The Hidden Heroes of Discipleship

Today’s post from Stephen Boutry is part of the blog series Discipleship: Re-Imagining Our Calling From Christ. To receive future posts from the series in your inbox head HERE. Engage with the writers and community of readers using the hashtag #DiscipleshipBlog.

paper clips

Recently our SojournBoston staff team traveled across the river into Cambridge to visit MIT’s Museum.

The first exhibit encountered upon entering features MIT’s work with Artificial Intelligence (AI). You see robotic arms learning tasks, watch teams of robot dogs playing soccer against each other, and read this statement:

“AI will help accomplish tasks undesirable or unsafe for humans: cleaning up nuclear waste, rescuing those trapped from a natural disaster, and cleaning homes.”


The back of the museum houses another exhibit titled: “Hidden Heroes, The Genius of Everyday Things.” Hidden Heroes tells the story of rubber bands, paper clips, post-its, velcro, scotch tape, and coffee filters along with 30 other items that we probably take for granted.

The two exhibits stand in stark juxtaposition; robotic arms win more cool points than paper clips. Interestingly, the “Hidden Heroes” items were almost all born out of practicality. For example, the coffee filter was invented by a stay-at-home mom who was tired of cleaning up coffee grounds.

My favorite: the post-it note was invented by a disgruntled worship leader who was tired of his bookmarks falling out!

Alternatively, the AI exhibit smacked of hubris. We already have “natural” intelligence, we create the artificial version because we can, not necessarily because we need it.

I believe our calling as followers of Jesus is straightforward: Go.Make.Disciples.

Sometimes we create systems and programs and curriculum that look and sound great, but are more about making us look and sound great and less about helping people live like Jesus.

We want to impress everyone with our intelligent designs and robotic dogs when a paper clip is all that is needed.

Discipleship happens through conversations and observation. It’s our job to create the conditions where this can happen.

After spending time at the museum our team was challenged to come up with 36 “hidden heroes” of discipleship: simple activities, moments, and actions that create contexts for conversation and observation.

Here are a few examples: make a meal, have a cup of coffee, go surfing, serve kids, teach each other something new, run, embark on a road trip, pray, offer words of encouragement, fail at something, tell stories, sit around a campfire, spend an afternoon with a mom, build something, read a book.

What would you add?

Simple acts can create profound and meaningful contexts for discipleship. Instead of trying to out innovate each other, maybe we simply need to commit to spending more quality time with people, creating space for conversation and observation.

We need less robotic dogs and more paper clips.

Stephen Boutry is the Director of SojournBoston a collegiate community that helps students discover and recover the good news of Jesus. Stephen is a chaplain at Boston University and a regular teacher at REUNION Christian Church which meets in the historic Back Bay neighborhood of Boston, MA. Connect with Stephen on Twitter or at his blog (