This book addresses the question, “What will it take to change the world for our Master?” After many years of searching, my answer is that it has to start with a Personal Revelation. Here’s what I mean…
There’s a story told of a rabbi from the late nineteenth century who set out to change the world, but very soon realized that he could not. So, he decided to focus on changing the Jewish community of his country but he failed there as well. He then decided to focus on changing the people of his hometown but didn’t get any further. Finally, in a last effort, he believed he could change his family and sought to do so. Failure was the result there as well. In the end, he realized that the only person he could really change was himself. Therefore, he began to do so. And today, long after his death, his teachings are the cornerstone of Jewish life, particularly in proper speech and ethical conduct.
This is our path.
“Introduction: Why Discipleship,” pg 5
The Four Responsibilities of a Disciple
This is how Darren begins his small (85 pages) booklet and primer on promoting authentic discipleship under our Master, Jesus.
When Darren contacted me and asked me to review this book, I wasn’t sure what to think. I am aware of Darren in various social media venues but can’t say I actually “know” him as well as I know other people I regularly communicate with over the web but have never met. But I was curious and agreed to do the review and subsequently, Darren’s book arrived in the mail.
I must say that I’m impressed. I was barely aware of Emet HaTorah so I wasn’t sure of the quality of the materials they (he?) produce. Both the “look and feel” and quality of content are high and represent a professional job of writing and publishing. I’ll cut to the chase and say right now that I’d recommend this book for anyone who is really interested in what being a disciple of the Jewish Messiah is like as a lived experience.
The booklet is laid out along the pattern of steps Darren establishes for discipleship:
Except for the Introduction, each chapter has a series of study questions at the end as well as the endnotes for references used in the chapter. The book then is suitable for either group study or for the individual reader/student.
Actually, Chapter One is “What is a Disciple?”, which is a critical question to answer. If you don’t know the answer, you certainly can’t make a disciple or even be one.
The Master of whom Darren refers and who leads us in discipleship is Jesus, and the pattern of how to make/be a disciple comes from very Jewish sources. In terms of “the Church,” Darren called discipleship a “lost art.” If a church has any sort of “discipleship program” at all, it’s based on “intangibles” such as defining the disciple as one who “will love Jesus more than anything,” “will carry his cross,” “will count the cost,” and “will surrender everything to Christ.”
The ancient and modern Jewish discipleship is based on “doing” or direct imitation of the Rabbi or teacher, not just being devoted to an abstract set of principles. If you had to live your life based on the “intangibles” I listed above, what exactly would that look like? What would you do? How would someone who knows next to nothing about a “Christian lifestyle” of holiness implement those principles in day-to-day living? Would you recommend that he or she fashion a large, wooden cross and then shlep it on their backs from morning to evening to “carry his cross?”
Darren makes a good point when he calls a disciple a “lifestudent,” but that only helps the reader realize how challenging being a true disciple of Christ is. Discipleship isn’t a six, twelve, or eighteen-week program you run a new member of your church through and at the end, they are a “full-fledged Christian.” Discipleship takes a lifetime of continual studying and mentoring.
In one sense, how the church defines a disciple, “love Jesus more than anything,” is the center of devotion to one’s “Rebbe.” But the concept of devotion has to be actualized. That is, you have to understand how devotion is acted out and then do it.
In Chapter Two, devotion is a matter of commitment. Think of it like a marriage. Being married is more than just a ceremony and signing a license, it’s a life-long (ideally) commitment of two people to each other to meet not only a set of wants and needs recognized at the beginning of the relationship, but to adapt over time and meet commitments that were never even imagined at the beginning. If you can grasp that concept and better yet, if you’ve actually done it (been married for years or decades), you have a pretty good idea of what living a life of discipleship is all about.
The analogy falls apart when you realize that a marriage is a commitment between two equals and discipleship is being devoted to someone who will always be greater than you.
“Truly, truly, I say to you, a slave is not greater than his master, nor is one who is sent greater than the one who sent him.”
–John 13:16 (NASB)
This is actually something some Christians do pretty well. A lot of churches encourage their members to judiciously read the Bible and to memorize verses, but in the Jewish model of discipleship, students memorize all of the teachings of their Master. That’s a tall order, even if you just interpret this as memorizing everything Jesus said in the Gospels. However, since our Master’s “source material” was the Torah and the Prophets, we’re talking about a much larger body of text being involved.
But Peter told Jesus that Messiah had “words of eternal life” (John 6:68). Writing those words on our minds and hearts leads to such a life, both in the now and in the World to Come.
However, rote memorization isn’t all there is to it. Correct interpretation and then living out these teachings is part and parcel of the task. If we don’t understand the original meaning of the Master’s teachings, they will either seem like nonsense, or we’ll end up completely missing the mark of what he was trying to say. Darren references First Fruits of Zion (FFOZ) author and teacher D. Thomas Lancaster and his “Macaroni Principle.” As children, we all probably heard and sung this little tune once or twice:
Yankee Doodle went to town,
riding on a pony;
He stuck a feather in his hat,
and called it macaroni
I won’t reveal the definitions here, but if you don’t know the meaning of “yankee,” “doodle,” “macaroni,” and why someone would put a feather in their hat, you won’t have the faintest idea what this really means (and it really means something quite specific).
Our Rebbe Yeshua may be the wisest and greatest prophet and teacher who ever lived, but if we don’t understand what his original students would have understood when they listened to him, we will proceed to understand, teach, and live lives of folly and error. One of the reasons I have written about the Didache is to illuminate some of the probable details of a life of discipleship and training of the very early Gentile believers. The Didache gets disciples out of their heads and actually “doing” Christianity. That’s what Darren is trying to do with his book, too.
I know some people reading this will take the suggestion quite literally and say this is proof that Gentile Christians are commanded to wear tzitzit, lay tefillin, eat Biblically (as opposed to Rabbinically, for some reason) kosher, pray in Hebrew, and try to live as how they imagine observant Jews live without actually converting.
That’s not how I see imitation and such superficial behavior misses the point of this principle. What do we do to imitate our Master, which is the application of his teachings in our lives?
Darren produced a short bullet list (I won’t replicate the whole thing here) that includes showing compassion to others, leading through serving, loving children, having a passion for justice, and loving the Torah and the Temple. I note that I can love the Torah without believing I am commanded to live as a Jewish person. I can believe that the Torah applies to me differently than to the descendants of the ancient Israelites and, as the Didache states:
6:2 For, on the one hand, if you are able to bear
the whole yoke of the Lord, you will be perfect;
but if, on the other hand, you are not able,
that which you are able, do this.
I can take my observance of the Torah of Moses to the extent I am able, as I understand this, but my imitation of the Master does not include a commandment to act as “Jewish” as the Master.
Actually, at the end of Chapter Four, Darren uses “praying like Jesus” as an excellent example of how we can imitate our Master. I think it would be a good place for anyone to start on the path of being a disciple in imitation of his Rebbe.
Implementing Chapter Five is a bit tricky, because we don’t really have a system in the Church that functions like the Jewish model of multi-generational discipleship. The idea is that a group of disciples study under a Master Teacher for many years, holding him as more dear than even their own parents, being totally devoted to him, spending long hours and days literally following him wherever he went, listening to him, imitating his dress, his patterns of speech, memorizing his every word and deed.
Eventually, one by one, each disciple would be elevated to the point to where he could begin to take on his own disciples and to be a Master to them. He would then pass on everything he learned from his Master (which would include the teachings of his Master’s Master, and so on, preserving all of those teachings in the next generation).
And so it would go, at least ideally, generation after generation.
In Christianity, the original apostles are long dead and the discipleship model died with them. What we have to learn from are the written teachings of the Master and the first apostles and disciples. Only the Bible is our guide to becoming disciples of Jesus and somehow replicating what we learn to a next generation.
The Church doesn’t even come close to doing this in terms of discipleship, although to their credit, they have preserved (though in many cases, the interpretations have been skewed) the teachings of Jesus for nearly two-thousand years.
As I was reading this chapter, I thought about my every other week Sunday afternoon coffee conversations with a good friend of mine. Although we don’t exactly have a mentor/student relationship, he has been a Christian for forty years and I learn a great deal from him, including how to clarify my confusion on a good many things. I suppose you could also include my weekly conversations with my Pastor in this category, since I do have a one on one relationship with someone who is far better educated in the teachings of our Master than I am.
But both of those situations fall short of actual discipleship. A true disciple will study under his Master for years or decades. How can the church even begin to do this, especially in a highly mobile western society where people move from city to city and state to state every few years?
Remember, in order to engage in this process of Replication, we first have to be in the process of becoming a disciple ourselves. Brad Young tells us, “For disciples to be made, there is first a need for master teachers.”
-Huckey, pg 74
Where do we start? Who are the Master Teachers in the Church who will commit to a multi-year, multi-decade process of raising up disciples in our Master Yeshua and then in turn, having those disciples raise up their own disciples? How can this even be possible in our modern Christian culture?
What I Learned
Jesus followed the traditional pattern of the Jewish discipleship model of his day. He raised hundreds to thousands of disciples, including a core group of apostles who would go on to become Master Teachers in their own right. His disciples followed Jesus around everywhere he went, listened to his teachings, memorized his words, conformed every action of their lives to his example, and later, they recorded his teachings from memory and raise up disciples in his sacred name.
The process fell apart pretty quickly, especially once Paul started taking the teachings of the Master to the Jewish and Gentile disciples of the Master in the Diaspora. You see, in most cases, Paul couldn’t stay in one place for the years or decades it would take to follow the discipleship model that would allow the new believers to assimilate the teachings of Jesus into their lives. In many cases, Paul would have to leave a Gentile leader in charge of a “church” who barely grasped the basics of “Judaism 101,” and didn’t even come close to being a competent disciple, let alone a “Master Teacher” for his local group.
I wonder if that’s why most of Paul’s letters take the tone of “course corrections,” defining where the various churches have gone wrong and, at a distance, trying to provide the teachings necessary to get them back on track.
All of the other “Judaisms” going forward in history (actually, only the stream of the Pharisees survived beyond the destruction of the Temple) managed to preserve the discipleship model much better. In our modern era, this only exists in certain segments of religious Judaism, but the model still exists. In the Church, it disintegrated early on and except in fairly rare cases, was never resurrected.
Darren Huckey’s book will give you a starting point. It’s well written and well researched, and I think it’s a valuable resource for people who want to become and/or to raise up serious and correctly oriented disciples of our Master, but there’s a limit to what you can do with such a small booklet. This work won’t turn you into a disciple. Actually, no book, including the Bible, will change anything there is about you unless you dedicate your life to the teachings therein and walk the walk from the moment you wake up until you drift to sleep at night, day after day after day…for all of your life.
Huckey’s book is best done by doing or rather, using it as a template to discover how to “do” discipleship under Jesus. You’ll need more resources to fully explore a life of discipleship, which is what I suspect Darren plans to do with his ministry. It’s what First Fruits of Zion has been doing with their ministry for over twenty years (and especially after experiencing significant “course corrections” of their own).
The Four Responsibilities of a Disciple is a tool in your collection of resources that will guide you to a life of Jesus discipleship, but it’s only one tool. I must emphasize that this one book will not be sufficient to make you into a disciple. It will however, point you in the right direction.
Pray, love, serve, and study, but most of all, do discipleship, and you will not be far from the Kingdom of Heaven.