Is discipleship a curriculum?

We’ve all seen it.  Some of us have used it, with or without having bought into the promises.  Most of us have found ourselves victims of it.  To be a Christian in the western world is to have some experience with Bible teaching curriculum.  Youth ministry, children’s ministry, preaching, college, small groups, etc…  You name it and there is someone out there with a curriculum that will “transform” your church and people.

Here are some real examples of marketing promises made by the producers of various curriculum resources:

…immerses kids in the gospel…ensures that no matter whenyou jump in, you won’t miss a thing.

Can you really make that guarantee?  

Now you can give your Easter celebration its biggest possible impact with the…

Um….bigger than the resurrection?

….teaches about the life-changing message of the Crucifixion in a way that everyone can understand and no one will forget.

That’s awesome.

…kids will love coming to Sunday school.  Watch them grow in their relationship with Jesus!

What is this?  Chia-pet discipleship?  Open the box and just add water.

To be fair, there are some resources that boast realistic results. But you and I aren’t dumb.  We don’t read those lines and believe the hype.  We hopefully choose curriculum because they will truly help us make disciples.  This however begs the question of whether or not curriculum can produce disciples.  To some of us a question like this might be akin to blasphemy.  Our minds immediately wonder how we could make disciples without teaching.  Of course you can’t, but that doesn’t mean that teaching is the whole of discipleship.  Not to mention that discipleship which is only teaching assumes a very linear process which is not only presumptuous, but increasingly irrelevant with younger generations.  

We live in an information based society.  Yet we in the church have assumed that if we present the information of scripture, A- people will automatically accept it and B- people will know what to do with it.  If these assumptions were ever true, they will only leave us frustrated in our current context.  Yes we must present the word and the Gospel, but we need to do so in a way that isn’t just the transference of information.  

But this is where curriculum comes in AND where I have found myself guilty.  Rather than take the time to teach others to teach, lead and disciple (a novel idea), we hand them some out of the box, bell and whistle curriculum.  Our hope is that this will produce disciples.  What it really does is allows us to give teaching responsibilities to unqualified people, so that they can dispense information that we are comfortable with in a way which we approve of.  In fact, they don’t even have to be living as a disciple themselves to dispense the information, which only compounds the problem.  Ultimately It’s low empowerment with high expectation.

Jesus is considered by scholars such as Weber ...

If you look at the Gospels to discover how Jesus trained the original disciples, you actually find some great disciple making strategies.  Strategies which quickly become counter-cultural to the western evangelical context.  Embarrassingly, I admit that I’ve only recently begun to do this, always wanting to rely on other models and/or the regurgitation of information.

For now I’m still a rookie in the world of disciple making.  I have a lot to learn and am only at the beginning stages or rethinking these issues.  Still, The Bible isn’t a curriculum; the Holy Spirit isn’t a program; the Christian life isn’t a meeting.  If we’re to do this right, we must accept that something else is required.  

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