Discipleship Network Interview: James Reapsome
- How would you define discipleship?
Discipleship is a matter of growth in spiritual maturity, so that our lives more accurately reflect the values of Jesus. Our goal is to be conformed to his image.
- What is more important, what a disciple believes or their lifestyle?
This is a false dichotomy. What we believe changes our lifestyle. On the other hand, often what we do enriches our understanding of the gospel.
- What are the unique challenges of discipling students versus adults who have been trained over past decades?
In some ways it is easier to disciple students, because they have never heard it all before. Change comes much harder for adults.
- How is your recent book,The Imitation of Saint Paul: Examining Our Lives in Light of His Example, a resource for the discipling process?
My book can be quite helpful because it looks at the apostle’s feelings and emotions, and not just his theology. His theology is crucial, but I wanted to examine Paul the man as a model of discipleship for myself and others.
- Consider talking about the reasons that promoted you to write the book
I did not hear a voice from heaven telling me to write this book. I’ve been a writer and editor for many years, so after I finished writing “Knowing Jesus” (Baker Books),I thought I needed to write something about Paul. I can honestly say I wrote this for my own benefit, with the hope that it might be publishable.
- I like the opening line in your Introduction - it links someone being discipled to the person discipling them, who is connected across the centuries to master disciple-maker Paul, and Paul to Jesus (that was awkwardly said - I'm simply impressed that you begin by connecting us to Jesus, thru Paul but to Jesus ... maybe you could discuss that?
Of course, Jesus is our ultimate model. That’s why the ancient book by Thomas a Kempis, “The Imitation of Christ,” is such an endurable classic. When you look at Paul, he goes back again and again to Jesus. So by digging into Paul’s life we can find new ways to model Jesus and to learn how he can meet our needs..
- I am moved by the passion of the final few paragraphs of your Introduction - they are more than a set-up for the book, they are instructive of how we should approach scripture as a discipling tool ... maybe you could share that perspective?
Scripture has always been my passion since college days when I was first introduced to personal and small group Bible study. I have studied the Bible, preached it, and taught it. But that is not enough for a growing disciple. I begin each day asking God to show me something that connects with where I am and how I am feeling.
- How should a disciple (on their own) read this book? It has brief, focused, scripture-packed chapters that would seem to serve well as a deep study devotional
Read it intelligently and prayerfully. Ask questions about it. Where and how does this strike me today? Perhaps it could be compared to jumper cables used to start a dead battery. The power is there if we know how to hook it up. But that does not come easily. Thoughtful meditation is hard work.
- How would you recommend a one-on-one or small group leader utilize this book as a discipleship resource?
Because the book is readable, and includes stories, each Scripture section offers many possible discussion starters. I call this investigative Bible study. The discipler must learn how to use questions to draw out people, rather than lecture them. I think the many personal applications throughout would be helpful in a variety of settings.
- Say something about:
- Discipleship and worship ... Disciples of Jesus cannot survive and grow isolated from other believers. Worship draws us together. Disciples desire to share their joys and burdens in worship settings.
- Discipleship and fellowship ... Fellowship in the New Testament means finding ways to express our faith in the context of everyday life. It’s not a party, it’s crying and praying and hoping and encouraging one another.
- Discipleship and leadership ... Leadership requires maturity and common sense, plus years of training. The church needs to build leaders who grow year by year, something compared to the way Major League baseball teams bring up young recruits through the minor leagues.
- Discipleship and stewardship ... Disciples will see all of life as a stewardship from God. Nothing we have really belongs to us. As we grow in obedience to Christ, we’ll let go of some stuff and put our hopes in spiritual goals, not success and money.
- Discipleship and citizenship (responsibility to witness & missions) .. Lack of involvement in service and witness is a sure indicator of failing discipleship. Disciples put their lives on the line in a host of different contexts at home and abroad.
- What scripture best communicates your perspective of discipleship?
2 Corinthians 5:15: (Christ) died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.