My previous discussion was the primer to make this point; discipleship, or mentorship, in the local church is lacking because our approach is inconsistent with Scripture. Through the years, I’ve seen how the local church has defined discipleship as an event on Wednesday or Sunday night, which takes place in a classroom with 10 other people. Some would argue that Jesus had 12 guys following him and there should be no reason for me to question the idea of 10-12 people meeting in a classroom for discipleship. I partially disagree with that notion. Now, I don’t have a problem with meeting in a classroom for teaching and discussion. Academia is important when we are trying to train people for a project or task. That is a Greco-method of teaching a subject, which the Greek philosophers used well, yet even then it wasn’t as restrictive as most of today’s church classroom settings. This method worked great during the Industrial Era; however, the Postmodern Era is a completely different animal and the norms are much different. Postmodernists and the emerging church want to take us back to the basics of faith and community. I can see why when we look around at the poor way Christians conduct themselves. It’s about engaging the orthopraxy, which is right living or correct action. This is learned through example.
In this case I’m speaking of the truest form of discipleship. I’m addressing the idea of walking a relational and intimate journey with someone else. I’m talking about the place where “iron sharpens iron.” Discipleship is not about academia…it’s about shaping the heart. For example, Jesus poured himself into three guys on a very personal and vulnerable level. He taught the other nine as they journeyed with him. He enlightened his community through the demonstration of his character and the revelation of his inner most heart. And “yes!” Jesus did use the Scripture to challenge and refute the Pharisees, Sadducees and Satan. He also made Scripture come alive for his disciples and the masses that journeyed with him. Simply put, discipleship, as Jesus did it, is the simplest and most effective method for authentic church growth. It’s slow, but offers long term results of continued transformation.
Through example, Jesus used the Scripture as the basis for arguing the truth with the religious leaders who claimed to know what God was saying. I believe God desires for the Scripture to be the fuel that His Spirit uses for transforming us from the inside out. Scripture is the tool a mentor uses for challenging a young Christ-follower to discover the heart and character of God. When we make it a hard-line requirement for our young disciples to “master the Scriptures” instead of being mastered by the Spirit, we develop dogs that return to their vomit of prideful knowledge (Pr 26:11). Instead we should be guiding young believers toward becoming a community of transforming and maturing Christ-followers. In Psalm 119:10 the writer asks God, “How can a young person stay pure?” The answer is, “By obeying your word.” It’s about living and making the Scripture come to life like Jesus did.
We must equip men and women to speak to their culture and generation in the language that is relevant and true, yet not compromising. This is done through the actions of our lives. We have placed more emphasis on being able to quote Scripture than on the Spirit that guided men to tell the story of God. We have used the Scripture as some magic chant thinking it will cause God to do as we have asked in prayer. Yet, it is God who can speak to us through His Word and by His Spirit for his purposes. God uses ordinary people to help him launch transformation. Unfortunately, the local church has not always been so willing to change its approach for equipping disciples. This is not to say there aren’t local churches engaged in authentic discipleship, but it is costly. Some how one-on-one discipleship is too costly. It IS costly and we must consider why it was so important to Jesus.
Rick McKinley says, “The problem with the church in the West is that we have untransformed disciples.” If we are honest with ourselves, as spiritual leaders, we must confess that we do have untransformed disciples in our church gatherings. We have many “pray and receive” disciples whose spiritual substance ends there. They still drink milk, if they drink anything spiritual at all. This does not bode well for the Church if we are to fulfill Matthew 28:18-20. We are called to “go and make disciples of all nations…”
Discipleship, I believe, must be the mission of any local church body. It’s not about creating great and glamorous events. It’s not about a new and more improved building. Nor is it about the number of members in a congregation. It’s not about “making Jesus famous.” He doesn’t need our help with that idea. It is simply about walking the journey of faith with others, taking them under our proverbial “wing” and guiding them through the journey of life. We must be willing to allow them to fall flat on their face, and help them get up. Too often we approach the idea of church with a “failure is not an option” mentality when in fact we fail constantly. We offer too many answer when we should be guiding the disciples to discover the answers on their own.
As I’ve said before, we live and work in a messy humanity that is not perfect. That same messiness is in the local church. It’s not necessarily something the church should fear, but rather something the church should understand and engage. Through discipleship we can make an impact on a messy humanity. It’s important to know this as well; while the Church (Bride) is stained and tattered she is still God’s Church…stains and all.
My challenge to all of us is to reexamine the reason we call ourselves ministers of God and Christ-followers. Is it to generate a large following and stuff them into a big building? Or is it to ignite an authentic faith that spreads simply and quietly through the homes and communities of God’s disciples?
– be mastered by the Spirit, transformed for the cause of Christ, and allow the Truth of the Scripture to be melded into our every thought and spoken word.
– put action to our words through hands-on discipleship that leads to transformation of the heart.
– live our faith outside the box of our comfort.
– be the hands, feet and voice of the living God.
– live a life where we are continually transformed and renewed.
The journey continues…