Discipleship Schools: Foe or Friend?

Recently, I was discussing the issue of discipleship schools with a good friend. She brought up a very valid point: discipleship schools are NOT needed in churches today.

Why?

If a young person wants to enter into the world of ministry, currently the best option would be a Christian college or university or a secular university where they major in theology or religious studies. A minor in psychology would help, as well. I strongly encourage anyone who’s entering ministry to take a few classes on Christianity from a secular university, so as to learn the historic traditions of the religion. You will not regret this.

Another option, brought up by my friend, for a young person pursuing ministry is a paid internship. Many churches offer these, and they allow  young people to work for a particular pastor or ministry group, while getting paid experience.

If someone wants to volunteer at a church, there’s always that option. I’ve never heard of a church who turns away volunteers.

The difference between a discipleship school and volunteerism is this: when you volunteer for a church or organization, you aren’t held to anything. You are working for free and free to come and go as you please. You’re not demanded to do certain things–you simply are there to help and can leave when you wish.

Not so with a discipleship school.

If you enroll in a discipleship school, you may hear the term, serving unto the Lord or you may be told that you’re just volunteering to help the church.

What’s wrong with this terminology?

For starters, anytime someone labels what you’re doing “unto the Lord,” there’s a real good possiblity that something unhealthy is going to go on. For example, if you’re cleaning the gym of a church “unto the Lord” it’s going to be extremely easy for the person who’s asking  you to work for them to take advantage of your situation and your attitude. Clearly, Christians have been taught to give to God selflessly, and it’s been our idea that the pastor and church are reflections of God, so giving to them is just like giving to God.

Right?

Wrong.

When you volunteer, just be aware of the following:

  1. You set the time that you work and you get to dictate how long you work.
  2. You should make sure that your boundaries are clear. If someone you’re working for is disregarding those boundaries, you have the right to stop working with them or tell them to stop what they are doing that makes you feel uncomfortable.
  3. You’re not being paid, therefore you are giving something to someone who needs it. That person (whether it’s a pastor, or minister) should be grateful for your help and should not take advantage of you. If so, they’re probably not someone you should volunteer for again.

These days, discipleship schools require young people to give up their freedom to date, restrict any personal contact with the opposite sex, financially contribute to the school, report to a pastor about every move they make, and selflessly serve that pastor for years of their life–neglecting their dreams, financial stability and potential to start a family.

Does this sound like something a HEALTHY CHURCH would want or need?

No.

Readers: Help me define some other reasons why discipleship schools are unnecessary in today’s day and age.

16 thoughts on “Discipleship Schools: Foe or Friend?”

  1. I love this post. I wanted to add that many denominations have their own process for training ministers. And yes, most require you to at least have a degree. Many require a Master’s in Divinity, religion, or theology. Both of my brothers went to school and and are ministers now. Granted they are not doing what they received their degree in, the overall education they have now has helped them. They were both very involved with Chi Alpha, a campus ministry associated with the Assemblies of God. To this day they work as ministers with Chi Alpha. My older brother has gone on to start a Chi Alpha at the University of Houston, and my younger brother is interning (paid) at the Sam Houston State Chi Alpha. I said all of this to get to this point. They both raise a budget for their ministry like a missionary would, and are both very well taken care of. Neither of them went to a discipleship training school, they simply went to college and got involved with a reputable student ministry that discipled the students in a real life environment, through real life situations. This was not the case in the program I attended, which chose to shelter and cut off from real life situations because they were to scary or sinful. Instead my brothers and many of their friends I have come to know over the years encountered very real life tests and came out very strong individuals. Point is, discipleship does not come from a school, it comes from life and learning to deal with its challenges through common sense, looking at scripture and learning from family and close trusted friends, who wont tell you what to do but walk through it with you. Thanks Lisa, good post,I have often contemplated the usefulness of discipleship schools in our society today and came up with a similar answer.

    1. James,
      Thanks for reading and thanks for the comments.

      When I first went to college after leaving Master’s Commission, I started attending a Chi Alpha group on campus. The ministers in charge of the group were really sweet people and really cared about each one of us. It’s good to know that your brothers were both encouraged to get degrees, instead of discouraged. What I find in many discipleship schools is that people are discouraged from attending college, and are far more often encouraged to go straight into the ministry–even if that’s not what they feel they should do with their lives. Like you mentioned, most ministers today need to have a degree to be able to be hired, so regardless of mininistry involvement, a degree is a vital asset to most young people.

      College has taught me a lot–to be open minded and think for myself, to accept others who are EXTREMELY different from me (culturally, ideologically, etc.), and how to have FUN (a sinful word to some Christians).

      It’s never too late to go to college–I started my degree in 2005 at the age of 25 and I’ll be 30 by the time I graduate with my Bachelor of Arts degree. It’s tough to attend school while you work full-time, but it can be done. Don’t give up. Work hard and do it!

  2. I have been reading your posts and have a few comments. You are saying some good things and things that should be looked into. My only question is, where is your scripture to back your points up? I am not for or against what u are doing, but it is clear that you were hurt and it seems like you are saying this out of a broken heart and pain in your life. The bible also says to take your issues directly to the person, and so on then if they still are unrepentive then the church should release them. It doesn’t say anywhere that you should publicly talk about them. In fact the bible says that we should protect the church of Christ and some of the people you are talking about are part of that church. Some of these programs may need to change some things I will give you that, but if you are out on your own intentions to hurt them, you are just as wrong as they are. We will all be held accountable for what we personally do or say; you, the mc directors, I, pastors, etc. I just ask that you examine yourself and make sure this is all for the right intentions. I have seen crazy mc programs myself, I have also seen programs that change students lives biblically. There are problems with every program in the world, just make sure you aren’t just stuck on a program because of hurt and pain you are dealing with. God bless!

    1. Lance,
      Only time and more investigations will prove if I’m right or not. I don’t need scripture to prove that my story is so similar to dozens and dozens of others (and the number is growing)–all the way from MC USA to MC 3D. It’ll take more than quoting scripture to save the abusers from God’s wrath.

      Additionally, please read my blog in it’s entirety before accusing me of NOT going directly to the person who I had issues with. That, my friend, is ALL I did for 5 years straight. Sadly, when a pastor doesn’t have any governing board over them, or any laws, they’re left to weigh out their decisions with their own conscious. This shouldn’t be a problem–but it’s often the case that when you’re dealing with power hungry, corrupt pastors, they won’t budge or admit their wrong even if you approach them kindly, with no offense or anger, with scriptures, with anything. Some people just can’t and won’t be confronted, and that is gross because when they continue to abuse people, they continue to get richer and more popular and no one can stop them…except a lawyer and some media reporters and maybe a girl who blogs her story to educate those in the path of destruction. May this blog PREVENT people from getting abused in the future, and may it EDUCATE others about the abuses that are going on within the church today and MAY CHRISTIANS open their eyes to it and use their voices to stop it.

      1. Hey you made some good points. Thanks for sharing a little more insight. I am not saying I am against what you are doing I just ask that you be careful for the good programs that a few of my students went through that gave education and proper discipline to their lives. They also were allowed to have their parents visit! And yes I have read your blogs and not just one. I completely agree with the covering of a Pastor, which Pastor do you talk about? I was talking to Katie about some of the abuse you report on. I was in the military and that is what happened to us as far as discipline. Do you view the military as a cult to? I agree that extreme discipline should be watched, and that it does need governing authority, but discipline is good. Anyways, I don’t want you to think I believe you should stop, but also make sure you do it for the right reasons. Believe me I do understand that we will all be judged for what we do. Have a great week,

        P.S. I do like your blog. I am helping a friend who has started a new MC program and this helps me give him good advice on how to run his program correctly.

        Lance

        1. Lance,
          Thanks for reading and commenting. Open dialogue is what I’ve been asking of the pastors I’ve been dealing with–both at MCIN and OSC in Louisiana. I think it’s the answer, but they don’t. In fact, my first letter encouraged and begged them to open up dialogue with me, and I continued to hope for years that they would.

          With regards to the military, do they restrict you from speaking to your family? Do they isolate you from your friends and family? Do they have an easy entrance into the group and a difficult exit? Look under resources and you’ll find some articles that can help you determine whether you think the military is a cult, or unhealthy group. I have some personal opinions about how the military is run, and those don’t have anything to do with this blog. I’d also like to say that the military doesn’t restrict you from drinking, having sex, traveling, visiting your family–that I know of. They also pay you a salary, housing allowance, health insurance, moving expenses, education expenses, and give you a training that can help you get a real job. My grandfather served in the Air Force and gets a pretty decent pension, veterans benefits, etc. I wouldn’t compare THAT to MC in any way, shape or form. Unfortunately, MC asks you to be an intern for years and years without any of that.

          While MC benefits, and the host church does, too, young kids get taken advantage of–most of them without ever realizing it. And their parents PAY for them to be the churches slaves. The church gets paid tuition AND gets free “servanthood.” What a deal!

  3. I think its awesome that truth is being revealed!! You are protecting generations to come.
    Lance- do you need a scripture that tells you to look both ways before crossing the street?? Are you serious man? Things that MC students are experiencing globally is emotional and spiritual ABUSE! and that is something you don’t just shove under the rug buddy. I understand that you don’t want ALL masters commission programs to have a bad name but come on. I think people should know what they could be potentially getting into.
    “protect the church” I’m sure thats what the popes in the catholic church used to keep the victims quiet also!

    1. Katie,
      I’m so happy to see that someone understands what I’m trying to do here. I’m telling my story and my experience with Master’s Commission, MCIN, and Our Savior’s Church in an effort to educate people so that these abuses don’t happen any longer. I couldn’t live with myself if I knew I’d stayed silent and let others in the future go through the same abuse I went through.

      The Vatican DOES actually use the same “protect the church” and “stay away from those who gossip” and other lingo like that. A quick google search for the Vatican will bring up months of articles about them trying to shut up victims. It’s simply dispicable.

    2. Katie,

      First off the Bible does give direction even in crossing the road, lol. That was kind of a joke. But seriously I am not saying that she needs scripture to back everything up but some of it would be nice to help more people agree with her. I was not trying to use it as a negative for her but to help. I am also not saying to shove it under the rug. Some of the things you are talking about is discipline. Now you can have extreme discipline and that needs to be addressed, but getting up early and working out, having set times for things, and not a lot of sleep? These are things the military does. Are they a cult too? I served in the military and it was the best thing I ever did. And I made the choice to do it. Just like these students are. So maybe some things are wrong, and maybe the right direction is for the future students to understand what they are signing up for, but all of that being cultish? Some of that is simply just discipline. Protecting the body (church) is scriptural. You using the catholic church is not and is a terrible example. Good try though.

  4. Actually I moved my blog and now the link Jana is referring to can be found here:

    http://www.mikeross.us/index.aspx?p=566

    There are many examples in scripture of false doctrine being addressed. We are actually encouraged many times to look out, beware, confront, etc. Jesus had no problem confronting, Paul had no problem confronting and naming names. He even encouraged Timothy to do the same. Christianity needs a few good men (or women) that are willing to stand up and resoundingly declare that the status quo is no longer acceptable!

    1. I’ll check it out thanks for the Link. I think one of the real questions should be is how do we fix the issue. I know you guys don’t agree with discipleship schools but I do. If it is done correctly with the right authority and education. The question is though how to make it correct. Have a good one!

      1. Lance,
        The question you’re posing has been one I’ve been struggling to answer since I left that group five years ago. After I left, I worked on making phone calls to the pastors I worked for, and since they wouldn’t answer or were too busy to talk, I drafted letters to them and to Lloyd Zeigler and the MCIN. I asked them to to take a look at some of the practical ways things can be changed–which mostly included specific areas of control I experienced and the lack of a proper wage for working full time.

        What I’m looking at now is that many of the things I confronted the MCIN with have been going on in Master’s Commission USA and in Relevant Church, so they won’t change them universally. I spoke with Lloyd and he believes that “internships” are okay, yet he has staff living there and working for 3-8 years or more and he calls them “interns.”

        This is not acceptable, but there’s nothing more I can do to change it after talking to him and letting him know it’s not ok. Right?

        1. Hey Lisa,

          I talked with my friend who is a new MC director and asked his opinion. I agree with what he said and will share it. A MC student should be an intern if they choose to at year 3, and only for one year. After that they should either be invited on as full time, paid/benefits staff, or encouraged to move on. MC is supposed to be designed to guide students in their early adult years, not adopt them. Lol. You are correct and it is not right that students are being non-paid interns for almost 8 years. At the same time, the interns are signing up for it over and over. At some point it seems like you need to try and reach them and not Lloyd. You are right, not sure what else you can do. Congrats on receiving the letter about MC3D. Maybe you should visit some MC programs and see if you can find some that are doing it right.

          1. Lance,
            That’s a great view on things. I just disagree with one thing: the interns should be told that’s not an option to intern past a 3rd year for free. The pastor or director, church leaders, etc. are the ones who should take a firm stance against it and not allow it as an option.

            Eric Hunsberger is the MCIN Director who is responsible for travelling around to ensure the MC programs are doing something right or wrong; however, there have been no monitoring tools for him to use up until my letter and nothing has been regulated. There are 5 key things MC stands for (discipleship, prayer, etc) and those are the only keys that are in place. MCIN has no regulatory items they look for to protect the students, interns, staff, volunteers, etc. They also don’t have any business men or lawyers on the Board, so they don’t always follow the laws because they don’t have anyone to tell them what to be in or out of compliance with legally as a 501C3.

            I wouldn’t mind visiting some of the MC programs to see that they are treating their students and staff right, but that can’t always be done in 1 visit for a weekend. I would love to hear from groups who are paying their staff, see pictures of their housing and hear their rules (implied and explicit). I would love to report those, too, but I can’t take time off work to fly around the country at this moment.

  5. I am a former Master’s Commission student and I think I have a different view than you do, maybe because of the time and the place that we attended. While it may be that the people you were under took advantage of you and were not exactly shining examples of Christian leaders, my experience was much different and the reasons for the rules set in place were explained not just by the leaders but by those who didn’t follow them lol.We had to bail a few out of jail! The reasons that the first year you are not allowed to date is simple; your first year is meant to be a year focused on seeking God and it is really easy to be surrounded by godly people that you are attracted to and have that year filled with emotional drama. My first year was amazing. I grew in my relationship with God so much that I was becoming the man I always wanted to be. I got to see God move through me in a way that humbled me and drove me. Was that because of the leaders? Not really, it was more because I had the opportunity to focus completely on prayer and intimacy. The opportunity to use my gifts across the U.S. definitely helped. In fact, the next year many people complained about how bad our first year was and I didn’t know what they were talking about! The difference? I was consumed with seeking Christ, and they were consumed on drama and complaining.

    The reasons that I went to Master’s Commission was not because I was influenced not to go to college, in fact, when I wanted to, I was supported! And I left having a hunger to be a scientist of all things! One that could see all the mysteries of God in creation that many could not see because of their lack of relationship with God. Furthermore, I was chaplain of a fraternity for two years in order to reach them, and I will tell you: I could not have managed without the foundation I grew in MC. I did fall flat on my face a few times, but I never walked away from my time with God because I had it established through the prayer life I grew in MC.

    Are discipleship schools necessary? Absolutely not, but they CAN help someone have the opportunity to grow in ways they never could have. I did. And about being taken advantage of, I think it is a matter of pride (no offense). A good pastor friend of mine once told me that you will learn whether you are truly a servant when you are treated like one. We are called to serve each other whether we like it or not. If asked for our jacket, to give our shirt too. Walk two miles instead of one, in humility not because we are forced to but because we love.

    If we are focused so much on complaining then we never realize the opportunities around us whether that is in MC or in the rest of life. The rules were put in place before we got there, we chose to submit to them.

    That’s all! 😀

    Josh

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