So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31-32).
If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him (John 12:26).
And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matt 28:18-20).
If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple (Luke 14:26-27).
Have you ever had a mentor or a lead pastor—someone you look up to as a spiritual father—abandon Christ or fall into sin? If you have, you know exactly how it feels: the devastation, the grief, and the confusion. And usually it leads to questioning of your own faith: if you’ve been following them, and they turned away, maybe you’ve been misled all this time.
Some of the pastors under whom I grew as a Christian have fallen away from the faith. Some fell into sin and refused restoration; others simply denied Christ and left. Others have bowed to cultural demands, shaping their theology after the demands of the “god of this world” (2 Cor 4:4) and abandoning the teachings of God—which is worse, to me, because they have traded the truth for a lie, yet persist in professing faith in Christ—the same Christ whom they make a liar in their beliefs—and even demand to remain a minister, a disciple-maker, thus misleading many.
What do you do when this happens? What do you do when someone who discipled you turns from Christ?
You ask yourself: Who am I following? Am I that person’s disciple, or am I a disciple of Christ?
This is what I have always come back to when my spiritual fathers have abandoned Christ, whatever way they have done so: I am not their disciple, I am a disciple of Christ. In the end, I’m not their son; I’m a son of God.
If they deny God and the claims He makes about Himself, then I will no longer follow them, because we are just not heading in the same direction anymore.
It seems harsh, but Christ makes this clear: you are either following Him or you are not. There isn’t a middle ground, no “close enough.” Christ is either Lord or He isn’t.
Now, maybe this is where you are right now. Maybe you’re struggling with the fall of a mentor, and coming to grips with your faith. And I want to encourage you: ask yourself who you are following. Do you follow that person, or do you follow Christ?
But what if you aren’t in a place like this? What does this mean for you when you’re not going through that crisis?
Ask yourself this: am I making disciples of Christ, or am I making disciples of me?
If you’re a student leader, that means you’re a disciple-maker. You are fulfilling Christ’s Great Commission to make disciples. But are you making disciples of Christ or are you making your own disciples?
This may seem like a question with an obvious answer (“Well, of course I’m making disciples of Christ! That’s what I’m here for!”), but here is a more specific question:
If you were to no longer be able to disciple this person—let’s say you were in a car accident and died suddenly—where would these people be? The people you’re discipling: if you were suddenly gone, what would happen with their faith?
Would they continue to follow Christ? Or are they relying on you?
Now, it’s very common that people will follow you first, because you’re their leader. But they can’t stay there forever!
At some point, you won’t be there for them to follow. You will graduate, or they will. You’ll move to different cities. Something will happen, and you won’t be able to lead them anymore. Where will they be then?
You only have them for a short time. They need to be following Christ, not you.
If you were to part ways right now, would they continue to follow Christ without you? What are you doing to bring people to that place?
Here’s a good place to start this assessment: How long do you have with them, at the maximum? Go over each person in your small group: When do you graduate and when do they graduate? What is the longest amount of time you have with them?
Now halve that time. If you have a maximum of two years with them, don’t count on those two; expect one. What are you going to do in the next year to make sure that they are following Christ and not you?
Are you truly making disciples, or are you just building a fan club?