Like many other Americans, my Wednesday evenings are scheduled around the latest pair of “Duck Dynasty” episodes. I recently told someone that I think “Duck Dynasty” has become “The Andy Griffith Show” of the current generation. Of course, the person to whom I was speaking found more comedy than substance to my comment, which caused me to reevaluate said statement. As I did so, I realized that while “Duck Dynasty” may or may not garner the same praises as “The Andy Griffith Show,” those of us in Christian ministry can most definitely gain some valuable insights about discipleship from the program.
One of the staples of “Duck Dynasty” is that each episode ends with the Robertson family around a table sharing a meal together. In addition, it is a common theme to see older members of the family passing down values and skills to the younger family members. Do we get this? A show with literally millions of viewers is teaching us something here. People are choosing to watch this, and after seeing one episode, they CHOOSE to watch again! Why? One of the reasons is the primacy of family values found in the program. Those of us within the Christian community cannot afford to miss this! People are craving family values! People crave family!
One does not have to look far to understand our society has had a breakdown of the traditional family. When it comes to discipleship, we must realize the longing that people possess for family, family values, and the unconditional love that exists within healthy families. In order for us to be effective in the discipleship process, we must allow the Gospel to transform us to the point that our discipleship communities become more than merely classes or programs. They must become families that are centered around the power and the love found within the Gospel! As people experience the connection that occurs as the Gospel binds them together in a familial relationship, discipleship occurs as relationships are vibrant and real, rather than forced and phony.
In a recent episode of “Duck Dynasty,” Willie was attempting to teach his daughter to drive. If you have not yet seen that episode, let me just assure you: things were not going well. In an effort to motivate his daughter to understand the whole driving thing, Willie offered her a cash reward if she could successfully navigate an obstacle course he designed using duck decoys. You will have to watch the episode to see what happened. Think about that for a minute. Thirty years from now, his daughter will look back and tell her children or grandchildren that she learned to drive with duck decoys! That is a driving lesson she will in all probability never forget.
As I watched that episode, I was reminded of when my dad and grandfather taught me to drive. I thought about the ease with which I drove my grandfather’s automatic transmission truck. Then I thought about the countless number of times I was unable to successfully take off in my father’s manual transmission truck. Another chord was struck almost immediately as I recalled these memories: for discipleship to truly take root in the lives of those we are discipling, we must focus in on rites of passage. Learning to drive is a rite of passage that almost everyone goes through. We go through it over and over and over again until we get it! Why should our faith be any different?
What are some rites of passage that we should be leading others through? I think sometimes we in the Christian community forget that we live in a post-Christian culture. We forget that the terms and traditions we are more than familiar with often mean nothing to those we are guiding in their faith journey. Do we celebrate anything other than their baptism? Obviously, that is a major rite of passage, but are there more? I think so. What about guiding new believers to begin memorizing Scripture so that when they are tempted, they are prepared to counter the attacks with their only offensive weapon? What about leading new believers to understand the concept of tithing? Too often our discipleship is more, “do-what-I-say-because-it’s-what-you –are-supposed-to-do,” and we leave those we are discipling screaming, “Why?” When we engage in rite of passage training and celebrations, we answer that question and follow the commands of Scripture to “commit to faithful men who will be able to train others also.”
I am constantly amazed at how the guys on “Duck Dynasty” decide to spend their time. Of course, they are supposed to be working, but in each episode, there seems to be that one moment where I am blown away with their creativity. They attribute it to their being “Rednecks,” and there may be truth to that assertion. What they show me though, is that the “normal” way is not always the only (or even the best) way to accomplish a task.
The same is true for us in our methods and practice of discipleship. Obviously the centrality of the Gospel remains, but apart from that, what are you doing that is creative in your methodology or practice of disciple-making? Please do not misunderstand. I am not advocating change merely for the sake of change. What I am encouraging is that we evaluate our methods and practices to see if there is a better way. For example, the church I currently serve has a mission to “Discover, Develop, and Deploy” those in our community. That mission dictates how we structure the elements of our student ministry so that we can be most effective in our efforts to disciple the students in our ministry. This mission has caused me to structure our ministry differently than any other church I have served. I have been (and still am) stretched in my thinking and programming, but we have seen our adults begin to buy in and our students plug in and grow in their understanding of the Gospel and its power in their lives!
Perhaps one of the min reasons that people keep coming back to “Duck Dynasty” is that it is simply funny! Whether is Si’s silly stories or Willie getting upset at the apparent lack of productivity from the duck call room or Jase’s one-liners, it is a funny show! Make no mistake though: the guys of Duck Commander are not comics. They know very well in what they believe. They believe in duck calls. That is what they do. My point is that they do not allow the fun they have to prevent them from doing what they do. To borrow a somewhat comical and sarcastic statement, they are “putting the fun back in fundamental.”
What I mean is this: building duck calls is fundamental to their business. They just do so while having a good time. I hope we get this! Fundamental to the imperative command given by Jesus in the Great Commission is that we make disciples. While not everything in life is fun or comical, I hope we get that we can make the discipleship process fun when appropriate. Life can be hard, but life can also be fun. If we are truly going to disciple others, we must also put the fun back in the fundamental! Too often we look at other believers like we have been “sucking on sour lemons,” and wonder why are relationships and (consequently) discipleship is hindered. Life can be difficult, but the Gospel empowers believers to not only make it through those difficult times, but to THRIVE in the midst of them because of the resurrection power the Gospel affords! That is a powerful thing to know. It is also a FUN thing to know!
So, what do ducks and decoys teach us about discipleship?
A) Family and family values are important. People long for genuine relationships and we must engage in such to effectively disciple others.
B) Rite of passage discipleship strengthens the discipleship process as the rites cement the growth process in believers.
C) “Normal” is not always the best or only way. Creativity in the discipleship process enhances and multiplies the effectiveness of the growth of those we disciple.
D) Putting the “fun back in the fundamental” of discipleship allows us to engage those we disciple more fully and train them about the power of the Gospel to overcome the difficult times of life.