82% of Americans believe God helps those who helped themselves. A good chunk of Christians believe what goes around, comes around. Some have said that the sermon on the mount was originally preached by Billy Graham. Significant numbers of Christians can only recall 5 out of the 10 commandments
And yet 88% of households own at least one Bible and the average number of Bibles her household is 4.7… so thats a lot of Bibles. Alas, having access to the scriptures is one thing, reading them is another, and taking them to heart and living them out is a whole other story.
And there in lies a problem with big problem with how we do discipleship. For sure gathering for worship is a good thing, running soup kitchens is a good thing, and doing service projects are a good thing too… but the above examples suggest those approaches alone don’t go very far when it comes to making disciples.
Lets ponder some ways of identifying disciples…
Disciples live the fruits of the spirit: Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control don’t get a whole lot of airplay. I totally get that they are counter-cultural… but imagine if Christians at large were known for those rather than rather than judgment, anger, and hate.
Disciples have character: Imagine what a witness would be if folks took the message preached on Sunday, and lived it out the rest of the week. Imagine if instead of embracing the old Adam on Monday morning, one tried to follow Jesus in all of his ways the whole week long? Imagine if instead of just memorizing the scriptures, we did what they said?
Disciples are not perfect: The old Adam will be with us unto death, but at the same time we are a new creation in Christ. We will fall, that is inevitable, but how we fall and recover is what the world will see. Its very tempting to put up a veneer / mask of righteousness to avoid scandalizing the church… but should the veneer fail, the results are often much worse, than had the fall been left open for all to see in the first place.
Disciples have competence: The proverbial “Preach the Gospel at all times, and if necessary use words.” crashes and burns in this. Words are almost always necessary. Consider the selection of folks to serve widows and orphans in Acts 6… Therefore, brethren, select from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may put in charge of this task. Works are great in and of themselves, I think of the various church work projects I’ve been involved with over the years… and its a mixed bag from a discipleship competence point of view. Sometimes it ends up being little different than a secular construction crew, albeit with a bit less cussing. In other cases, its almost like Sunday school on steroids in between blows of the framing hammer.
have a mission focus: I originally was going to say this and then I went NO. In aviation, we view a mission focus as a dangerous thing, as the mission itself can easily become too large a factor in aeronautical decision making as contrasted with the safety factors related to the aircraft, weather, and pilot. The folks at the vergenetwork draw some parallels to that:
The problem comes when we desire and push toward a movement more than we desire and push people toward Jesus. Our language begins to emphasize the activity we must do rather than the intimacy with God we must enjoy. Our language begins to sound more like a scorched-earth movement that moves fast and accomplishes things quickly, but leaves people hurting and helpless in its wake.
The great problem with movement language is that it becomes more about the movement than about Jesus.
Rather, it should be said that:
Disciples make disciples: