I do not believe in discipleship

The concept of discipleship was ingrained in me early on:

Who is discipling you? and who are you discipling? were familiar questions.

It was normal to be in a discipleship group–a group that taught the ways of Jesus. The motive was (and is) pure and good.

However, over the years, I have discovered that neither the words ‘discipleship’ nor  ‘discipling’ are in the Bible. From all I can surmise, we made up those words over time to describe what we are doing.

Apparently we in Christendom, pure heartedly, have veered off course. Way off course. Let me explain my point of view.

At age 24, I went to seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. I had been working with teenagers since I was 19. I had quite a bit of favor with teenagers (youth) but no education in that area. The next seemingly apparent step was to earn my Masters in Religious Education.

Early on during my time at this fine institution of higher learning, I found a church that I liked.  What I really, really liked most about this church was my Sunday School teacher. His name was Dr. Stan Lee. He and his wife, Marlene, were real life missionaries in a foreign land. For some reason, though, they were temporarily at this church. While there, Dr. Lee taught Sunday School.

Each Sunday I, along with a few others, went early just so we could watch him as he prepped to teach. He would stand in front of two chalkboards for a bit and just stare at them.

And then, as if an unseen checkered flag dropped, he began to write—he wrote and wrote until both chalkboards were filled up. And the words he wrote were full of RAW LIFE. Then Dr. Lee took the next 45 minutes or so and spoke about all the words on the board. Again, LIFE. I was mesmerized, challenged, and hungry for more!

One Sunday I got up the nerve to wait after class to ask Dr. Lee one simple question, “will you disciple me?”

Side note: I was naïve about the obvious taboo male/female discipleship thing. However, I was very pure hearted and eager to get more of this life-filled teaching, which is what I believed discipleship was.

Awkwardness appeared. Dr. Lee looked angst. Yes, my query was definitely troubling him.

He looked away, looked back at me and looked away again. He opened his mouth, closed it, and after a few more seconds, he spoke slowly methodically and this is what he said: “Only One disciples. And his name is Jesus. I disciple no one.”

I smiled politely, curtsied and excused myself. (Okay, I didn’t curtsy, but I did hightail it out of there.)

I was so embarrassed. What the heck did he mean?? I had asked a very common Christian-type question and he, figuratively, slammed me.

Yet, I really heard what he said. I thought about it a lot. And over the days, weeks, months, and years to come, it resounded. It resonated.

And it altered my life’s trajectory. 

That very day, Dr. Lee contributed to making me a disciple as well as giving me a much greater understanding to actually what making a disciple meant and means.

“Go and make disciples…” was the very thing that Jesus told all of us to do in, what we call, the Great Commission.  Disciple means a devoted follower. Dr. Lee didn’t mind teaching me; he simply did not want me to follow him.

Jesus did NOT tell me (or any of us) to disciple anyone.

If someone is discipling me, I am following them.

If I disciple someone, then they are following me.

If I am making disciples (devoted followers), then I am pushing them (or compelling them) to follow the One and only person that God wants us to follow, that is Jesus.

Over time, I have learned the simplicity of what it means to go straight to Jesus. I am still learning how to walk with him and talk with him and most of all, listen to and follow him.  

I have learned that he is life and gives his life freely. I have learned that his yoke (teachings) are easy (oh, so easy) and the burden (expectations) he places on me is oh. So. Light.

I am his disciple. And the way I make disciples is to push others (believers and unbelievers alike) to him. Again, I am here to push people to him, not to bring them to me.

Yes, I teach. (And listen to other’s teachings.)

Yes, I equip. (This is what I think most people are actually doing when they are discipling others. I do think the semantics are important.)

Yes, I mentor. (And have a few mentors that I can call on.)

Yes, I make disciples. (That is now normal, and very easy.)

But, no, I do not disciple, because that is not what he asks me to do.

Thank you, Dr. Lee, for not discipling me, but instead for doing what all of us are called to do: for (contributing to) making me a disciple.

That place.

I was a young mom and it was one of those days. Sick kids, a dirty house, carpooling, and an impending party–among other things, overwhelmed me. I stomped through the house with a basket full of dirty clothes on my hip.

That is when I first heard the voice: “stop and get on your knees.”

I tried to ignore it. “No!” I screamed inside, “I do not have time.”

I kept moving, kept fretting, kept pushing to get ten hours of stuff done in six hours. “I can do this! I’ve got to do this” partnered with “I can’t do all of this! How can I get all of this done?” 

I felt my skin crawling, my fuse shorten. My jaw was clenching to keep from yelling at my kids who were just being kids.

“Stop and get on your knees…”

“I. Don’t. Have. Time.”

More clothes. Empty the dishwasher. Return the phone call. Wipe the nose. Change the diaper. The washer stopped. “Oh, I have to go to the store. Remember the ice. I’ll stop on the way to the school.”

“Stop and get on your knees…”

“OH, OKAY!” I said sharply and aloud. He [God] wasn’t going to let up. So I put down the laundry basket and got on my knees and dug my elbows into the ottoman.

My obligatory prayer was discombobulated:I’m just doing this because you told me to. I have no faith to believe it will help because, the reality is, I just have way too much to do in too short period of time. I get that. But, I give you my day. There.”

(I wanted to add, “You happy now?” but that seemed a bit much.)

I got up, grabbed my laundry basket and moved on.

Then, I noticed, about ten, maybe 15 minutes later that I was calm. Very calm. Remarkably calm. How did that happen? How did my day, and my head which had been in the pit, turn and become calm and completely peaceful, and, well, quite okay?

I managed a “thank You.” And I meant it.

That place. That place where, I hear his voice and I know it’s Him. That place where it truly, it is only God and me. That place where I He knows me, warts and all, and he wants me just the way I am. There is where I am safe.

That place where He transforms me without me working;

or trying;

or even believing.

The place where He not only alters me, but alters the atmosphere.

I love God. I love God because He loves me.

I love him because He shows me secrets. Secrets that even children can understand. Secrets that even dumb blondes can grasp.

I love God because He has shown me the indescribable transforming power of the secret place.

And that the secret place is found on my knees with elbows grinding into an ottoman;

or in a car when He says, ‘turn the radio off’;

or a crowd when I close my eyes;

or on a chair when I push back from the desk;

or a long line when I choose to know He is standing next to me;

or in front of the TV when I shift my eyes away from the screen;

or a park bench where I breathe in. And breathe out;

or on a bed at 3am when all the other voices are battering my brain, and I chose to whisper to Him, “help.”

 I love God because he sees me and woos me and then meets me and still loves me.

And He shows me that oftenespecially when I purpose to go to that place . . . where it’s just me and Him.

So, I’m writing a book

A publishing friend of mine says that everyone has a book inside of them.

I believe it. I believe that there is a topic that is swimming around in everyone’s gut that is screaming to get out.

My gut screams kingdom-a seemingly medieval word that conjures up visions of knights and round tables but in reality it the most intricate, vibrant word on the planet.

I began to discover the reality of the kingdom back in 1995, which is also the year that my mom died. Attached is an article that I wrote describing that discovery. It is also the first chapter of my book–or the preface. I don’t have to decide that today.

Anyhow, the article was/is meant to whet the appetite of those who have never given thought to this amazing word. And it is for those who have long believed that “the kingdom” is the equivalent to “heaven”. It is not.

Nor is it simply Christianity or Judaism or Buddhism or Islam or Hinduism.

Nor is it a code of morality or wisdom principles or the least bit religious. (As Jimmy Fallon says, “ew.”)

Nor is it limited or measurable.

Nor can it be marketed.  Whew.

Over the past 2,000 years, the collective-we has diminished the meaning of kingdom.

Exhibit A: The word kingdom is found twice in The Lord’s Prayer. Most people can quote that verbatim as if they were uttering their address. Unfortunately, it rolls off the tongue like a religious eulogy.

If God cringes, he would certainly cringe.

So here is the article that I wrote back in the late 90’s. It is the thesis of my book. And it is the essence of what is currently spilling into a black and white composition notebook, being punched into my computer, and scratched onto a few random pieces of scrap paper.

It’s in my gut.


How I Discovered the Kingdom

By Karen Dilbeck

It was her 60th birthday and I was taking her out to breakfast. While we finished our blueberry pancakes, mom casually mentioned that she was going to the doctor later that day to have a knot on her neck looked at – “probably an infected lymph node.”

Within two days, the diagnosis came: squamos cell carcinoma. Surgery was imminent. Then came radiation. Weeks turned into months with more surgery and even chemotherapy. At age 61, which is far younger to me now than it was then, my momma died. And my inner war began.

I had the typical testimony: reared in a Christian home, received Christ early, later drifted away, only to come back and find that He really was faithful even when I had not been.

Now, here it was: my first real crisis of belief with the countless “why” questions.

The opened Bible came next with its seemingly neon word “kingdom” that appeared and reappeared. I grabbed one of my many unused Bibles from the shelf and began a journey with a highlighter that continues today.

This is what I have found:

  • John the Baptist shouted that the Kingdom was near.
  • When Jesus started speaking publicly, He said the Kingdom was here.
  • He added that prostitutes would enter the Kingdom before “righteous Pharisees” and that
  • one had to become like a small child in order to receive this Kingdom, which, by the way, was
  • a gift and, strangely enough, was
  • inside of us. Oh, and
  • this Kingdom wasn’t something one could physically see or touch, but it was composed of “righteousness, peace, and the joy of the Holy Ghost.”
  • To walk in the Kingdom, one had to be convinced that the last really would be first and that
  • the first really would be last; that
  • being a servant, turning the other cheek and going the extra mile were “literal” responses that spawned action in the heavenlies.

After Jesus rose from the dead, the Kingdom was the only subject He spoke on for that short 40-day period before He stepped off the earth and into eternity.

Then Phillip picked up where Jesus left off, preaching about the good news of the Kingdom and of the name of Jesus Christ.

Paul continued with great passion, describing how to get into and walk in the Kingdom. He also offered the warning that everything not of God’s Kingdom would be shaken.

What I learned personally was that “the Kingdom” was everywhere and that to “seek it first” really did mean “and all these things will be added unto you.”

With this new unquenchable quest, God provided for me an eternal view and the unshakable conviction that though my eyes saw my mother breathe her last breath, she had, like Jesus, simply stepped into eternity and her eyes saw what had previously been unseen.

Life really is a vapor.

Knowing the King and seeking the Kingdom is life … the only life that He intended for us to live.


 In case your interested, here is a little extra stuff to read.  It’s free.

For Downloadable PDF, click here:   The Kingdom of God is