relationship with us. Discipling is the only way that we can fulfill all of the “one another” passages in the Scriptures…
And he goes on to refer to more “one another” scriptures: Hebrews 3:12-13, Hebrews 10:24, James 5:16, Galations 6:2, Galations 5:13, Romans 15:14 and 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13.
He does give some concessions to the problems of discipling however:
I do believe too often many of us have tried to disciple behavior, and not heart and character. …Also, too often in the past a discipler would give advice to another disciple and make it binding on him. That was very wrong. However, to do away with discipling is equally wrong because this is what Jesus called us to do by command and example.
Discipling gave warmth to our fellowship and distinctiveness to our brotherhood. Discipling is the reason many many committed Christians from within the mainline Churches of Christ moved to the congregation of the “Boston Movement”.
Finally he discussed the issue of distinguishing Biblical ‘principles’ and ‘methodology’ in discipling:
Discipleship partners, prayer partners, friendship partners, discipleship groups, family groups and Bible talks all draw on the principles of Jesus’ discipling, but they are methodologies. Methods are neither right nor wrong; people can use them for good and for evil. But denying the principles of discipling in time will lead us directly back to the mainline Church of Christ… Some have argued that one-over-one discipling is wrong because people have been hurt, and therefore we should not do it. However, even in the church, we have marriages in which husbands and wives have hurt each other, but we are not about to abandon marriage…. We must not abandon discipling… We must reaffirm it because it is one of the key ways God changes us through the Spirit and the Word. Jesus calls everyone to be a disciple. Jesus calls everyone to be discipled. And Jesus calls everyone to make disciples.
I’ll probably have to devote a number of posts to this, but I feel there’s a whole lot of rationalising going on.
But on to the present ‘Sold Out Discipling Movement’ it’s fairly obvious that Kip Mckean still maintains the practice of one-on-one discipling with the belief that ‘optional discipling’ is a heresy (let alone ‘no discipling’). Mike Patterson of the SODM has also labelled as ‘false teachings’ autonomy and “discipling is optional”. He quotes Colossians 1:28 – “We proclaim Him, warning and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone mature in Christ”… and states in his article ‘Spiritual Maturity’ that:
Discipling is a command from God that is necessary for each of us to become mature! Who is discipling you to maturity in Christ? Not just giving you “Biblical Knowledge” or “deep insights into the Scriptures” or their “opinions,” but someone who is challenging you to become Biblically mature, calling you to obey the Word of God. (Matthew 28:20) That means someone who is training you to become like Christ in every aspect of your character. Who trains you to obey the Scriptures, serve others, build the church, disciple others and produce a crop? Discipling is vital for each of us to be presented mature in Christ. Discipling relationships are friendships with Christians who “speak the truth in love,” “warning and teaching” us in every aspect of our lives.
Kip Mckean is currently leadering the City Of Angels International Christian church in L.A. (again, I think you’ll have to google ‘From Babylon to Zion’ to find the original document addressed to the ICOC).
On to Douglas Jacoby, who was a teacher in the ICOC for many years prior to the 2003 ‘shake-up’. Since then I know he’s been running an apologetics ministry but I don’t know what affiliations, if any, he has to ICOC or post-ICOC churches.
I found the following sections on discipling from his informative website (see above), and he’s given me permission to quote the ‘Q&A’s in full. The first one is Q&A 309 ‘Discipler':
Q “I was wondering if having a discipler was essential for salvation. I know that the Bible says getting discipling and advice and counseling is essential, but there are many ways to get discipled without having an official discipler. So isn’t it okay not to have a discipler, as long as we get discipled by each other?”
A You are right, the Bible speaks of “many advisers,” not one single individual helping us along. (Though it usually does begin with one person who really cares.) There are two opposite errors to avoid. One is to have so many diffuse relationships that no one ends up challenging us. This contradicts the spirit of Colossians 1:28-2:1, and in fact all the “one another passages”.
The other extreme is to limit our openness to one person only. James 5:16, for example, insists we share with one another. (Confession, yes, but no “confessional”, please!) So to answer your question, the N.T. portrays a vibrantly interactive fellowship where in love all members give to and receive from others. Discipleship is not limited to only one individual. If we are smart—as the Proverbs repeatedly remind us—we will be getting advice, perspective, training, correction, and inspiration from a number of persons.
Now if someone doesn’t want anybody involved in his or her life, we do have a problem! (If that is the sad situation, scriptures like John 3:19-21 come to mind, don’t they?) Let’s all go after all the discipling we can get, without making rules where the Bible lays down no rule. Yet for most of us, the needs is probably for more input, not for less! For more on this, see Gordon Ferguson’s excellent books on Discipling, available from DPI…
The other is Q&A 403 ‘Discipler Advice’.
Q. Do I have to obey a human discipler? I have heard Hebrews 13:17 quoted to tell me to be humble and follow advice. But sometimes it feels like I am following orders, especially when I don’t agree with the advice. Please help me.”
A. No, we are not obligated to obey human disciplers. To begin with, there are no “disciplers” in the New Testament. Instead, we find the “one-another passages.” There are dozens of them. If you are not familiar with these scriptures, it your concordance or skim through the New Testament and they will leap off the page at you! This does not mean that we do not all need instruction, or that we should disregard advice. “Victory comes through many counselors”– which I take to mean we all need a number of “disciplers.”
Hebrews 13:17 does not give carte blanche to a leader. I believe the passage most likely refers to elders. At any rate, there is not enough information in this one passage to enable us to decide how much “authority” a leader has in the life of a “non-leader”. Leaders cannot bind their advice or opinions on others. (Maybe a good way to understand the scope of obedience to leaders in the New Testament is to study Acts and the letters to notice the sorts of things leaders told others to do.)
In short, advice should be weighed. It should be considered. We are under no obligation to follow it. The word of God, on the other hand, is not to be “considered.” It is to be obeyed. Humanly speaking, it is a strong tendency to confuse God’s word with our guidelines and suggestions. This is dangerous. (Mark 7:1-9)
(Here are the full links:
403 Discipler’s Advice
Mike Cameron’s ‘Discipling and Related Issues’.
If you search on Douglas Jocaby’s site you may find an essay written by Mike Cameron (also in 2003) which at first I found a little dry (contrasting to the dramatic letters, apologies and essays coming out at the time) but reading over it now I found it very informative and well-argued. I could just as well quote the whole thing, as he attacks every relevant issue to the ICOC culture and discipling, but instead I’ve provided the link (above) and put in one quote:
A discipling system would undermine Paul’s intentions because it would put the church effectively in the hands of inexperienced, untested leadership, which he specifically taught against. This is because, as mentioned earlier, discipling requires that almost everyone be a teacher (that’s the whole point of it -to teach and train).
He looks at discipling thoroughly from many of angles and in light of scriptures commonly used to support discipling.
I find Mike Cameron’s articles to be one of the most unassuming, trustworthy, devoid of self-absorbed rhetoric, and well-argued articles I’ve read so far -coming from both sides of the Mckean/ICOC fence. I guess it helps that he’s not so much a famous personality with a large following that may tend towards bias.
The development of Russ Ewell’s leadership and Bay Area Christian Church post 2003 has surprised me a little as he has appeared to distance himself somewhat from both Kip Mckean’s SODM and the remainder of the ICOC churches by chosing a different term to ‘discipling’ in the form of ‘mentorship’. Having said that, I did see a reference to him and his fellowship on the ICOC ‘hot news’ website.
Citing examples of biblical relationships on their website with Moses to Joshua, Samual to Saul and David and Jesus to the apostles, the BACC explains that
We will practice mentorship in our church so that everyone receives spiritual and life guidance. New Testament Christianity is impossible without this kind of relationship and guidance. Proverbs 9:9 clearly states that even the wise and righteous need these types of relationships. Who can claim to be wise, righteous, or a New Testament Christian and exempt himself or herself from mentoring relationships?
It seems clear that they haven’t taken the ‘discipling is optional’ approach. The section also outlines basic expectations each newcomer must have to starting a ‘mentoring relationship’. First is to consider how the newcomer can ‘give’ and what his ‘gifts’ are, and second is how they can ‘receive’ Then they’re advised how to ‘initiate’ in the new relationship by examining some scriptures. 41 references in fact, according to my count.
They’re not saying the references are about mentorship directly -they’re for ‘gaining conviction about initiating in relationships’, but since it’s under the topic of ‘getting started in a mentoring relationship’ it’s implied.
Here is the link: