Saturday, August 18, 2007

Are we discipling?

The church where I'm a member is more than 20 years old and we've been grappling with ideas of becoming more missional, church planting, cultural relevance, etc.. Jollyblogger had a post earlier in the week that got me thinking about it some more, so here are some of my general observations:

Church planters are focused on different types evangelism and mission that emphasize getting out and reaching non-believers. Great! Discipling gets kind of put on a back burner from a pragmatic standpoint, until a solid body of believers is built up.

Established churches, on the other hand, do have a solid body of committed members, so they tend to focus on programs that are designed to "FEED" them. Now, sometimes those "programs" include discipling, but usually they are more about meeting physical needs, providing nursery, sharing practical theological methods, counseling, and holding house churches that allow members to connect, to eat meals together, and have discussions about Christian stuff. All very good stuff, too.

In my opinion, both of these approaches potentially lack in true discipleship which is actually the heart of kingdom building.

What are the key elements of discipleship? In my opinion, it is the study of God's Word in fellowship: Opening up the scriptures together, learning to read God's Word personally by doing it with one another. Then confessing sin to each other, praying for one another in ways that matter, applying it with each other to all of our daily circumstances, and providing real accountability. (Also required of course are the traditional elements such as the ordained preaching of God's Word, administration of the sacraments, and possibly the lecture style Sunday School.) However, real discipleship is just not built in to how the church operates or how our consumerist society is trained to think.

Real discipleship is not a program, but community and fellowship with the goal of knowing Christ more intimately and equipping each other to incarnate the Gospel in all aspects of our lives - at work, at school, at home, at church, everywhere. Sharing the Gospel and inviting non-believers to encounter the Living God in our presence!!

Doing this is just as important on the very day that a person is converted as it is 20 years later.

that's my $.02

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