THE HEART OF DISCIPLESHIP:
Focusing on the Relationship Rather than the Numbers
By: Stephanie Anne Castaneda
“I never knew you.” No words have ever hurt more than this phrase Jesus said in Matthew 7:23. And ironically, it was the starting passage of Bishop Manny Santiago during the “Equip” seminar. As a Christian, I believe that there is no greater tragedy than the false assurance of salvation being the only thing in our faith that matters. This is why we must always ask ourselves if we truly understand who Jesus is in our lives and if we act on that understanding.
Bishop Manny mentions during the first part of his discipleship seminar that there are 3 levels of understanding when it comes to knowing Jesus Christ. There will be no growth in faith and there will be no pleasing God if we only focus and act on one.
Our distinguished speaker stated that a Christian man undergoes 3 levels of understanding during the entirety of his Christian life.
First, the Saving Knowledge which we encounter during the first time we learn about Jesus Christ. Second, the Growing Knowledge which we go through with the help of our respective life groups and ministries. This is where our understanding about Christ expands and grows, but somehow Christians make the mistake of staying in this level. It is sad to think that their knowledge about God grows but their relationship with Him does not.
This brings us to the third level – the Ultimate Knowledge of Jesus Christ. This is where we establish deep and meaningful intimacy, fully understanding what He means to us and therefore entering a covenant of marriage; promising to surrender our life, our time, and our strength for the glory of God. In this level of knowledge, we choose to die in every aspect of our lives so that we can be one with Him.
So why should we discuss these levels of understanding in a discipleship seminar? It’s because discipleship will only be fruitful if we are in an intimate relationship with Christ. We cannot be good disciplers or disciples if we are not one with Christ.
A week ago, during the start of this extreme challenge, I realized how much time I spend somewhere else than in the presence of God. And the result? Distractions bombard me until I’m no longer in control of my time. This leaves me unprepared and unfocused on the goal that was set before me. When you’ve reached a certain level of maturity in your relationship with God, shutting off distractions and focusing on what truly matters will no longer be a losing battle.
Discipleship takes time, effort and responsibility. It is a non-negotiable thing and should be taken with great importance. If you are not focused on the goal which God has given you, you’ll easily give up. That’s why we are encouraged to focus on the quality and not the quantity of our disciples. Just like what Bishop Manny emphasized during this seminar, the greatest enemy of discipleship are numbers. For us to have committed disciples, we must commit our time and energy to teach them and guide them towards the right path. And for us to effectively equip them, a strong relationship with God and a strong sense of responsibility is needed.
Discipleship is not an easy task. We must be in tune with God first and establish spiritual maturity so that we can become great leaders. Focus and commitment is needed for a strong and healthy discipleship; but an intimate relationship with God can transform our perspective to see this call as a passion, not just an obligation.
By the end of this seminar, I can see that the congregation was filled with hope and understanding about the true meaning of discipleship and what it means for us to participate in it. Giving up is not an option. Instead, let us continue to win souls and guide them towards the path that is pleasing to the eyes of the Lord so that when the day comes, you’ll hear God’s voice commending you for a job well done.