Discipleship

Discussion in 'Pastoral Ministries' started by gb93433, Jun 24, 2004.

  1. gb93433

    gb93433
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    Found at http://www.pastors.com/RWMT/default.asp?id=160&artid=6672&expand=1

    Issue #160
    6/23/2004

    Why did Jesus choose such average disciples?
    by Caleb C. Anderson

    Want to help a new generation of men and women in your church grow more and more like Christ? The key to making disciples of the next generation doesn’t lie in following the latest trend or preaching the cleverest sermons. Instead the key to discipleship in the 21st century lies in a 2,000-year-old model.

    If we are going to disciple a new generation, we must teach them how to be disciples. Most Christians I know aren’t really disciples. They don’t even claim to be disciples; they claim to be Christians. Nowhere in the book of Acts did a believer claim to be Christian – as if to brand their religious movement. No – they claimed only to be disciples of the crucified and risen Jesus Christ.

    That needs to be our claim today. The younger generations are desperate for raw, authentic spirituality – even if it’s more demanding. To reach them, we need to do more than deliver messages about Religion vs. Relationship; we need to model them.

    The staying life of the disciple
    Disciples do not discipline themselves for discipline’s sake – like an overzealous military man, or a masochist. If we discipline ourselves, it is for the sake of the Discipling One. It’s for the sake of the Great Teacher, the God-man, the Humble King, whom we follow, with whom we stay.

    Too many of our churches continue to emphasize the “habits” necessary to spiritual growth as the exclusive means of growing in Christ. Prayer, Bible study, Scripture memorization, fasting, solitude and tithing are essential for growing Christians. These are foundational habits that every disciple embraces in one way, shape or form.

    But they should never become an end unto themselves. Instead of listing these habits as prerequisites for discipleship, we should communicate that discipleship is fueled by ONE discipline, the discipline of staying. Once a disciple understands and begins to practice this one important discipline, the other habits will follow as paths to the ultimate goal – staying in communion with Christ.

    Why did Jesus choose such average disciples?

    I recently took my Jewish father-in-law to see The Passion of the Christ. When we walked out, he was fuming mad that Jesus had chosen such pathetic disciples. “Not one of them stood up for him!” Jerry exclaimed.

    It’s true - Jesus’ disciples were average men, at best. Yet that was by design.

    It was likely that those disciples had a good foundation of the Torah; it was not unusual for Jewish boys in their day to memorize large portions of Scripture. In their youth, they'd probably developed the habits of prayer, scripture memorization, religious dieting, etc.

    But you don’t see Jesus speaking much to their Jewish regimen. You don’t see Jesus commenting much on their mastery of the Torah, or on their habits of choice. Do you know why? Jesus knew that the habits - and living life to the glory of God - were going to be the Holy Spirit’s job.

    Just look at the apostles’ lives: they each left everything they had to come and follow Jesus. They stayed with Jesus all day, every day, unless he sent off them with some assignment. They didn’t do anything special during those three (or more) years. They just stayed with Jesus. That was the secret of their discipleship.

    After the last supper, on their way to Gethsemane, Jesus gave his disciples explicit instructions - which they wouldn’t understand until later.

    He said, "Stay joined to me, and I will stay joined to you. Just as a branch cannot produce fruit unless it stays joined to the vine, you cannot produce fruit unless you stay joined to me." (John 15:4, CEV)

    Can you imagine how devastated and confused the disciples were when Jesus was taken from them that very evening and killed the very next day? “He told us to stay with him - but the show must be over. The mission must’ve been thwarted. We can’t stay with him, or abide/remain in him, if he’s not here.”

    So what did the disciples do? They panicked. Without the presence of Jesus, their learning, their hope, their new way of thinking, their new perspectives on life and God were all useless. They had nothing. Even after Jesus appeared to the disciples after the resurrection for the first time in the upper room, Peter, James and John – Jesus’ main men – still didn’t understand the bigger plan, the bigger story. They went back to what they knew. They went fishing (John 21). When godly men are not staying connected to God they will slowly regress back to their old ways.

    Finally, before Jesus ascended up into heaven, he looked at his disciples and said: "Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit." (Acts 1:4-5, NIV)

    Why was this instruction so critical? Have you noticed a trend with the disciples yet? Have you noticed a trend in your own life?

    When the disciples are with Jesus, they have purpose. When the disciples obey Christ, they are blessed. When the disciples can communicate with him, they are content. And so when Jesus leaves, he doesn’t leave them alone. He sends his own Spirit to come and live in them and in us!

    "To [the saints] God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory." (Col. 1:27, NIV)

    I am not the hope of glory; you are not the hope of glory; discipline is not the hope of glory. Christ in you is the hope of glory!

    The living Spirit of the God of the universe, actively achieving his will in this world through the collective lives of his disciples – that’s the hope of glory. And we must dedicate our lives to allowing the Holy Spirit to have his way in us.

    Living our lives according to the five purposes of God is going to continue to be the key to the church’s effectiveness in the next generation (the biblical purposes of worship, fellowship, discipleship, ministry, and missions). Communicating those purposes in the simplest, clearest, most fundamental and relevant ways is going to be the key to a leader's effectiveness in the next generation.

    As for the purpose of discipleship, it is a one-discipline purpose - staying connected to Christ through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Make people passionate about that – about the power that resides inside of every saint – then teach them the value of the ancient habits that aid in staying connected.

    -Pastors.com®-




    Article by Caleb C. Anderson
    Caleb C. Anderson is on staff with Saddleback’s maturity team. He focuses much of his work on the spiritual growth of young adults.



    Copyright © 2002 Pastors.com
     
  2. JGrubbs

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    Thank you for this article!! I agree that most Christians today are NOT disciples, I would even say that most Christians today don't truly understand what it means to be a Christian. The word "Christian" means "Christ-like." The true meaning of being "Christian" is learning to live and act like Christ.

    One of the best books I have read on the topic of discipleship is The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer.
     
  3. Pastor Larry

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    I think a good case can be made that all Christians are disciples. Those who are not disciples have no claim to the title Christian. The Scripture seems to make no such distinction. The reason why many aren't disciples is becuase they are in for the excitement and fun of Christianity, the feel goodism of it, rather than the "take up your cross"ism.
     
  4. gb93433

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    Matthew 4:19 says, "Follow Me and I will make you fishers of men." How many in the present day church are fishers of men?
     
  5. Karen

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    Sometimes more are fishers than we realize. For example, about 15 teenagers in my church including my oldest are on a missions trip right now. I look around at the people I know in my church, and a great many of them are involved in discipleship and evangelistic activities. Many of the ones who aren't want to but have major health problems. But even then they are examples to me.
    gb, in the totality of your posts on discipleship, it comes across to me like you only value some spiritual gifts and discount others.
    Some of the people I have learned the most from did not necessarily have a conscious group of people that they systematically met with to "disciple". Yet they had profound influence in pointing many people to Christ.

    Karen
     
  6. following-Him

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    I think the point of the original post is being missed. It is about the pastors' to teach his flock how to be disciples. I think maybe a lot of pastors' might be failing their flocks in this area. It is all to easy for people to criticise other Christians, be leadership and example starts from the top.

    Blessings

    Sheila
     
  7. gb93433

    gb93433
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    So are you saying the command Jesus gave in Mt. 28:19,20 and the words He gave in Mt. 4:19 do not apply to every believer and just a select few?

    Just look at what Jesus did with His disciples. He took them with Him where He went. Discipleship is not about a Bible study. It is about training them.

    Sometime read http://www.bibleteacher.org/Dm118_8.htm
     
  8. NaasPreacher (C4K)

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    The role of the pastor/teacher is to "prepare the saints"

    1) for the work of the ministry
    2) for the edifying of the body of Christ

    It seems like the pastor's job is to equip the saints to disciple others.
     
  9. Karen

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    No, that's not what I am trying to say. I'm trying to say that there are many spiritual gifts, and no one has all of them. It sounds sometimes like your definition of making disciples is that everyone should exercise the same spiritual gift.

    Great article, I have always had great respect for the Navigators. I do think there is a danger, though, of barely knowing people and making all kinds of assumptions that they are not really on fire in their relationship with God or being used by Him.

    Karen
     
  10. David Ekstrom

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    The article was challenging and very good. I must confess, however, I found it somewhat fuzzy. "Stay with him" = discipleship. So what does it mean to stay with him? What does staying with him look like? How can I know whether or not I am staying with him? How can I know whether or not my congregation is staying with him? How will I know when I have ceased staying with him? Is staying with him active or passive? Is it static or dynamic, that is, is it a state one enters or a growing experience? Is it once-and-for-all or must it be renewed? What exactly am I to tell my congregation to do so that they may stay with him?
     
  11. gb93433

    gb93433
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    I think 1 Cor 15:58 would be a good answer.
     
  12. David Ekstrom

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    My point was that unless we identify behaviors that reflect "staying with him," it doesn't seem to me that we've really said anything. gb cites I Cor. 15:58. OK. It talks about staying busy serving the Lord. Of course, serving the Lord means doing something. And shouldn't church leaders help people know what that something is that they're supposed to be doing, like prayer, bible reading, church attendance, giving, witnessing, etc.?
    Perhaps the person who defined discipleship as "staying with Him" meant that we are to be people of worship and prayer and that that would result in our being faithful in serving.
    I just don't get fuzzy, touchy-feely definitions. Certainly Christian discipleship is more than a zen-like "spirituality."
     
  13. gb93433

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    From the book Growing True Disciples by George Barna , pages 128 - 132


    Let's Be Real

    Truthfully, while disciple-making must be a priority for you, by whatever means you select, you must enter the process with your eyes open. What happens when you make true disciples - not just students or group members, but real zealots for Christ?

    Peoples lives change
    The collection of disciples - the true Church - gains favor with the world.
    Society is changed by the disciples.
    Society experiences turmoil as a result of the Church being true to God's truths and commands.
    Disciples are persecuted.

    Making disciples and being a disciple is not a complete joyride. Disciple-making is not the answer to every cultural problem that exists - in fact, an effective discipleship process may create new tensions and animosities within the culture as God's principles clash with Satan's principles in the battle of spiritual kingdoms. But the hardships that arise as a result of engagement in disciple-making are no excuse to avoid or minimize our devotion to the process and its outcomes; in fact, they are an indicator that the Church is being the Church. As long as the battle between good and evil persists, we will not experience a peaceful, loving, wholly satisfying society. However, while being avid, passionate disciples of Jesus Christ will not bring about the perfect society, the thrust to be true disciples is the answer for each of us, individually, in the quest to become pleasing and honorable people in God's eyes.

    We cannot help but have a positive impact on the world when we are being Christ-like, even though the results of our life may not always look pretty. Not even Jesus, the Son of God, the Prince of Peace, the Savior of Humankind, was loved by all people. If we follow His ways and His footsteps, we should not expect to be loved and accepted by everyone either. But God, the Father of Creation, was completely pleased with the work of the Son - and that was all that mattered to the Son. So Jesus is our model and that is our challenge: to gain the acceptance of the Father, by imitating the work of the Son, through the empowerment of the Spirit. The results that emerge are up to God to disentangle. That is a task clearly beyond our capabilities.

    When you hire people, you study their lives to look for clues as to what they will be like as an employee. When you buy products, you study the contents and reviews to determine which products will provide the outcomes you desire. As you strive to become a disciple and to make disciples, keep your eyes on the substance of the subject, whether it is you or someone whom you are discipling.


    Here's what you're looking for - and, if it's absent, what you are trying to infuse within the true disciple:
    the passion of Stephen
    the joy of the post-Pentecost apostles
    the integrity of Nathanael
    the availability of Mary
    the perseverance of Paul
    the transformation of Peter
    the wisdom of James
    the servanthood of Martha
    the love of John
    the generosity of Joseph the Levite from Cyprus
    the seriousness of John the Baptist
    the studiousness of Luke
    the humility and reverent faith of the centurion
    the evangelistic sharing of Andrew
    the character of Jesus


    None of these stalwarts of the faith (with the exception of Jesus) was a perfect representation of each of the qualities listed here. Each of these individuals stood out for a handful of qualities, and presumably worked on developing other qualities that brought them into greater conformity with Jesus' life. As you study their paths to glory keep in mind that even the models of our faith fell short of the glory of God. By our very nature, we always will; but by God's will, we must not accept our limitations as excuses to give up.

    The real obstacles to becoming a fully devoted, zealous disciple of Christ are not money, time, methods or knowledge. The major obstacle is the human heart. When that changes, all else changes. Jesus frequently reminded His disciples that the problem was not one of knowledge but of character The Pharisees had more religious knowledge than they knew what to do with but they lacked the character to apply it in ways that transformed themselves and their world. Judas spent many months living with Jesus, observing His ways and His miracles, learning timeless and transforming principles directly from the lips of the Master, and yet all of His knowledge and experience could not compensate for a wicked heart. A disciple is a person of Christian character. Just as Paul instructed his young disciple Timothy, if you develop appropriate character, the rest will follow.


    Go, Therefore ...
    Be a true disciple. Go and make disciples.
    And what will it look like, when it works?

    True discipleship produces holistic personal transformation, not mere assimilation into a community of church members.

    True discipleship is witnessed by people who are determined to be a blessing to others - people who are never content to simply accept and enjoy God's blessings to them.

    True discipleship creates Christians who aggressively pursue spiritual growth rather than passively experience spiritual evolution.

    True discipleship spawns individuals who develop renewed lifestyles instead of believers who mechanically check off completed assignments on a developmental agenda.

    True discipleship results in people who are more concerned about the quality of their character than the extent of their knowledge.

    True discipleship builds churches known for their culture of love, commitment and service rather than for their events, information and programs.

    True discipleship facilitates people devoted to a lifelong journey to imitate Jesus Christ, rather than the completion of a short-term regimen of tasks and responsibilities.

    Do you passionately want to become a zealous disciple of Jesus Christ? Are you committed to bring others with you on that amazing journey?

    Discipleship is about complete obedience to the Word of God, driven by a heart that can stand to do nothing less and a mind that knows it pays to focus on nothing less and a mind that knows it pays to focus on nothing else. Can we fulfill this mammoth challenge? Jesus, our mentor, says we can. "I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in Me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these..." (John 14:12)
    If you are devoted to the process of spiritual growth, and to allowing God's Holy Spirit to shape you on that journey, how you end up will bear scant resemblance to what you were when you began the journey.
     

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