Authentic discipleship isn’t about managing outcomes; it’s about walking alongside others in the messy beauty of everyday life. We achieve true growth not by charting progress, but by embracing love and vulnerability in the ebbs and flows of the faith journey.

A story in Mark 1 that’s always amazed me tells how Jesus, right after a powerful exorcism, surprised everyone by inviting his disciples (not the awestruck crowd), “Let’s go somewhere else” (Mark 1:38). Imagine the confusion! In our world today, that would’ve been considered a mistake. Things were looking “successful.” Why walk away from that? Jesus knew this wasn’t a performance; it was an invitation to a journey with Him with open hands to whatever outcomes would emerge.

The Quiet Journey

Having a background in both business and ministry, I appreciate the value of management practices. Goal-setting and efficiency are crucial in their own right. However, they don’t fuel spiritual growth. Here’s where the two worlds diverge: One is outcome-based, while the other is more about character, health, and humility.

We often fall into the trap of trying to measure faith with numbers: attendance, donations, or even spiritual milestones. Even worse, we might get caught up in theological debates or cultural power struggles, hoping to influence hearts and minds through earthly means. Confession time: I’m tempted to get sucked into these external battles just like anyone. But I regularly remind myself, there is another way. 

While the internet offers a form of connection, healthy faith development thrives in the fertile ground of face-to-face relationships. Unlike the pressure to perform on social media, true growth unfolds quietly within hearts and minds, nurtured by the friends we see in person. It’s about opening ourselves, not just to the Spirit’s presence in our own story, but also in the lives of the neighbors and friends who surround us. This inner reflection, this cultivation of a pure heart, is precisely what Jesus emphasizes in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7).

Reread the Beatitudes and see how many times Jesus emphasizes the importance of a pure heart and reminds us how God sees our motivators and is pleased by that. Notice how many times Jesus mentions that God “sees what is done in secret.” The quiet life counts; that’s where I try to focus.

The Siren Song of Managerial Discipleship

Years of straddling ministry and the marketplace exposed the seductive appeal of managerial discipleship within me. The pressure I created for myself to measure spiritual growth through training and coaching looked good on paper but left me exhausted. These approaches have their place. But if we’re not careful, management practices can stifle authentic expression, personal growth, and the beautiful diversity of God’s presence within a community.

Authentic discipleship thrives in the fertile ground of the unknown. Sometimes we just have to let things unfold to see what we see. As Jesus said, weeds and wheat often grow together (Matthew 13:30) and therefore it’s not always clean and clear as to what is happening in our lives or the lives of those we are close to until far down the road. Every day there are unknowns. We are always growing and changing. Sometimes we get scared of what we see in ourselves, our friends, or our world. But as Jesus said in Matthew 13:30, one day, God sorts it. So take a breath. It’s not up to you.

Think about Jesus with the disciples on the Emmaus road (Luke 24). Lost and grieving, it seemed the weeds had choked out the wheat. Hard stuff appeared to have triumphed. Yet, they weren’t offered immediate clarity or simple answers. Jesus walked beside them, listened, shared stories, and revealed Himself slowly through fellowship. We need each other’s failures and triumphs, our questions and affirmations to get ready to receive Jesus when He shows Himself. These are the very paths where we encounter the Son of God, not just roads leading to Him.

Climb the Sycamore Tree

Imagine freeing yourself from an outcome-focused discipleship. Climb the sycamore tree with Zacchaeus, embrace the confusion with the Emmaus disciples, walk the road together, fellow travelers, muddy boots and all. Discipleship isn’t management; it’s a love that trusts the Holy Spirit’s guidance through our times of stumbling, and times of clarity. 

Jesus welcomed complex people with peace and spaciousness: a Samaritan woman, blind Bartimaeus (who made a lot of noise), the persistent Syrophoenician woman, Zacchaeus, and a woman caught in adultery to name a few (John 4, Mark 10, 7, Luke 19, John 8). Perhaps the message is clear. Let’s learn to love the mess of real people, where deeper connection often surprises us.

A Path For Embracing Authenticity

This journey of faith isn’t about achieving a perfect outcome, but about walking alongside others in the beautiful chaos of everyday life. We grow not by tracking progress, but by embracing love, vulnerability, and the uncertainties that come with following Jesus. If you want to embrace a more authentic discipleship, here are three ideas:

  1. Focus on the present: Let go of the pressure to manage everything. Trust that God is sorting things out, and focus on living faithfully today. (Matthew 13:30)
  2. Embrace the quiet journey: True transformation happens within our hearts. Seek the things “done in secret” that God sees. (Matthew 5-7)
  3. Celebrate the mess: Discipleship isn’t about checking boxes. It’s about journeying together through doubts, mistakes, and moments of grace. (Luke 24)

The world needs authentic faith, not programs. Let’s offer the real stuff. The discipleship path is built on shared love, vulnerability, and growth fueled by the Holy Spirit.

Who will you walk with? Maybe you’re even the one who needs care. Remember, the faith walk is about receiving as much as giving.

Join the conversation! Who inspires you in your faith journey? Share your stories of messy beauty and growth in the comments below.

Let’s walk together. Imperfectly, but authentically.

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