One of the elements of discipleship that I have wrestled with for some time is how quickly the disciples respond to the invitation of Jesus in the Gospels to “come and follow.” Wouldn’t it be great if any time we made a subtle invitation to the next thing that we knew people needed or were looking for, they jumped at the opportunity? After trying some new things over the past two years, I’ve discovered that it may not be as difficult as one might think.

I read an article recently that referred to a term used in sociology called habitus. Relying on Wikipedia, the definition of habitus is “a system of embodied dispositions, tendencies that organize the ways in which individuals perceive the social world around them and react to it.”

One of the most difficult realities of our mission to make disciples in the Church today is that few have actually experienced a culture or habitus of discipleship. Or to say it more bluntly, few actually know what discipleship really is.  I tend to disagree with the statement that I hear all too often that “one can not be a disciple someone unless they have been discipled themselves.” If that’s the case, then our mission is rather hopeless because I rarely meet adults in the Church who say that they have been discipled by another person in their life. Rather, I might argue that we struggle with discipleship because we have not lived in or been exposed to a habitus of discipleship. When Jesus said, “Come, follow me,” the disciples knew exactly what he meant. Living in the culture that they did, the disciples had waited their entire lives for that moment. A habitus of “lived discipleship” paved the way.

For many, it’s easy to point to unique discipleship relationships that model what we are striving to do, but in my experience of working intimately with parishes and training parish leaders across the country, it’s when a parish adopts a habitus of discipleship that the entire parish and entire communities begin to notice something happening. I want to offer a few thoughts on how we might achieve this habitus of lived discipleship.

We Must Be Witnesses By Being Totally Committed to Discipleship Ourselves

If we are to teach or lead people in discipleship, we must strive to embody discipleship personally, which implies that everything we do is an attempt to listen to and follow after Jesus Christ. It means we must live lives of total abandonment and witness what it means to be truly guided and inspired by the Holy Spirit in our lives. This isn’t just so we lead by example but also that Jesus can dwell in us and work through us in His attempts to call others in discipleship as well…we become the body of Christ.

EVERYTHING Must Be About Jesus

Over time, I have grown increasingly tired of much of the habitus of the Church today. It seems all too common that our structures, practices, and strategy are focused on requirements for Sacramental preparation, professional development, etc. People can go through these sometimes incredibly intensive formation programs and still not be able to answer the question, “What is Jesus doing in your life right now?” Our efforts become more about doing good things, maintaining certain standards, when if we actually lived by the standards that Jesus calls us too, I doubt things would look as ordered and busy as they do. We would be called to live in faith, deep faith, that cannot always explain or order things in ways that others can relate to or easily adapt to.

We Must Allow Space For Jesus To Act

If we desire to do particular programs in the church, is it simply because we see there is a need and we think we should fill it, or is it because we’ve prayerfully determined that Jesus has invited us to do so? When a small group or fundraising initiative begins to take on some drama, do we allow space to ask and discuss what God is doing in these situations, or do we just strive to solve the problem ourselves? Embodying authentic discipleship requires us to enter into Jesus’ program, not our own.

Since Pentecost, we have the assurance that we no longer need to live our lives asking, “What would Jesus do?” Rather, we can be assured that there is an answer to the question, “What is Jesus doing right now?” If we personally strive to enter into His work and let it be the source from which our leadership flows , this will become the habitus that draws others in as well. The Holy Spirit will draw people in like a magnet greater than any strategy or program can. This habitus IS the program.

The difficulty with all of this is that what Jesus is doing typically demands much more of us because he wants all of you and he wants all of me. In order to embody discipleship, we must not be afraid of where he is leading us. We must embrace what He desires to do in us and in our parishes… which in my experience is always new and is always life-giving.   When we begin to live in this way…we will be able to do what Jesus did!

Interested in Learning More? (Special Bonus for Readers)

For over six years, I’ve been assisting leaders in striving to create this habitus of discipleship in their parishes. I’ve put much of what I’ve learned and teach in a course called Cultivating an Atmosphere of Discipleship. We’ve opened the course for enrollment two times, and I’ve had over 300 people go through it so far! That course is actually open for enrollment for a limited time and only open for one more day! It closes February 8th at 10pm!

As a thank you for being a follower on this site and for reading this post, I’d like to offer you a bonus on the course.  Anyone who registers for the course on this final day will receive three copies of our book Discipleship Focused Youth Ministry (shipping included!).  So don’t miss out and register today!