The Fear of Discipleship

Found this one in the archives of Learning to be Full of Grace and Truth. Originally posted way back in 2012 when my main follower was my mom. Since there has been the request by Pete Gardner and others for more on this I have reposted it for your reading pleasure. I’d love to know what you think.




I have written several posts about how discipleship is a spiritual type of parenting. All Christians are called to be spiritual parents by being spiritual fathers and mothers to people they are discipling.

Up to this point I have been sharing that I have been learning the biblical reasons why we should pursue discipleship in this way. Today, I want to share what I have been thinking about one of the main reasons that we don’t want to look at discipleship as a type of parenthood, and that is that spiritual parenting takes great effort and resolve and commitment.

Spiritual parenting is difficult because spiritual growth is often messy. If you are going to attempt spiritual parenting, you will run to difficulties, challenges, headaches, and heartaches, and disappointments. These are not abnormal, but normal; as normal as the difficulties, challenges, headaches, and heartaches, and disappointments that come with parenting.

What keeps us from modeling this kind of discipleship together? Simply put I think the number one reason we struggle so much with pursuing spiritual parenting is fear.

Fear of CommitmentFirst is a fear of the time commitment. Spiritual parenting takes time. It means committing to take that time, and time is something we can be very stingy with isn’t it? Other times the problem is not with being protective of our time but just not being disciplined enough with our time. Both the spiritual parent and the spiritual son or daughter need to be committed to taking the time to spend together. Nothing is more frustrating than trying to be a spiritual parent to a person who continually makes excuses to reschedule meeting together. Nothing is more frustrating to a spiritual son or daughter than their spiritual parent constantly canceling meeting together. We need to take Hebrews 10:25 (NLT) to heart, And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.


Fear of intimacyA second fear that keeps us from spiritual parenting is a fear of intimacy. You can’t be a good father or mother with you kids if you are unwilling to be close to them. The same is true with spiritual parenting. Loving another person and teaching them how to love requires a willingness to open up, to give of yourself, to go deep with that person. That can be a very scary thing.

As the spiritual son or daughter you need to be able to share your struggles, failures, questions, and frustrations. That requires a level of trust and safety with your spiritual parent. As spiritual sons and daughters we need to remember Proverbs 28:13 (NIV), He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy.

As a spiritual parent you not only need to be ready to hear about the sins, failures, and struggles of the person you are discipling—and that without judging them, but you need to be willing to share your own struggles and how you have dealt or continue to deal with your own struggles, failures, questions, and frustrations. Spiritual parents need to model Colossians 3:15-16 (NIV), Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.

Fear of inadequacyA third fear that keeps us from spiritual parenting is a fear of inadequacy. For the spiritual parent this expresses itself in a feeling of unworthiness to have such a responsibility. We say things like, “Why would anyone want to learn from me? What could anyone learn from me? I am such a sinner. I don’t know what to say. I don’t know Scripture that well.” As spiritual parents we need to remember that God is not depending on us to do His work for Him, but wants to include us in His work in the life of our disciple. When God called Moses to be a spiritual father to His people, he gave many of the same excuses to God. God replied by saying Exodus 4:11-12 (NIV) Who gave man his mouth? Who makes him deaf or mute? Who gives him sight or makes him blind? Is it not I, the LORD? Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.

We can have the same fear as spiritual sons and daughters. We can think, “Who would want to teach me? Who would want to help me with my problems? They are too big. They are too personal. What would they think of me? I would just be judged.” We need to remember that as disciples what we are experiencing is not unique. We need to remember 1 Corinthians 10:13 (NIV) No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it. That way out is often in sharing that temptation or problem with your spiritual parent. Chances are they have struggled with the same things.

These fears actually reveal where we need to be growing. The fear of committing our time serves as a test of our commitment to God and of our loving obedience to Him. The fear of intimacy serves as a test of our trust in God to give us grace and mercy to help people deal with the ugliness of sin. The fear of inadequacy is a test of our humility, and of our dependence on God instead of on ourselves.


  1. These are all very good points. I wish more churches helped people understand the importance of discipleship. I don’t think too many pastors know how to do this themselves and therefore can’t teach others how to. So help us out here Dan, perhaps in another post, how does one disciple another? Love these post!

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