I have always loved the passage from Matthew 4:19, however, up until more recently it was more related to my love of fishing and thinking I had a great tie to the early disciples due to that. Recently, though through a process of re-looking at discipleship in the life of His followers, I have gained a whole new reason to have this as a life verse (if there is such a thing… more like another wonderful passage that adds to the living and breathing of His word!!) This passage now reminds me of the process of discipleship!!
“The discipleship we’re called to, as Jesus modeled, is “intentional, relational, and transparent. Yes, discipleship involves teaching. But it’s much more. It’s about you inviting (or being invited) to share your life. It means you teaching someone what Scripture says about loving his or her spouse, then inviting the person into your home to show them what it looks like.”
“A pervasive lack of intentional disciple-making creates a church full of people who have “heard and accepted the message of Jesus saves, but somehow missed that Jesus has something to say about how we live every day.” They completely miss the goal of discipleship: “to produce accurate copies of Jesus. We must be making the kind of disciples that Jesus Himself produced.” from Jim Putman
How is that whole discipleship thing really going?
The above segment/challenge comes from an email post that I receive from a ministry that is on the frontline of trying to help local churches implement a real process of discipleship within their church family (you might be interested in following Bobby Harrington who is a partner of Jim Putman’s in this ministry). As a pastor who has served on two church staffs , a pastor most laser focused on the ministry to the adults in those churches, I have to admit this has caused me more wrestling than almost anything related to the church. The word discipleship I believe is one of the most misunderstood and really under used ministries in the church today. It seems that this idea of discipleship has been attached to many different efforts (and typically efforts that are of secondary, or even less than that, value). In fact in a recent webinar by this same person (from discipleship.org ), he suggested that when starting a new church the first thing that church should do is to implement a plan for discipleship. Now notice I said implement not just to talk about having a plan, but actually carry that out in real ways with real people. Make disciples who are about making more disciples. Cut your teeth on this as a church, which means to go ahead make some mistakes (because you will continually be tweaking this process), and then learn from them and keep moving forward.
More shocking than that whole thing about putting a discipleship plan into motion first though was that he suggested that the gathering of the folks for a worship service would come after that!! (are you shocked?!) How have we actually defined church in America… what are our most valued indicators that there is a church in a community? Let me take a stab at it… it is defined by a building and a Sunday morning worship service. It seems in America until you have those two things we can’t officially call it a church. So what is this gentleman suggesting by saying go do discipleship first, that is make disciples? One thing he is suggesting is that in our typical process of establishing the presence of a church in a community we have ultimately challenged the idea of becoming disciples. We talk about it (and more recently we are talking about it more as the church). But when we establish this gathering of people in a building for a Sunday (or Saturday) worship service, we have helped our people believe that the main delivery system for discipleship comes through this 1 hour worship service. Along with that I have seen this play over and over again, as that young church tries to spread it’s wings one of the biggest struggles is to have enough leaders (also known as disciples) available to help the folks gathering grow in Christ likeness.
Now again we may and probably often do say that there is more to our process, and we may even say that discipleship is the number one function. Much as Jesus did with the twelve disciples (I would recommend a great book on that process titled Master Plan of Evangelism by Robert Coleman) . But let’s take an honest and hard look at what truly rises to the number one position as it plays out in most churches across America. Where are most of our resources (financially and people skills) utilized? And how is that discipleship process really playing out through our worship services?
Please, don’t get me wrong here, the gathering of God’s people for those opportunities to praise Him as a communal body are extremely important. But today in America the average attender at those most important opportunities are coming 1 time in every 4 weeks. Makes one wonder how those worship services may be attended and carried out if we would raise the ante as to how we build a process of discipleship into those church families?