Thursday, 27 June 2013

Transforming Discipleship


Notes from 'Transforming Discipleship' by Greg Ogden

There has been a real emphasis on church growth, but not enough emphasis on discipleship.  Chuck Colson said the church is 3,000 miles wide and an inch deep.  Discipleship is the churches key priority.  The superficiality in discipleship comes into startling focus when we observe the incongruity between the numbers of people who profess faith in Jesus, and the lack of impact on the moral and spiritual climate of our times.  

Cal Thomas writes, "The problem in our culture... isn't the abortionists.  It isn't the pornographers or drug dealers or criminals.   It is the undisciplined, undiscipled, disobedient, and Biblically ignorant Church of Jesus Christ." (Christianity Today, April 25 1994).

There are seven marks of discipleship in the Bible:

1 Proactive ministers
The Scriptures picture the church as full of proactive ministers, but the reality is that the majority of church members are passive recipients.  The NT picture of the church is an every-member ministry, yet in most churches a 80/20 rule applies, e.g. in a typical church 20% of the congregation do the work, whilst 80% are consumers of their efforts.

We often attend worship with a reviewers mentality - worshippers see it as the responsibility of those 'on stage' to provide an engaging, meaningful and entertaining show. We come as passive recipients not active participants.  

2 A disciplined way of life
The Scriptures portray the followers of Jesus as engaged in a disciplined way of life.  

Athletes put countless hours of practice into honing their skills, and the NT uses this imagine in relation to the Christian life.  "Athletes exercise self control in all things; they do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable one." (1 Corinthians 9:25)

Studies show that only one in six adults who attend Christian worship services is involved in a group or relational process designed to help them grow spiritually.  

3 Discipleship affects all of life
The Scriptures picture discipleship as affecting all spheres of life; the reality is that many believers have relegated faith to the personal, private realm.  

Greg Ogden writes that for the Christian all life should comes under the authority of Jesus Christ.  "We are a kingdom people, which means that Jesus is Lord in our hearts, homes and workplaces; our attitudes, thoughts and desires; our relationships and moral decisions; our political convictions and social conscience.  In every area of our interior life, personal relationships or social involvement, we seek to know and live the mind and will of God."

However for many Christians there is a disconnect between seeing ourselves as representatives of the kingdom of God, and in what we spend most of our time doing - our jobs.  

4 A countercultural force
The Scriptures picture the Christian community as a countercultural force; the reality is that we see isolated individuals whose lifestyle and values are not much different from those of the unchurched.  

5 An essential chosen organism
The Scriptures picture the church as an essential, chosen organism in whom Christ dwells; the reality is that people view the church as an optional institution unnecessary for discipleship.

The church of Jesus Christ is nothing less than his corporate replacement on earth.  Jesus continues his incarnation by dwelling in his people. Ray Stedman writes "The life of Jesus is still being manifest among people, but now no longer through an individual physical body, limited to one place on earth, but through a complex, corporate body called the church."  The church IS the body of Christ, there place where Christ dwells.  Therefore the church is central to God's plan of salvation.  To be a follower of Christ is to understand that there is no such thing as solo discipleship.

6 Biblically informed people
The Scriptures picture believers as biblically informed people whose lives are founded on revealed truth; the reality is that most believers are biblically ignorant people whose lives are a syncretistic compromise.  

Many Christians are ignorant about the content and central teaching of Scripture.  

7 People who share their faith
The Scriptures picture all believers as those who share the story of their faith in Christ with others; the reality is we are an intimidated people who shrink from personal witness.  The question we need to ask ourselves is: is our experience of the love and joy of Jesus worth transmitting to others?

The Challenge

Barna writes: "Christianity would be incredibly influential in our culture if Christians consistently lived their faith.  Most non Christians don't read the Bible, so they judge Christianity by the lives of the Christians they see.  The problem is that millions of Christians don't live like Christians - and that's partially because they don't know what they believe and therefore cannot apply appropriate scriptural values to their lives." (Barna Research Online, Setpember 25, 2000, www.barna.org)