I was listening to the Get Religion Podcast, as I do just about every Monday. In that podcast, journalist Terry Mattingly talks about the way in which issues of religion and/or faith are covered in the press. As you can imagine, he often talks (maybe even most often) discusses the way in which issues of religion and/or faith are miscovered by the press (I believe that is the idea behind the name Get Religion; with that name, Mattingly is saying many journalists don’t get religion, a fact which comes through in their reporting).
In this episode of the podcast, Mattingly was talking about the political ambitions of TV personality Oprah Winfrey, an issue which has been in the news following the Golden Globes (I think; I don’t watch or care about award programs) and which touches upon religion/faith. As he talked about that, he started talking about discipleship.
And that is where he really caught my attention. Discipleship is a word and a concept which is very important to me; it is my way of life, in fact. As Mattingly started talking about discipleship (and about how fidelity to Oprah can be seen as discipleship), hegave a definition of it which I had never heard before. He said discipleship was “how you spend your time, how you spend your money, and how you make decisions” (around the 24 minute mark of the podcast). He said, actually, that how you spend your money, how you spend your time, and how you make decisions reveals who or what you are a disciple of.
Now that is a different definition of discipleship than many I’ve seen. It is a different definition of discipleship than what I would have personally given (I would have said something like, “Discipleship is following and becoming more like Jesus”). But it is nonetheless an accurate definition of discipleship in general (maybe not Christian discipleship; that definition would get more specific; but definitely general discipleship). As such, it highlights one very important element of discipleship: activity.
Discipleship requires activity. Actually discipleship does, anyway. Discipleship is not an intellectual or passive thing. It is not having a belief or putting your name on a role or joining an organization. It is much more than that.
Let me give you an example: I am a member of the Clan Mackay USA society, a society of people descended from the ancient Scottish clan MacKay (which I, a McCoy, am).
I became a lifetime member of that society the first time I went to the Scottish games and found out what clan I belonged to. That privilege cost me $300-some dollars. And I’m very happy with that. I’m happy to belong to this clan for life. But I’m also aware that I don’t participate in this clan in any meaningful way. I don’t go to their meetings. I don’t vote on their spending. I don’t even read their newsletter most of the time. I am not changed in any way by being a lifetime member of this clan. It does not affect my life. It cannot be demonstrated in my actions.
Discipleship, on the other hand, is demonstrated by actions. Discipleship is all about action. The challenge for me, then, as well as for all people, is to answer Mattingly’s three questions. The challenge is for me (and you) to determine how I’m spending my money, how I’m spending my time, how I make my decisions, and thus what I’m really a disciple of.