Discipleship – Beyond Conversion
I have been meditating lately on Jesus’ instruction to his followers is to go and make disciples.
“Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you”.
In particular the fact that He did NOT say make converts has been highlighted to me again. Conversion is the essential stage in becoming a disciple but that is only the ‘Event’ that starts a person on the road, indeed life, of discipleship. When people of Jesus time heard the word disciple they understood it in the context of that time. The Jewish Rabbis (teachers) had disciples and the goal of the disciple was to become like the teacher,
So when Jesus said “go and make disciples” people would have understood disciple as someone who was becoming like Him, and so should we. Many Evangelism programs stop at ‘making converts’ like scoring ‘notches on a gun belt’ whereas the new Christian must be helped on the road of discipleship which is a process not an event.
This is the area where the western church has become increasingly weak.
So the purpose of the new gospel communities that are the aim of the Unbounded Church concept, of whatever size, place and style, is not to bring them only to the point of conversion, so important though that is, and stop but to disciple them. This Jesus put in terms of teaching them to obey everything he had commanded.
There are four main dimensions to discipling.
1) To explain the gospel.
i) The human problem of sin and separation from God. (Genesis 3)
ii) The solution to that problem in Jesus and his death to remove our sin.
iii) The offer of ‘Adoption’ as a child of God. (Ephes 1:5)
iv) What a person needs to do to receive the benefits of the Cross and eternal life.
2) Teaching them to obey (through bible study) everything Jesus taught. The study of the Bible is the primary way God spiritually feeds His people.
3) To equip them for service. (Ephesians 4:11,12). That is to help them to discern and develop their spiritual gifts so they can pay their God-ordained role as an organ in the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12). This will include providing the necessary training.
4) To model discipleship. That is to do as I do not just as I say. As the Jewish Rabbis were role models to be copied by their disciples so should Christian disciplers be.
The Missional Community should be the place where new disciples are nurtured in faith. This should happen as they see the lifestyle modelled by more mature members of the group, both in what they say and in their activities, including missional activities.