A few days ago, Trevor at TrevorNashleanas.com asked me what made me so passionate about discipleship. What started as a reply turned into an unplanned blog post. I’m so glad that Trevor asked me because it made me think through it a little bit. I think it turned into a pretty neat team effort, thanks to God.
Using Trevor’s words,“discipleship is the process of learning to live for the glory of God by faith in and obedience to Jesus through relationship with other Christ-followers over time.”
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The idea here is that no matter where you are in your journey of faith, you are learning. You are not yet what you are to be. Whether you just started believing or you’re 40 years in, you still haven’t got it all. You’re a disciple.
Trevor wrote: “It’s best that we disciple people toward Jesus and let the Holy Spirit be the one who decides when and how he brings people to the Lord throughout that process.”
Key words here: toward Jesus and process. To me, discipleship begins as soon as someone begins to seek God (the “toward Jesus” aspect) — that is, reading books, asking questions, giving it thought. While it’s true they are not yet His disciples, the very fact they are seeking makes it worth the time and effort to be alongside them — to whatever end. It is never a loss to show kindness and the love and truth of Christ to someone. We don’t know how long this journey is from belief to unbelief. So perhaps we are often too impatient to commit ourselves to that process.
Trevor wrote: “Instead of searching for the next evangelism fad, stick to a simple Christ-like approach.”
My heart is broken by the sight of rootless, ungrounded Christians, people who may have “walked the aisle” or been told “just pray this prayer to ask Jesus into your heart,” and who then go back to their lives with their “get out of hell free” cards in their pockets. Later you see these Christians reflect nothing of Christ in their walk, have no desire for His word (in fact would rather have anything the world has to offer in place of the bible), and only pray when they need something as though God is some genie only waiting upon their every wish.
The sad and truly devastating fact is that they’re missing out on the fullness of a relationship with our Father. Can we rightly call them Christians? Only God knows their hearts. And if they are really His, He will ultimately draw them back somehow. I understand (and have experienced) that we all can endure periods of spiritual dryness, where we feel paralyzed, bogged down by our circumstances, unable to pray more than a feeble little “Help me get back to you, Lord” every so often.
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There is a sharp difference between spiritual dryness, during which I know I was always longing to get back (metaphorically of course) to God, and spiritual disinterest, where someone literally has no hunger for God, His word, fellowship, etc.
Trevor wrote: “Focus on an ongoing dialogue rather than a one-time decision.”
It is a terrifying thought even to me to consider that someone might believe they are saved and are really not. And although I submit to God’s perfect, omnipotent sovereignty, I do think we (the church) could help with this in a few ways:
- Get rid of this idea that the goal is to “push them through the door” so you can move on to the next chase (the idea that bigger numbers equal success, a worldly not godly notion). This is a person, not a statistic or a name on a list.
- Take the time to walk through the fact that following Christ means being set apart, that though grace is free, discipleship is costly. It is not your life plus Christ. Christ is your life.
Here’s a scriptural example of this second concept. When Christ was faced with two different people who came to Him and indicated interest in following Him, one (the scribe) very quickly wanted to follow Him (too fast). To him, Christ said, count the cost (Matt. 8:20), are you really willing to give up all your comforts and walk in total faith?
The other was on the road to discipleship, but was more interested in making sure everything was in order first (too slow). I believe this man had heard the teachings of Christ, had had time to think through them, but was still focused on his life more than on Christ. To him, Christ said, you’re entirely too concerned with your affairs; follow me now, not later when it’s “convenient” (Matt. 8:22).
Should we really be so hasty to force a “decision” (which is fallacious thinking anyway since it is God’s grace not a person’s effort that draws a person into the kingdom)? How about if we make fewer disciples but more wholehearted ones?
Stay tuned for another post on discipleship after this. I’m going to offer some thoughts on what this really looks like — feet on the ground and not floating in theory space. As always, I’d be thrilled to hear your thoughts on this topic!