During our family vacation, our girls took swimming lessons. Before these lessons my oldest, Emie, was pretty scared of the water. But after just a few lessons, she loved to swim! She was doggy-paddling, going underwater with goggles, and even willing to jump off the diving board! It was truly remarkable how fast she and Lily progressed in such a short amount of time. Jaime and I were able to go and look in on one of their lessons, and as I watched my girls interact with their instructors, God gave me a picture of what discipleship is all about. I noticed right away that the swimming instructors did everything with them. They always were close by and exhibited tremendous patience with my girls. Likewise, they used lots of encouragement as they showed my girls step by step what to do. Because of this, I could tell that my girls trusted these ladies and were willing to listen and do what they were asked to do. They developed a relationship with these ladies and looked forward to spending time with them as they proved to be caring and encouraging teachers.
Isn't this what discipleship is all about? When done rightly, discipleship looks much like swimming lessons. As the discipler, you must be willing to establish trust with the one you are discipling and much of that happens in the context of a close personal relationship. This purposeful proximity is really the key to effective discipleship. We must be willing to dive in and "get wet!" I tried to imagine how foolish it would be for these swimming instructors to just sit in a lounge chair up on the cement calling out instructions while my girls were gasping for air in the pool. Would that teach them how to swim? Obviously not. But some Christians believe that discipleship automatically happens as we sit passively under the preached word. Over time, it is believed that these young believers will "get it" and grow on their own. I'm not belittling the importance of preaching, I'm simply uplifting the importance of discipling and how, when coupled with solid, biblical preaching, can transform our lives. Clearly, discipleship happens best in the context of relationships. It cannot be effective when one assumes the role of a passive recipient. Instead, it must be done through intentional, accountable, life-to-life relationships.
Grant Edwards, who first showed me this picture of discipleship in a book he wrote called Swimming Lessons, says, "unless we disciple new believers, getting them firmly rooted in the Christian faith, it's as if we are tossing them into the deep end of a pool and hoping they'll find a way to stay afloat."
So, as I watched my girls go from being scared of the water to jumping off the diving board I asked myself, "What are you doing to help young believers go from being scared in the shallow end of their faith to diving deep into God's Word and His will for their lives?" I had to admit, not much. I realized again the need to take the plunge and be willing to get wet in the waters of discipleship. How about you?