I was recently asked to take part in a Commission my denomination is putting together on Christian Education and Discipleship. I am very excited to be a part of this for several reasons, but primarily because discipleship is at the heart of my calling. God called me and constructed me to be a discipler and teacher, and now I have an opportunity to mix with others of the same mindset from across the country and hopefully combine some of my ideas with theirs. It promises to be a terrific learning and growing experience.
But what I want to do here, partly in preparation for our meetings, is to spend some time brainstorming on Christian Discipleship. I hope to create a small online think tank on the issue for at least a while as we share our ideas, experiences, and hopes for the growth and maturity of the Church. Feel free to share any thoughts on where you agree, disagree, or have something to add.
To get us started, here are some of my initial thoughts on the issue in general.
First: a focus on discipleship is sorely needed in the evangelical church. The statistics on what young people believe about the facts of Scripture and theology are deeply depressing, and the overall impact of the evangelical church in the culture at large is arguably minimal.
Second: nominal Christianity is rampant and dulling our senses to our need. Because most people in our culture (if the polls are to be believed) have a vague sense that they believe in God, their understanding of their need to know Christ intimately is nearly nil. The problem is not much less in our churches.
Third: discipleship is not for the spiritually gifted. It is a fundamental expectation of each and every Christ-follower. The early church was careful to pass along correct doctrine, catechize its new and young members, and expected all to be a follower of Christ in word and deed.
Fourth: discipleship is not just a destination, but also a journey. We cannot accomplish discipleship in a 6-week course. We also cannot look at discipleship as something that “happened” at some point in our life. Both the destination and the journey are crucial. We cannot remove the targets of relationship with Christ and knowledge of God, and we need to whet appetites for the lifelong journey that is following Christ.
Fifth: discipleship requires biblical literacy. I, along with some others I have read recently, am convinced that a great deal of the nominalism, and hence ineffectiveness, in the Church today can be traced back in large part to biblical illiteracy. We simply cannot actually answer the question: What would Jesus do?
Sixth: discipleship will be greatly aided with the resurgence of the spiritual disciplines in the evangelical world. The disciplines are not about rote activity or vain repetition—they are about putting our hearts, minds, and bodies in a place where they can be touched and used by God.