This past spring, I took a college art class called Sculptural Processes. The purpose of this class was to teach students the basic processes of manipulating and transforming traditional materials, such as wood and steel, into contemporary art or furniture. It was in this class that I learned how to use powerful tools, such as blowtorches, plasma torches, MIG welders, and the drill press. These machines could turn a cold piece of steel plate into sparks and liquid in mere seconds and for that they gained my respect.
There were times though when I didn't need 3000 degrees to give me the results I needed. If the metal was too thin, then the heat would destroy it. Sometimes I needed hand tools such as a hammer or pliers over an anvil to slowly work that piece into a design. If the raw steel was thicker, I might use low heat from a blowtorch to heat the metal and then work it with my hands to create my artwork. It amazed me that these tools: hammers, pliers, anvils, clamps, were all made from steel like the steel I had found but through a process of being forged and tempered they became strong and dense enough to serve a purpose without losing their form.
This creates a beautiful analogy for the role of discipleship in our growth. Solomon referred to this in Proverbs when he famously wrote 'As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.' Powerful experiences such as love, strife, reward, and loss are like the fire. Sometimes the heat from those experiences shapes us in a way that is positive to our growth, but when applied too hot or too quickly, that heat can cut or destroy our spirit. Discipleship is like the use of hand tools: its purpose is to guide and to shape others by the use of interaction with another. In my experience, as one who is beginning to disciple, I too had to be a disciple of an experienced believer just as the tools that are used to create were themselves created by stronger tools. Through that intimate interaction, believers and unbelievers can be shaped or made strong through each other. For Christ told that discipleship is our primary mission and purpose when he challenged the apostles at the end of the Gospel of Matthew, Go make disciples of all nations.
As the student ministry intern, I challenge students to seek discipleship. As a member of the congregation, I challenge those adults in the church who are looking to give back to stand up and be God's tool in the lives of the students...to help shape and mold them into the tool God needs them to be to serve His ultimate purpose for their lives. For as iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.