Our Discipleship Problem is Actually a Gospel Problem

What is the gospel?

Why aren’t we making disciples?

Those two questions are connected. If you make the Gospel any and everything you will also think discipleship entails any and everything.

In Churches of Christ, I am afraid our gospel has been church-centered rather than Christ-centered. The good news becomes the church and doing church right and being part of the right church rather than the work of Jesus. I don’t think people overtly say this but it is how we act and operate in many ways. Case in point, I have people talk about becoming a Christian and it had far more to do with church than with Jesus.

If you make the gospel whatever you want, your disciple-making will also be weak and misinformed.

Have you ever thought about what making disciples is all about? Some people think feeding the homeless is making disciples. Some think Bible class is making disciples or small groups is making disciples. The definitions are too broad, just like with the gospel.

Here is what we need to do – we need to go back to the New Testament and find out how the Bible itself defines the term Gospel. It is pretty specific. It is specific about the problem we face and, then, makes the news truly good. And it is bigger than getting our sins forgiven. If we think the gospel is just about getting sins forgiven then our disciple-making will be about getting people’s sins forgiven. That means we will have a conversion-focused discipleship rather than a discipleship that is truly about following and following because of the Gospel.

I think our view of discipleship and what it means to be a Christian is largely about making a decision to conversion, because our Gospel was isolated to sin management and forgiveness. But if you expand the gospel out to all Jesus included when he used that term we will, then, have to re-think what it means to live as a disciple who makes disciples.

The two go together. More on this soon but in the meantime I want to hear your thoughts and reflections on this.

6 Responses to Our Discipleship Problem is Actually a Gospel Problem

  1. Justin Brasfield says:

    This is extremely important. I think you’re on the right track and look forward to hearing how you develop these thoughts!

  2. Dwight says:

    I think we don’t understand the true nature of salvation. It us not about saving the soul, but a soul or the person. When Jesus said He came to “seek and save the lost” Jesus sent out His apostles to preach the good news, by preaching God and healing and feeding the weak and needy. The Gospel is about God’s love for us.

  3. Cody says:

    Thank you for writing this! I hope our tradition will grow in this area. We are selling ourselves short of we don’t explore the depth of good news. God has been defining good news as justice since at least Isaiah. I hope we can capture that vision God had for the world that in Jesus there is justice in this life.

  4. mark says:

    The gospel was ignored most Sundays. It was just passed over for the writings of Paul who taught how to get church right. I’m glad you’re bringing this up. I have even heard that the teachings of Jesus made for too simple of a sermon. No one ever heard that Jesus talked with both the simple people and members of the big Sanhedrin. The prophets, who Jesus quoted, weren’t talked about either. I think part of this was a failure to read the associated Bible portions e.g. Lectionary, intact in the service. No one got to hear anything but proof texts. I was appalled when someone told me once on a blog that there was no provision in the Bible for readers, which is the regulative principle at its worst. Someone did not even know that Jesus himself read from the scroll of Isaiah in the synagogue.

  5. Paul Castleman says:

    Church membership is not synonymous with disciple of Jesus. The finality of the Christian journey in our tradition was 5 steps to getting people in the water and then one verse denoting a life a dedicated to commitment to Christ. We cheapened discipleship by oversimplifying it this way. May we return to the complexity and commitments to truly following Jesus and not adherence to “church” guidelines.

    • mark says:

      And once you were dunked, you were forgotten about. Now if you did everything right and were a “yes man” and stayed till you were over 55, you might be allowed into leadership. Otherwise, when you got to be old, you were prayed for and received some pastoral care. The in between years were rough and resulted in a lot of people leaving.

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