Shallow Discipleship Can Be Good

Written by Carl Greene

February 21, 2024

I have a goal for 2024 – to grow through shallow discipleship. I am not against depth necessarily—but I think it has received too much hype. In fact, I think depth can at times be the measure of selfish discipleship.

Most illustrations about spiritual growth present the idea of sending down incredibly deep roots to be able to grow strong and tall, like a tree. I like these illustrations, but they were uprooted during my recent visit to the coast of California. (Yes, I really did choose the word uprooted).

The California Redwoods are simply impressive trees. They can grow taller than the Statue of Liberty. Their rate of growth is often between 3 to 10 feet per year, especially in the first 100 years of life. And, speaking of life span, they are able to survive for hundreds of years, handling coastal storms and high winds despite their immense size.[1]

But Their Roots are Not Deep

Most of the Redwood’s roots go less than 3 feet deep. Their roots are incredibly shallow. At the same time, the roots can reach out laterally over 50 feet in all directions. The massive amount of shallow roots capture the ample surface water that is available while also creating a root mat that provides stability in storms.[2]

But Their Roots are Not Alone

The Redwoods usually network with other nearby Redwoods. Their roots interlock and provide added stability for one another.[3] The Redwood is not simply growing and surviving alone by doing its own thing. The Redwood is thriving because it is in community with shallow roots. I think you can see where this is going with the church.

Our Roots are Not Alone

When I think about Psalm 1:3, I usually picture the tree planted by the stream as all alone, with incredibly deep roots. That is not a bad illustration—unless I focus all of my thoughts about discipleship on the individual. Focusing everything on my personal growth sounds rather selfish. We are designed for community. This is not a solo story.

I hope you will consider joining me in my 2024 challenge. Rather than focusing only on how I can grow really deep roots and be self-sufficient in spiritual growth, I am looking to grow lateral roots. I long for my roots to not just coexist with other disciples around me, but to truly be interlocked and connected. May our churches provide the setting for us to grow as disciples. With appropriate depth. And with community.

Together.[4]

 

[1] https://arboretum.ucdavis.edu/sites/g/files/dgvnsk1546/files/inline-files/redwood_exhibits_0.pdf

[2] https://arboretum.ucdavis.edu/sites/g/files/dgvnsk1546/files/inline-files/redwood_exhibits_0.pdf

[3] https://arboretum.ucdavis.edu/sites/g/files/dgvnsk1546/files/inline-files/redwood_exhibits_0.pdf

[4] For more on this illustration, check out leadership articles such as: What Kind of Root System Do You Have?

 

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