What is Discipleship? – Discipleship Series Part 1

15 01 2008

jesus-talks-to-his-disciples-about-heaven.jpgThis question seems to come up quite often so I’d like to try and define discipleship as I’ve grown to understand it from the Scriptures.

A disciple may sound like a unique part of Christian jargon to us today but in Jesus’ day it was a common word that described the most radical adherents to the teachings of a rabbi. These disciples were actively working toward the assimilation of the rabbi’s particular life philosophies into their lives under the direct care of a trainer (the actual rabbi or one of his apprentices).

Jesus defines discipleship clearly in the Great Commission (Matt. 28:18-20) by saying “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”

Here are the elements –

1. A teacher possessing authority (in Jesus’ case ultimate authority over everyone. This is why Christians must evangelize. If Jesus had authority only over those who had willingly submitted to his teachings than no evangelism would be necessary. But Jesus has authority over everyone including those who are actively in rebellion against his authority creating the mandate to proclaim this new reality to everyone.)

2. A clear, public demonstration of ones decision to become a disciple – Baptism is the fork and the necessary rite of passage to signify to the world, spiritual beings and the individual that they have chosen sides and are now ready to begin the discipleship process (what a tragedy to baptize someone who has committed their entire life to Christ’s teachings and have nothing more for him or her than a simple “see you next Sunday”)

3. A defined training process that continues until the disciple’s life is brought into conformity with Christ’s teachings. Here we have the definition and this is where so many activities designed for purposes other than discipleship (sermons, small groups, seminary classes, sunday school, friendship, etc.) fall far short of meeting the minimum elements of the definition. Jesus said to MAKE disciples which requires a defined, intentional process (making something is clearly distinguished from something that happens accidentally). I dig deeper into methods in Part 2.

4. This process must consistently result in a radicalized follower. Jesus said this training was to be exhaustive (EVERYTHING I’ve commanded you). Here we have a distinction between someone selectively following the rabbi’s teaching and the one who is a walking, talking, real life demonstration of the results of this teaching. Many I’ve described this to have recoiled at the use of the word radical because of its recent use to distinguish a radical Muslim who might resort to violence and a more moderate Muslim. In my opinion, this is the best time to use the term radical to distinguish a Christian disciple from an enculturated Christian. Our Christian equivalent to the radical Muslim is precisely the Christian disciple. What better way to demonstrate the clear superiority of the teachings of our Lord than for people to see when someone becomes a radical in the Islamic faith it leads to acts of violence but when someone becomes a radical disciple of Christ it leads to a life of love, peace, joy and hope which blesses the world in a way that is rarely seen? Christians must not only be willing to be radicals but must be systematically radicalized if disciples are to be made and Christ’s commission is to be fulfilled.

Click here for Part 2 – Discipleship Methods

Is The Church A Fortress or An Army?

22 10 2007

FortressWhen you read the New Testament do you get the picture that Jesus and Paul were hoping that some day there would be thousands of Christian fortresses across the Earth where the people of God could gather apart from the world once per week and then disperse individually back to their normal lives? Or do you picture an army of disciples in small platoons, living life as one and going throughout the Earth training disciples, confronting evil and spreading the Kingdom. My experience is that 99% of Christians say they picture us like an army but sadly my experience has also been that 99% of the time Christians actually build the church like the first picture – a fortress. These two pictures are not compatible. They are drastically different visions of the church and you can’t become an army by building a fortress and you can’t win a war by only playing defense.

For the past 6 months our community has been in intensive discipleship training. We believe training is not something you do for a season but something every disciple is doing continuously. But training for what? An army trains for two reasons – to defend AND to attack. Jesus and Paul were almost always playing offense and the modern church seems to almost always play defense. It’s time to rethink our strategy.

Are Sermons Destroying Christianity?

26 09 2007

***UPDATE  – While I continue to greatly struggle with the dominant use of weekly sermons as a means of training disciples I don’t like the spirit this post was written in and so I’m removing it from my blog***

Prayer, Power and Wielding the Authority of Christ

30 03 2007

No part of the Christian life has been more difficult for me than prayer. What motivates me and fills me with energy for a task is a clear understanding and connection with its purpose. But prayer is such a mystery. Its ultimate purpose shrouded. Its actual impact on reality uncertain.

So prayer, in particular intercessory prayer, is only present in my life as a result of determined discipline.

Prayer as relationship has always made sense to me but asking for things from God has not.

Then I encountered this simple verse “And God said, let there be light…”

When reading this verse before I would read between the lines and assume that after God said this he exerted some pulse of power that made it happen. But this time something different occurred to me. Maybe this verse is actually literally true? Maybe God just spoke and it was. No power (in the physical sense), only authority. If God speaks matter merely obeys his word.

This would make sense of Jesus’ word to the raging sea – “Be still”. And his disciples response “Even the wind and waves OBEY him.” I thought Jesus emanated power over the wind but maybe his words simply wield authority. That the very words of God make things happen not through some process of physical power but through a deeper process of supernatural authority.

Ah ha! Is that how prayer works? When Jesus said “Pray in MY NAME” this was an invitation to borrow his authority? That when he says “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” he was encouraging us that, in the name of Jesus, his disciples call upon the one with ultimate authority.

This makes sense of the importance of praying out loud. Not that we can’t say things in our heart but why wouldn’t we want to speak in the name of Jesus when praying for healing, or for peace, or for anything else.

Considering the implications of this paradigm of intercessory prayer really blows my mind.

  • I would constantly be praying about what to pray about. Holy Spirit how do you want me to use Christ’s authority?
  • Once I believed in a prayer I would want to say it out loud and preferably in a public gathering of other believers.
  • I would pray with far more confidence as one wielding authority, as a viceroy of the King speaking his will into our existence.

Something I need to continue to ponder God help me…