Authority and 'Discipling' Models

In the DISCIPLESHIP MAGAZINE, Vol. 1, No. 3 the editorial has some interesting charts on authority. I have been using such charts for years in my personal evangelism and marriage counseling to show proper Biblical relationships. Whether this indicates that "Great minds run in the same channel," or "Little minds run in the same rut," or anything at all, I do not know.

However, the editor makes what I consider at least two or more serious mistakes which illustrate and highlight the same kind of mistakes that have been made in the "Crossroads Movement" from the beginning, but have now been refined and polished and are now being set forth in a far more dangerous form than they were.

On page 5, there is what is called the "Linear Model" which represents the older disciple having authority over the younger disciple. But the scripture references which are presumably given to prove the point (Eph. 4:11-12, 1 Cor. 11:1, Hebrews 13:17) have nothing whatever to do with the idea that an older person is in authority over the younger person simply by virtue of the fact that he is older. The statement is made that "The emphasis of this diagram involves the equipping (discipling) of the younger Christian by the older, the imitation of the older by the younger, and the submission of the younger to the older." There are several false assumptions in the statement and philosophy behind it.

First, the assumption that it is the older Christian who automatically has the authority to "equip" the younger Christian. Many times a younger Christian is better qualified to "equip" the older than vice versa. And who operates on that basis more than those in the "Crossroads Movement"? Second, the assumption that the "equipping" is in the Bible synonymous with "discipling." In the Bible a person is made a disciple when he is taught that Christ is Lord, accepts that fact, and demonstrates it by being baptized into Christ for the remission of his sins. He is NOT made a Christian, then made a disciple by "equipping" him. Third, when Paul said, "Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ" (1 Cor. 11:1) it has nothing whatever to do with the young following the example of the older or even the reverse. It simply sets forth the principle that ANYONE is to follow the example of ANYONE who is following the example of Christ. But in neither case does it relate to any exercise of AUTHORITY! Fourth, the quotation from Hebrews 13:7 (even from the NIV) has no relationship at all to the idea that an older disciple is given the authority by the Lord to be a "leader" of a younger disciple, and is therefore to be obeyed!

The editor says, "The linear model has met some formidable resistance. This is due primarily to a misunderstanding of the biblical teaching on authority -- ." Certainly the Bible teaches that young persons should respect and have reverence for older persons who deserve respect, but that it therefore follows that the older disciple is therefore IN AUTHORITY OVER the younger is, to say the least, a remarkable exegesis!

We neither have time nor inclination to do a complete review or refutation of the false philosophy that undergirds and permeates this insidious system, but it is climaxed on page 8 with the diagram showing the linear relationship of Christ to the "disciplers" and the "disciples." Again, none of the scriptures listed (Mt. 28:18-20, 2 Tim. 2:2, Heb. 13:7,17, 1 Thess. 5:12-15, Gal. 6:1-2) have any connection at all -- remote or otherwise -- to the strange and unscriptural idea that God has two distinct groups in the church called "the disciplers" and "the disciples." It is true that God ordained elders (leaders, pastors, shepherds, etc.) with certain clear-cut qualifications who have the right and responsibility to discipline. But that it has any remote connection with the Boston and Crossroads idea of some self-appointed "leader" (or one chosen by Kip McKean or Marty Wooten) disciplining a disciple is about as far- fetched as one can imagine.

T. Pierce Brown

Published in The Old Paths Archive