Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Responses to Discipleship Questions

Yesterday, I had someone send me an email with 4 questions regarding discipleship and my thoughts on the subject. This was an interview they were doing for a class at a University. I thought I would share what I shared with this person. The 4 questions were:

1. How do you define being a "disciple"?
2. What is your vision for how Clearview can "make disciples" (strategies, methods, materials used, etc.)?
3. How do you evaluate success on an individual or corporate level?
4. What advice would you give to a minister just getting started and designing a discipleship program?

And my 4 responses were:

1. A disciple is one who has chosen to follow Christ, taking seriously what Christ said as well as what Christ did. If a person's life has not been changed and if it is not being changed daily by their relationship to Christ, they cannot call themselves His disciple. I would add something here we miss badly in American (Western) Christianity. If a person is not reproducing themselves in others they cannot call themselves a disciple. This is the entire meaning of the Great Commission. The Great Commission was not given to an organiztaion (the church) it was given to each of us as individuals.

2. Disciples are made through various types of accountable relationships focused on God's Word as the content of discussions as people do life together. This may be through 1 on 1 mentoring. This can be in a small group of people who know, love, and trust one another. Currently, we have a number of various kinds of these groups taking place in the life of ClearView. One thing for sure, discipleship is not a simple program. It is life on life. As far as curriculum is concerned, it must be Scripture driven if it is going to make disciples. I have seen a lot of topical stuff that is like eating cotton candy (and it gives the same result). I am not saying you can't start with a topic, but it must drive the person / group to dig into The Word or it is useless for discipleship. Discipleship is not about having some good "discussions" about our opinions. It must be about finding God's heart on the matter which can only be done by digging into God's Word.

3. This is tough. Evaluation of a heart is something only God can do. At best, we can observe behavior. For example, we still do not see the level of personal evangelism (a behavior of a disciple of Christ) on a broad basis that we should see. I still see individuls, families and marriages struggling in ways followers of Christ should not struggle. We have pockets of health, but overall, we have a long way to go as a church. One thing for sure, I do not consider numerical growth in any program (Bible studies or SS classes) as an accurate measure of discipleship. However, I do long to see MORE people involved in these opportunities that may help in discipleship. Hope that makes sense.

4. Start everything with HIGH accountability. We do not set the bar high enough as we begin discipleship. Jesus set the bar at the top when He said, "If you want to be My disciple, you must take up your cross daily ... you must hate mother, father, brother, etc. ..." We have dumbed down what it means to be a true Christ follower and as a result we have anemic churches made up of people who will one day cry out, "Lord, Lord, we cast out demons in your name ..." and He will say to them, "I never knew you". In my opinion, everything a church does depends on its intensity of its disciple making.