Over the last several months I have finally decided to dive into something that I have been quite hesitant to dive into in the past. I was hesitant to dive into it because I knew if I did it would require me to change a lot of the ways I do many of the things I do.
I was convicted that if we are to be a biblical church we have to be a discipling church. We make such a big deal of following all the New Testament doctrines and practices. Some go so far as to draw lines of fellowship around missing the mark on various items, even things the New Testament is silent on. But there is one monumental command that we have missed. We have ignored it by redefining it and missing the point entirely. And no one seems to think this is a big deal.
What is that command? It is the Great Commission
18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” – Matt 28:18-20
Here is where we go off the rails. As soon as I say I am going to emphasize the great commission many of us automatically think “Evangelism.” But that isn’t what I am thinking. That word isn’t in these verses. There is another word in these verses we roll right past without considering what it means – disciple. It is a word used over 200 times in the New Testament (Christian is only used 3 times and those aren’t even positive).
If you evangelize you don’t necessarily disciple. If you intend to disciple a non-believer evangelism happens naturally. You can evangelize without discipling but you cannot disciple without first evangelizing. Discipleship is the point, not just evangelism. We have reduced this command to finding people to convert rather than enter into a discipleship process and relationship with them.
So what does this have to do with the blog?
For the foreseeable future, the focus of this blog will be discipleship. I believe this is the biggest need in Christianity and Churches of Christ because we have neglected it for so long. We suffer for our lack of practicing this. People don’t know how to study with others. They don’t know how to have spiritual conversations. They don’t know how to be a disciple because no one discipled them!
I have asked multiple Bible classes how many people in the class have been intentionally discipled in their lifetime. I might get a 1-2% response and when I ask those who say they have about it they usually mean a Bible class teacher they respected growing up. That isn’t really what I am talking about.
If we had been discipling people all these years we wouldn’t have had many of the headaches we have suffered through over the years as people would have responded to these things from a more spiritually mature perspective.
I will still be posting articles on other things but discipleship will be my focus. We will be walking together through a discipling journey. I have no intention of thinking this can all take place in cyber-space but I do think that we can walk through these concepts and practices together to change this in one generation so that our kids and grandkids can be handed a healthier faith community than the ones many of us were handed.
I hope non-Christians join in this conversation. I hope baby Christians who desire to be discipled join in this conversation. I hope long-time Christians who have never been discipled join in this conversation. I will be creating a menu item on the site that will put this content in order that people can track through to help them learn to follow Jesus better.
Welcome to the journey!
Hi Matt, thank you for your great take on what is needed out there, (or “in here” as the case may be). I had a guy who brought out more of my faith one summer, and kind of mother henned me while I was there for a summer. I think of him as a disciple of Christ, never ever met anyone like him, before or since. He gave me a Bible, and homework, and we studied together and shared our souls. Later he wrote me every week, and he seemed like Paul to me. Is this closer to the disipleship that you are speaking about?
Jim, that is much closer to what I am talking about. I am so very glad you had that experience. One of the goals is to practice it so that people who have been discipled will then know how to go and do the same for other people. This is why I think we can turn this ship in one generation. Does that make sense? Blessings!
Matt, I think a few things we miss in this is
1. We don’t see the Kingdom, for the church, meaning we think too small. We don’t endeavor to grow something larger than what we see. We the body of Christ as just us in our limited arrangement and we don’t see the body as being all of the saints who take on Christ.
2. We are trying to convert people to what we believe, not belief in Jesus. Or in other words we are trying to convert people to our theology/practices/the truth/the right church/our sect, instead of preaching Christ and Christ crucified.
Our goal in discipling is not to make us disciples, but to make people disciples of Christ.
Evangelism is about bringing Christ to the lost, not teaching a theological belief system.
A lot of time we are trying to lead people, but we forget we are basically on the same road and if we are to believe the parable of the workers in the vineyard, once converted, we are no longer leader/follower, but fellow workers towards the same goal.
Yes and yes! I couldn’t have said this better. We convert without making disciples. Jesus didn’t say convert. He said make disciples. You can convert without making disciples but you cannot make disciples without conversion. We have to get this right!
When the people on Pentecost realized they had crucified their Messiah, they were cut to the heart.
When Saul saw the blinding light of Jesus, he fell to his knees and prayed for 3 days.
It will only be when we see Jesus that we will become his disciples.
In a few days plus a year I will reach my “four-score” years (unless I depart to be with the Lord before then). In all of that time, I have never willingly missed gathering with the saints. Nor have I even been “discipled.” I have attempted to disciple some, but a student cannot rise above his teacher
It will only be when we see Jesus that we will become his disciples and be able to “disciple” others. (When did ‘disciple’ (the noun) become ‘disciple’ (the verb)? We will never reach the verb until we become the noun.