The Definition Of A Disciple

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.

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How To Be Humble

A couple days ago, I posted some thoughts I had about humility.  I said there that while I understood the need for and goodness of humility, I did not know how to achieve it.  In other words, I said that it is hard to be humble.  Somehow, I restrained myself from adding this song to the post:

As it turns out, I did come across one way to be humble.  I think I did, anyway.  I was practicing guitar after I wrote that post.  I’ve been struggling with the guitar since at least 2002.  I taught myself to do the open chords back then, but I stopped messing with it once I moved to California because I wasn’t needed; all the players in the church were better than I.  It came back into my orbit a few years ago, though.  Last year I got an electric guitar for Christmas (a present from my wife; I gave her the money to buy it for me!).  I got a few lessons as well and have been learning to do lead.  I’ve gotten much better at it over the past year.  I’m very pleased with how I’ve learned to “see” the scales on the fretboard and to understand enough music theory to get by, both of which were things I never thought I’d ever do.

But while I’m pleased with my progress, I’m not overly-pleased by it.  I know that there are guys and gals out there who are lightyears beyond me and always will be.  My guitar instructor said as much, in fact.  He said there are seven-year-olds on YouTube who can smoke him, and if those kids can smoke him they can annihilate me.  (I can’t show you the video in which he says this because it’s behind a paywall, but here he is doing a song with his daughter.)

What he further said, though, is that it doesn’t matter how better other people are than you, and that it also doesn’t matter how better you are than other people.  All that matters is that you are growing.  And I totally dug that.

Here’s the thing, though: I think I dug it so much because I know I’m not good at guitar (which you can see in the final video; I was forced to play an unfamiliar shape that night, which is why I made as many mistakes as I did, but truth be told, I probably would have made mistakes even if I had been playing a familiar shape).  Knowing that I’m not that good, knowing that there is no way I can win any type of comparison or contest, frees me from ever thinking about being good/winning.  It frees me to be happy in the moment.

I think what I need to do, then, is apply that same idea to the things I’m good at (or think I’m good at).  If I realize I’m not nearly as good at those things as I think I am, if I realize I’m not really “good” at them at all and will never win any meaningful comparison or contest with them, then I might be freed from all pride and all vanity.  Then I might be able to be humble, hard as it is.  Then I might be able to do what I was made by God to do: perform the best I can and be happy with that.