Becoming a Healthier Church: Discipleship-May 22, 2013
Why is discipleship all that important you might ask? It is the lifeblood of the church. Discipleship is the daily work of maturing in Christ and helping others to do the same. It is more than just recognizing that God is worthy of all our praise and our very lives which is worship, and the coming together as a fellowship to support one another but also provide opportunities to reach out and new believers to find vital connections to the body of Christ.
Discipleship is a daily task that is part of a maturing process for the believer. It is not just studying the bible although that is part of it, it is much that just scripture or doctrine memory but it is transformative to our inner nature. It is this transformation that begins to change not only how we see God, but how we see ourselves and others too. Discipleship is the groundwork that makes effective evangelism possible.
In our focus text for the evening there are two things that really stand out for me. First, is that the first disciples of Jesus were asked that as they go about their daily lives they make other disciples. Second, is that they are teaching them the ways of Christ. I think these are significant. Jesus doesn’t ask His followers to hire an evangelist and come up with a strategy to reach the lost. He doesn’t say “Go, ye therefore unto the world and get converts or make church membership.” Christ does, however, charge the eleven that as they go, as they do, as they live, as they preach, as they …that they make disciples. The verb in the Greek sentence structure is not “to go” but rather “to make.”
A disciple is better than a member because a true disciple is always seeking to mature themselves, help others mature in Christ, and reaching out to non-believers. A disciple is not one that says thinks like, that’s what we hired them for. If you are a living breathing Christian then God desires that daily you be drawing closer to Him through worship, closer to one another and the world through fellowship, and growing deeper in His word through discipleship. The growing in the word is just the beginning of discipleship not the end of itself.
The second point is the phrase “teaching them.” When we say that we are to teach someone it implies that the thing being taught is something that can be learned. We may be tempted to think that discipleship is something you are born with or gifted at and the great news is that it is really the work of all believers. Teachers or coaches whether they realize it or not are really teaching those to whom they are responsible by what they say or don’t say, model in front of them, and empower them to imitate.
It would be impossible to teach or disciple someone in the journey if you are not at a more advanced point than the learner is. It is impossible to teach people something you yourself don’t know and so it is vital that all disciples continue to grow in their knowledge as to continue to help our brothers and sisters in the faith to grow in theirs. Disciple making is also difficult because the person learning is not just learning from what is being said but also from what is being model. In other words they want to see if we are living out the reality of what we are teaching them. Lastly, after hearing the sound teaching of the word, and seeing the word modeled in the life of a mature believer, the learner needs to be encouraged to begin to imitate both what they have heard revealed to them and what they have seen modeled to them, which includes seeing their teacher as a life-long learner as well.
It is been the pattern in recent years to think of discipleship as a bunch of classes that a church does, or as personal reading and studying of the Bible and it is those things but so much more. It is truly the daily component of our faith. It is the place where our knowledge about God and our living for Him meet. It is in this place that we also grow deeper in our own faith by taking the responsibility to share what we know with others and give them the daily visible example of that faith, and then to encourage them to begin their own journey of discipleship learning, modeling, and encouraging others to imitate.
So as you go about your lives do so in such a way as to make disciples, encouraging one another to grow in faith, love, and unity. Growing toward maturity in Christ we are strengthening ourselves from within the body so that the body also may be the unified presence of Christ to the world. We are fulfilling the Great Commission and joining the work of the faithful believers of generations past. What a great heritage, blessed responsibility, and wonderful opportunity to grow together as the body of Christ for the sake of His glory and His Kingdom.