Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Disciples Discipling

I think it was Dr James Kennedy who said, “It is more important to train a disciple maker than to make a disciple”.

When I first heard that statement I was with a large group of others. Those words caused quite a stir as debate raged about their truth, or otherwise. What some saw as the devaluing of an individual soul, others understood as having other, much deeper implications.

I suggest that the statement is very much in accord with Paul’s Spirit inspired words in Ephesians 4:11ff, which speaks about the function which God requires of those who are truly called, and gifted to be elders.

Jesus charge to His disciples was to make disciples, not converts, and I suggest that we need to take His words very seriously when seeking to understand passages which speak of ministry. ALL ministry, in one way or another, must be about discipling!

After all is said and done, the word “disciple” from a N.T. viewpoint, is first of all applied to the followers of Christ, and occasionally to the followers of John the Baptist and the Pharisees. As to its principle use, it is applied to followers of Jesus Christ; in the first place, the twelve who were called to follow Jesus (Mt 10:1 11:1 20:17).

Without doubt, every genuine member of the congregation of Jesus Christ must be a disciple. It follows that those who are recognized by the congregation as elders are also disciples. A disciple maker is, first of all, a disciple. A disciple is one who learns from another. Its rather interesting to find in a quick perusal of a concordance that the word “disciple” is used more than 200 times in the Gospels and Acts. Have a look at how many times the word “Christian” is used!

For our purpose in this article, a disciple, in the Christian sense, is defined as one whose assurance regarding his/her life, death and final end rests in the finished work of Jesus Christ; His life, death and resurrection, and His ongoing advocacy with God the Father, on their behalf. Such a person became a dwelling place of His Spirit at conversion. Such a person recognizes that Jesus Christ is their Sabbath.

As such a disciple grows (matures), as a result of this relationship with, and focus on Christ, the qualities of character which marked Jesus the Man, who walked the earth, will be their ideal in life and function. They will be followers of Jesus, as were those whom Jesus first chose, and called to Himself.

They will also be marked by having their feet firmly on the ground. They will be comfortable being human, recognizing that the work of Jesus Christ was, indeed, a finished work which paid the consequences of their sin, and purchased a place in heaven for which God has begun preparing them by His indwelling Spirit. They will be comfortable because they know they are a work in progress, which will be completed, by God.

Like Peter and Paul they will absolutely hate sin, in whatever form, and in whom ever it appears, but openly and honestly confess that its awful stain lingers in themselves to such an extent that their heart must cry with Paul, Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?” They will have such confidence in what Jesus Christ has accomplished on their behalf, that their heartfelt gratitude will well forth with Paul, “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin.”

Because of this they will be humble, self- abnegating men/women who have no regard for false piety which draws attention to themselves as the example, rather, their example, their words, their lives, will direct attention towards Christ.

Religious formalism will grieve them because of its legalism and performance orientation, which, by its very nature, denies the absolute sufficiency of Christ, and, by no means least, they will love the brethren in such a way that there will be no doubt of Christ in them.

We could add much more of a negative nature regarding the common accretions of worldly, humanistic traditions, but it is sufficient to say that, if our description is reasonably accurate of a disciple, it has to be also true of a disciple maker, who, themselves are a disciple.

It, therefore, must follow that being a discipler is about reproducing themselves, which reveals to us why it is more important to make a disciple maker than a disciple: multiplication instead of addition.

That’s exactly what Eph.4:11ff is describing. Instead of one disciple making one more disciple we see individual disciples, whose ministries are described, being used to make several disciples, who are being equipped for the work of service (ministry) of training disciples.

Isn’t it interesting that Jesus made it clear there was no order of ascendance, or importance amongst disciples?

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Organized or Orderly?

Alan Knox from The Assembling of the Church has a post worth carefully considering. I have mentioned his blog previously. It's not that I'm enamoured with what Alan says, but I am thrilled to run across a young (compared to me) Christian, who is thinking through his faith and the teaching which supports it, rather than simply saying, "Institutional tradition says such-and-such is so, therefore it is so!" This is truly Berean.

Addressing the issue of Church Organisation, Alan says that our purpose ought to be the growing of people (edification), not the growing of the organisation. I agree! He gives an example of a small group of people who, obviously thought otherwise, and were intending to start a church in a particular place, and, to quote Alan, "The men of the family already had their titles. The group already had a vision statement and a business plan. They had completed their demographics studies and a colorful brochure. In fact, they only needed one thing: money.

You see, that small group was ready to move to another city to start a church, as long as they could come up with enough money to fund their efforts. And how much money were they looking for? (I promise, I am not making this up...) They wanted over $700,000 for two years, with almost $500,000 of that going toward salaries.from the amount of money required, your example is not so unusual. It seems to be normal for groups of people to assume "office" and "authority", and move into a community to establish their mark.

Christianity is a reasoned faith. We become Christians because we have been persuaded by the Holy Spirit, through the teaching of the Scriptures, that we have a great need. The Spirit convicts us of the fact that we are sinners whose sin eternally separates us from God. In an act of grace, He gives us the gift of faith through which He enables us to believe the truth of the Gospel claims, convincing us of our need of salvation from this eternal separation from God, repent and receive the gift of salvation accomplished in the life and work of our Lord, Jesus Christ.

No human agency can claim the credit for our trust in Christ, even though they may have been the instrument God used to draw us to Himself, nor can we take the credit ourselves; it was ALL a work of God through His Spirit. Yet, as the evidence is presented to us, the Spirit opens our minds and allowing us to receive and believe the truth. The Holy Spirit uses our mind. This is a reasoned faith.

But something seems to happen to most of us once we are Christians; we put our minds in neutral and allow them to become sponges which unquestioningly, and naively, soak up the reasoning, or teaching, and directions of others. As a result, we Christians have become so used to being told what to believe, and to do, by human agency, that we have lost the ability to think for ourselves. In fact, we vacate the privileged position of being a priest unto the King.

That is clearly seen in the secular world by the fact that Christian voices are very much dimmed by vocal minorities whom governments listen and favourably respond to (2%in one area which is highly publicized ). Sadly, the same is markedly true in the local church scene.

We have not been good Bereans, which has allowed some to persuade us that they know what is best for the community of believers. The result is that an hierarchy, official or unofficial has developed, whom we have allowed to function as priests who still go behind the veil. We have forgotten that the veil was torn from top to bottom.

This leads to the unreasoned belief that we are part of an "organisation", which is really a tradition institutionalized. The priests, who go behind the veil, know what is best for everyone, and they "head" the organization. The "sheep" don't think, they simply do as they are told.

Organisation isn't the same as orderliness!

The fruits of the indwelling Spirit, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control, will lead to orderliness amongst a local assembly, that which Paul urges upon the Corinthians (1 Cor. 14:40).

I have seen many a community of claimed believers where these fruits were not evident, yet, they had great organisation, smoothness of function, but no orderliness. Arguments, disputes, divisions, cliches were very evident, but the organization ran like clockwork simply pretending that all was well.

Developing a local assembly of believers begins with local discipling. Discipling begins with individuals who have Holy Spirit empowered order in their lives, discipling other individuals, who emulate their discipler and what he/she teaches and models, who, in turn disciple others, which results in people who have order in their lives.

Genuine disciplers will never cause those they disciple to become dependent upon them, but upon the Word of God (Matt.4:4).

As Alan said, "I think I am going to continue to focus on people, and I think I am going to continue to point others toward building up people.....giving ourselves to people, not by growing (or starting) our organizations."

Discipling means quality time spent with individuals, and even small groups!