The Apprentice

Photo by Miguel Á. Padriñán from Pexels

In a new series of blogs for Network Suffolk, Simon and Ceri Harris share their reflections on how, as Church Leaders, they have sought to encourage discipleship in real, tangible ways. They start the series considering ‘apprenticeship’, especially in the case of prayer.

Like so many church leaders, we went through theological training and spent years active in Church life without ever having the issues of discipleship really addressed. Often reduced to a course, discipleship can seem a very long way away from the model that Jesus gave us – life on life, extended family and imitation. Similarly mission has easily become reduced to trying which way or another to get people ‘into church’. Again, is that what Jesus actually asked us to do?

This series is a few of our tentative thoughts as we have tried to rediscover what it means to follow Jesus.

How are we making disciples?

Typically in churches, Sunday by Sunday, we bombard Christians with information telling them what they must do. It’s not enough! If it produces any change it is very slow. It’s like teaching someone to drive a car by only giving them the theory and then expecting them to go off and drive by themselves. Most don’t have the confidence to even try, and those that do ‘crash’ pretty quickly.

Discipleship for Jesus was so much more than the transfer of information. At a much deeper level it was the transfer of a way of life. This cannot be learnt in a classroom. It is the product of example and imitation. It’s apprenticeship.

When we are learning (being discipled) in anything new, we need to be apprenticed. Jesus modelled this as a way for life. It’s the same for us.


When we wanted our Church to grow in prayer we made the mistake of focusing only on
information. We preached for a whole year on prayer. It was good stuff, really good – important and necessary, but alone, it was not enough to really help people grow in prayer. We needed more. We all do.


In order to learn something new we need more than theory. Every apprentice knows this. There needs to be imitation. We need the ability to watch, to experience, to learn by being alongside others so that we can begin to imitate – to copy those who have themselves learnt what we are seeking to learn.

That’s the model of discipleship that Jesus gave – to learn by being alongside someone else
(“Come follow me”). It’s no different for us. It is apprenticeship. That’s why Jesus discipled 12. Only 12 could get close enough!

If you are going to grow in prayer, for example, you need good Biblical information BUT you also need to be alongside (close/personal) with someone who is a better pray-er than you. Praying regularly with someone whose prayer-life is richer than yours will, I am sure, increase your prayer life significantly more than reading another book on prayer or listening to another sermon on podcast.

Like learning to drive, becoming a plumber, a surgeon or a great pray-er, theory will never be enough. Get close and practical with someone who is already doing it and you will begin to grow.

It’s the way of Jesus.

Who do you allow close enough to your life so they can really learn something from you?
Who are you learning from at the moment?

Simon & Ceri Harris are part of the leadership at Burlington in Ipswich ( Ceri also leads Accessible Prophecy in England & Wales ( and runs her own coaching business helping individuals, charities and companies with transition, core DNA, life and executive coaching Together Ceri & Simon are involved in supporting churches embracing with challenge of missional discipleship with Catalyse Change (