We have 'House' nights in our community. During one of those evenings, I was trying to think of a modern-day example of Jewish Rabbi-discipleship when it struck me that Dr. House himself is an excellent example.
I recently wrote about Jewish discipleship under a Rabbi and what discipleship looked like in Jesus’ day. (Click here to read article). It was intense, all-consuming, intentional and life-transforming. Few Christians today are willing to disciple others, (perhaps with the exception of their own children), in such a committed way.
Now, let me just stop for a moment and say that although the aim of this article is to discuss Dr. House’s leadership akin to a Rabbi-discipleship relationship, please don’t mistake my analysis of his leadership as setting an example of a great role-model. Dr. House has some serious flaws (drug addiction, a god-complex, arrogance, shocking ethical standards…) and I am not encouraging you to become a disciple of him! Rather, I want to highlight the ways that his Rabbi-style leadership is similar to the Jewish style of Rabbi-discipleship and examine the ways that it is effective in creating disciples.
- Dr. House has an extreme personal commitment to his cause. He will stick to a case at all costs, even after the death of a patient. His desire to ‘solve the case’, makes him relentless in his search for the answer.
Those Christians, who know the prize, are willing to pay the price. In order to lead others, we must have our eyes on the prize, and not waver. We have to learn perseverance!
Run in such a way as to get the prize. – 1 Corintians 9:24
Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us – Hebrews 12:1
- Dr. House expects 24 hour commitment to the cause from his disciples too. He has no regard for their ‘personal’ lives, their relationships or free time, if they are needed on the case.
That sounds reminiscent of Jesus’ challenge to his disciples:
“Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” Matthew 10:37
(Please note I am not saying we should neglect our families or rest for the sake of ministry. If you want a healthy ministry, you need a healthy family and rest. This verse is more about idolizing family and free time above obedience to God’s call, rather than neglecting personal responsibilities.)
- Dr. House knows his authority and does not need to prove it. He is secure in his identity as the best diagnostician in the area.
If we are going to be able to stand under persecution and trial, and lead others through it too, we need to understand our identities as children of God, and our authority to stand against the kingdom of darkness. As Bill Johnson reminds us, we can only sleep in a storm we have authority over.
- Dr. House understands that because of the controversial nature that he practices medicine, he needs a team that is completely committed to him. They must be prepared to do anything he asks of them, from menial tasks, to ones they don’t understand, and even dangerous ones. They have to trust him.
God often leads us down strange paths and we do not understand what He is doing. He often asks us to trust in Him, and do things we don’t want to do, in order to make us more Christ like.
Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight – Proverbs 3:5-6
- Dr. House encourages open dialogue, questioning and group discussion to come up with new diagnostic ideas. Everyone is expected and required to participate in the discussion, abate others’ ideas and come to a personal conviction of which treatment idea they agree with.
This is a very Jewish practice. Learning was rarely a solitary event, and disciples would study, debate and question the scriptures in small groups. Jesus encouraged dialogue with his disciples, often asking them questions or giving them riddles to solve. Jesus understood that to participate in a discussion meant active learning, and having to challenge personal convictions.
- Dr. House uses practical examples to teach his team. Often he leaves the explanation of why he is doing something seemingly deadly until after the procedure, in order to give his team the opportunity to work out things for themselves.
Jesus often waited until after a miracle to explain his reasons to his disciples. He often left parables unexplained to the masses, and only explained their meaning later in a smaller group. (e.g. Parable of the Sower)
- Dr. House confronts his team regularly with issues in their personal lives, causing them to question their motives and grow as a result. He leaves them space to make mistakes and make ‘wrong decisions’, understanding that they will get there in the end. He often asks them to do menial tasks just to challenge an area of their personality.
Jesus was not scared of allowing his disciples make mistakes and he challenged them on their errors. He gave Judas the money bag, even though he took from it. He reinstated Peter after his denial. He challenged the fighting amongst the disciples about who was the most important. He used difficult situations to confront his disciples and help them to grow from them.
- Dr. House has complete commitment to his team. He wants the best out of his doctors and he will challenge them, seek them out in their homes etc. in order to get them to overcome any hurdles they have in following the cause. Even though he often shows it in unconventional and often illogical ways, he deeply cares about his team, (even if it is just because he needs them to solve the case.)
Jesus was completely committed to his disciples, even to his death. He never gave up on them, even when they denied him, and never stopped lovingly and patiently teaching them. How we need spiritual parents and leaders today who are prepared to do the same thing.
Can you think of any other ways Dr. House is a great example of Rabbi-discipleship?