First of all, thanks to all who have contributed so far to this thread of posts!
As a result, I want to focus briefly on a couple of issues.
First: An associate pastor friend of mine and I were talking about discipleship and we both were in agreement when it came to the necessary component of what gets modeled from behind the pulpits of the church. Rich noted in the comments to the last post that more often than not senior pastors see discipleship as something that they can relegate to an associate over C.E. and that a few people will choose to engage in. Frankly, if the senior pastor is not growing in discipleship, that lack will show in their ministry, and the church will follow suit. If maturity in Christ likeness is not a value to the ministry of a church, the church will not value it either.
Dallas Willard has noted that discipleship is not for the specially gifted or for those who desire to be discipled; it is the most basic and fundamental activity expected of every Christ follower. Where do we get this notion that discipleship is for the egg-heads and intellectuals among us? Wherever we got it, it has done a great deal of disservice to the Church.
This kind of modeling behavior does not only take place from behind the pulpit but in deliberate relationships as well. We learn what it means to live a Christ like life not just from learning the life of Christ, but from watching the lives of those who are further down the path than we are.
Second: I don’t know how long we can continue to pretend to “do church” when Scripture is not the center piece of our services. Due to a lot of forces out there, not the least of which is the church-growth/seeker-sensitive set of models, the role of Scripture has diminished in our churches. The more preachers I hear, the more I fit their sermons into one of two categories: Personal Soapbox and Glorified Self-Help. In both cases Scripture is given a nod as the minister grabs some small portion of Scripture to support the sermon on either the evils of [pick your demon] or the practical blessings of adding Jesus to your busy life. “With Jesus, it will all be better!”
Leave the self-help to the self-help gurus. Give people Jesus Christ and watch Him put their lives in order.
The result of this kind of preaching is a biblically illiterate culture of church-goers who are clearly not any kind of serious impact on our culture. Augustine changed his world by feeding his flocks true doctrine and, for example, going into great theological depth concerning issues like lying. John Wesley told a young preacher he was lively but shallow and that the only way to deepen himself as a preacher and a Christian was to read the classics (by which he meant Plato, Homer, Hume, Pascal, etc.) And I think we would agree that Wesley clearly made an impact.