For the last year or so I have been thinking a lot about discipleship. In the last few months I have totally immersed myself in the subject. I’ve read a few good books that offer help to churches wanting to improve their discipleship efforts. Plus, the current sermon series at PCC (Becoming a Disciple) is an overflow of my personal devotions.
In this journey I have become convinced that PCC could do a better job of making disciples. We have always been a disciple-making church and have done a pretty good job at it too. In fact, some of the best disciples I have ever encountered are in our church family. But we can do better. In fact, we must. After all, making disciples is the work that Jesus assigned to the church. There is no Plan B.
For years I used to think that Jesus’ command to make disciples simply meant teaching people certain beliefs about God, helping them receive Jesus as Lord, and then educating them in certain doctrines later on. Perhaps you have seen it that way too. As Americans, or as Westerners, we approach the gospel primarily as information transfer.
However, Jesus clearly regarded His disciples as protégés who would not only listen to His teachings, but would seek to be like Him. Jesus reinforced this principle repeatedly and expressed displeasure towards His followers when they honored Him with their words but failed to do so with their actions.
He defined a disciple as:
· One who denies himself (Matthew 16:24)
· One who takes up his cross (Matthew 16:24)
· One who follows Jesus (Matthew 16:24)
· One whose love for other people and things pales when compared to his love for Christ (Luke 14:26)
· One who gives up everything (Luke 14:33)
· One who loves the brethren (John 13:35)
· One who continues in the Word (John 8:31)
· One who bears fruit (John 15:8)
· And many other attributes.
In light of this, I have arrived at a few conclusions:
1. Churches are not very effective in the making disciples (like the ones described above).
2. The many programs and activities provided by churches do not necessarily translate into spiritual growth.
3. Disciple-trained Christians are better evangelists, more generous in their giving, and more willing to sacrificially serve.
4. Discipling relationships are vital to making disciples.
5. The goal of discipleship is to slowly make believers stand on their own two feet. That is, the church is responsible for helping believers grow to a certain point. After that, they should feed themselves and focus on helping the church with its mission …. to make more disciples.