When discipling, Jesus uses a pragmatic philosophy of education. Evident throughout the gospels, it is clear in his interaction with followers after his resurrection. One key example follows (quotes from The Message):
Ten guys: (many voices) We saw the Master.
Thomas: Unless I see the nail holes in his hands, put my fingers in the nail holes, and stick my hand in his side, I won’t believe it.
(8 days later)
Jesus: (to all 11 disciples) Peace to you.
Jesus: (to Thomas) Take your finger and examine my hands. Take your hand and stick it in my side. Don’t be unbelieving. Believe.
Thomas: My Master! My God!
Jesus: So, you believe because you’ve seen with your own eyes. Even better blessings are in store for those who believe without seeing.
Thomas needed to see it. His worldview was in disarray and conflict having received new information about the resurrection of Christ while lacking a personal experience of seeing and touching the risen Jesus. When graciously confronted by the Savior, he realized that touching was no longer an issue for him. Seeing him and hearing his voice was sufficient experience.
This event among others impacted all of the disciples. To make a gross understatement, their time with Christ changed their lives. But it did. It changed everything including how they made disciples. This became evident as they wrote down the gospels to tell the stories of the Savior. His divinity was made clear in contrast with their humanity in each account.
Keeping with the pragmatic model in the letters in the New Testament, it is fascinating to read John’s first letter where he repeatedly writes about what the disciples had seen, heard, and touched. He seeks to make clear that these are not simply facts that they learned. Being a follower of Christ is not, according to John, simply a creed to be memorized by others. It is a story about how their lives transformed because of their experience with the Savior. It is a story about his goodness and the desperate need of the disciples and others. The letter is a challenge to walk as Jesus did.
It is essential that we evaluate our discipleship methodology. We must move from a neo-scholastic to a pragmatic approach….