What is the relationship between making disciples and carpentry? To those who are unfamiliar with the Gospels, there is no apparent relationship. To those who are familiar, the obvious answer is that Jesus was both a disciple maker and carpenter. Exactly what he built is never mentioned in the Bible, but that information begs the answer to the above question.
In our book, The Discipleship Difference, Bob Logan and I make the metaphorical case that the ministry of Jesus as a disciple maker shared four characteristics in common with his trade as a carpenter.
First, carpenters have vision.
In the present, they can see the fruits of their labor yielded in the future. With raw materials in hand, they can envision beyond seemingly worthless and unappealing stuff. A dead log can become an ornate table. Once useless scraps of wood and metal can become a decorative doorpost. Scattered stones can become aa adorning monument. Similarly, Jesus could see his disciples increasing formed into spiritual maturity and an image himself.
Second, carpenters are skillful.
They apply their skills to a process of transformation. They chip away here, and mend together pieces there. They apply pressure at this angle but allow cemented pieces to set undisturbed. Similarly, Jesus skillfully used a transformative process in disciple making—knowing when to rebuke and when to encourage, when to sit his disciples at his feet and teach them Godly truths, and when to release them into the harvest for ministry.
Third, carpenters use a variety of tools.
Each tool is indispensable because it serves a special purpose. To name a few, carpenters use hammers, saws, screwdrivers, chisels, pliers, levelers, and measuring devices. Among the tools for disciple making, we suggest social modeling, questioning, scaffolding, reframing, shaping, confrontation, and direct instruction. All of these tools are biblical, have a social science basis for change, and were evident in the ministry of Jesus.
Fourth, carpenters treat each project as unique.
Even when final products look similar in appearance, they actually mask differences under the surface. Jesus knows that we are not only fearfully and wonderfully made. Each of us is unique and different. The Bible gives us accounts, for example, of Jesus individualizing his discipleship of impetuous Peter and doubting Thomas. Andrea Crouch, the inspiring gospel musician, put it this way, “He looked beyond my faults and saw my needs.” While using a common process of transformation, Jesus adapted his methodology to individual differences.
Taking a page from our book, Bob and I wrote:
Vision, skillset, toolkit, and valuing difference—collectively, these are the carpenter’s trademarks. Here we take our cues from Jesus, the Rabbi and master carpenter of spiritual formation. As disciplemakers, we begin with unfinished and sometimes raw human material. We do not choose what people are like when we begin the process of discipling them. We begin where they are in their spiritual journey. But like good carpenters, we also begin with a good understanding of what they are to become. We then approach disciplemaking as a process, skillfully using our discipling tools, and shaping each disciple based on their individual differences.
I would like to add a fifth common characteristic: patience and perseverance.
Like carpentry, disciple making is a process, and a process unfolds over time. The unfolding typically is wrought with challenges, struggles, tensions, and ups and downs. No disciple is formed without growing pains. Jesus was an exemplar of patience and perseverance with his motley crew of twelve in the first century, and he is equally so with us today.
In conclusion, Jesus’ trademarks as a carpenter reveal important characteristics about his blueprint for making disciples.
As a disciple maker, how well do you employ this blueprint?