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The Art(s) of Discipleship

I try not to be too predictable, but if you know me you probably saw this comparison coming…the arts and discipleship. Here’s the angle I want to take: the process of discipleship is conceptually quite similar to the process of learning an art form.

With music, new students have in their mind a crude idea of how their instrument is supposed to sound. If I may risk oversimplifying to make my point, mastering an instrument consists of two things: (1) learning more fully what an instrument is supposed to sound like and then (2) learning the skills necessary to make it happen.

Another way to think of it is in visual mediums, like painting. In my head, I can picture a gorgeous landscape. I can imagine it but don’t know how to create it. Learning to paint is refining a mental image of what I want to create, and subsequently learning how to render my mental picture onto a physical canvas.

With the exception of the occasional Mozart born every few decades, everyone needs a teacher to show them how to master their art. I’ve had writing teachers and music teachers my whole life. A French horn was just a useless hunk of metal until my teacher taught me how to use it in the way its designer intended.

The Christian life is very similar. When God redeems us through Christ, He gives us a new heart that is sensitive to Him and desires to do His will. But brand new Christians don’t always know how to understand or fulfill the new desire they have; their new heart wants to please God, but they don’t know how to make their physical lives reflect that desire. All Christians, new and old, need discipleship — teachers of sorts — to help refine the spiritual/mental conception of what a Christian is supposed to look like and to demonstrate how to make the spiritual desire a reality.

All souls are designed by God to be used in a certain way. A large part of discipleship is shaping a person’s mental conception of what a Christian looks like by teaching them what the great designer intended for their lives (glorifying and enjoying God) and then showing them how to shape their lives into that reality (identifying and killing sin, surrendering all aspects to Christ, and so on).

In music and discipleship, we also must start with the basics. Growing in the art of music or life comes only with consistency and muscle memory. Life and instruments are like riding a bike: learn well enough and you’re less likely to forget (which is how the bike idiom should go). You’ll be trained to recognize when it’s time to empty a spit valve, use more air, or respond in faith when persecution comes. And as the student/disciple grows, they can get into more nuanced topics. The flute player, with direction, starts to learn vibrato; the disciple, with direction, starts to wrestle with the problem of evil.

What other parallels or metaphors have you seen be a picture of discipleship?

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3 Responses

  1. Juan says:

    Very Interesting.

  2. Elizabeth Farner says:

    Art and music are interesting metaphorea for discipleship. An additional aspect is that each disciple must come to understand that s/he has been fashioned by God to serve in a way that is different than others. To continue the art metaphor (?) even though we are all painting Bob Ross’s happy little clouds, our pictures will turn out with varying degrees of similarity to the model and some day reflect the variation that comes from a creative use of our experience and abilities.

  3. Elizabeth Farner says:

    I was not trying to create an impresive plural of “metaphor,” just typos from big thumbs and little keyboard!

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