Sunday, August 1, 2010

What Happened to Discipleship?

I know many fine pastors (shepherds) who love this teaching from Dallas Willard in The Divine Conspiracy, but also know their churches are, at least, uncomfortable with it, and worst, in complete denial or oblivion.

Excerpts from chapter 8, The Divine Conspiracy, on discipleship:

“ . . . we saw how weak a hold the church currently has on the message of the kingdom. We saw internationally known leaders commenting on how little is said in Christian teachings about the kingdom (here and now) and some admitting that they had neither heard nor preached a sermon on the topic.”

“It also becomes clear, in the light of the disappearance of the kingdom and Jesus the teacher, why the making of converts, or church members, has become the mandatory goal of Christian ministers – if even that – while the making of disciples is pushed to the very margins of Christian existence. Many Christian groups simply have no idea what discipleship is and have relegated it to para-church organizations.”

“Nondiscpleship is the elephant in the church. It is not the much discussed moral failures, financial abuses, or the amazing general similarity between Christians and non-Christians. These are only effects of the underlying problem.”

“ . . . division has worked its way into the very heart of the gospel message. It is now understood to be a part of the “good news” that one does not have to be a life student of Jesus in order to be a Christian and receive forgiveness of sins. This gives a precise meaning to the phrase “cheap grace”, though it would be better described as “costly faithlessness.”

“If we cannot break through to a new vision of faith and discipleship, the real significance and power of the gospel of the kingdom of God can never come into its own. It will be constantly defeated by the idea that it is somehow not a real part of faith in Jesus Christ, and the church will remain in the dead embrace of consumer Christianity.”

Discipleship consists of all that Jesus taught and modeled in His earthly ministry time; living in the Kingdom of God (now), applying that Kingdom for the good of others, and even making it possible for them to enter it themselves. Whether we call it spiritual formation, spiritual direction, discipleship, soul care, healing ministry, teaching . . . it is all “making disciples” as He commanded all who would follow Him and take up their own cross. We are all supposed to be doing this (discipleship) among our families, in our marriages, at school, at work, wherever God has us, and of course in our congregations; faith families, small groups, etc.

Without this, Uncle Screwtape has us just where he wants us . . . thinking we are Christians, but not even coming close to imitating Christ.

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