Struggling With The Question Of Discipleship

Jun 30, 2008

One of the questions I have been asked often as a pastor is, “What is NewSpring doing to make disciples?” I’ve got to be honest…there is usually never a “right” way to answer this question in the eyes of the person who is asking.

What I have began doing is turning the question around and asking, “What exactly do you mean by disciple?” What’s funny is…I’ve never gotten the same answer from anyone on this. (What the person usually asking the question finally boils it down to is, “What is NewSpring doing to make people think and act just like me?”)

Pastors, let me say right up front that Jesus pretty much demanded that we make disciples. (BUT…let me also say it is incredibly difficult to have a disciple without first having a convert!) And it is imperative that each day people are encouraged to keep in step with Jesus…but…

How does one make a disciple?

Several churches have a series of classes that people are asked to go through…and I think that is AWESOME; in fact, we are in the process of putting together what we consider to be some key fundamentals of the faith that will be taught in a group setting within the next year or so.

BUT…and just being honest, to the “discipleship critic” this just isn’t good enough. They think there should be “more,” but, once again, when pressed on it—they can’t define what “more” is.

I’ve always said that one of the ways we disciple people at NewSpring Church is through our Sunday services…it is my goal as a communicator every week to either - A. Teach a person something they didn’t previously know…or B. Remind a person of something they had forgotten.

BUT I was reading something the other day where a person was asking, “What does your church do to disciple people…and you can’t say you do it on Sundays!” WHA? (They also suggested that the church actually slow down the evangelism process until a solid discipleship process is in place…something I wholeheartedly disagree with!)

I always find it amazing that those who are usually the most adamant about discipleship usually fall in the reformed theology camp…which sort of blows my mind that they believe the Holy Spirit is completely responsible for the salvation of an individual…but after the person gets saved man must take over. Why not trust the same Holy Spirit who originally drew the person to God to continue drawing the person on a daily basis?

Some people want to claim that discipleship happens in small groups…but that doesn’t really work for the churches that use small groups as a basis for connecting people in community.

So…what IS discipleship? (By the way…this is a debate that will not be ended with this blog post!) I personally believe that making a disciple consists of teaching someone how to walk with Christ (a child can usually walk by the time they are one), being there to help them when they fall down (provide community) and teaching them how to feed themselves.

People always go back to Acts 2 and talk about Acts 2:42-47, yes, it is true that 3,000 people were baptized…but the question I want to throw back out there is…do you really believe every single person followed through on their commitment? (WOW…am I a heretic or what?)
Scripture does not say. BUT…knowing human nature I think it is a pretty safe bet that some people, even though the opportunities for discipleship existed, probably went back to their old way of life after just a little while. Heck, it’s human nature.  After all, there are quite a few examples in Scripture of people who at one time followed Christ but then for one reason or another chose to go another direction.  Lack of commitment is NOT something totally new.

BUT…the church was still there and still provided opportunities! THAT is why I think that discipleship will look different from church to church…and when people ask me what NewSpring is doing to create disciples I always reply, “Everything we can!”

What is making a disciple? We are wrestling with that questions and doing all that we can to develop a process that we believe is biblical and will set up people for success in their walk with Christ.  It will be a work in progress…and we will be shaping it and reshaping it until…well…Christ comes back!  It’s our call—and while I don’t believe we will ever perfect the process…we will do all that we can to fulfill the Great Commission.