When I say “We” I refer to the church. I count myself in that clan. I grew up going to church every Sunday. Our family attended church Sunday morning, Sunday night, Wednesday night, and any other time something was going on at the church.
That wasn’t a negative thing for me. It was my extended family. We did a lot of life together with other families. Many Godly men and women influenced my life in positive ways.
Looking back I recognize something that has become engrained in today’s church culture. It’s the idea that once a person “prays a prayer” of salvation, the job is complete. Now just keep hanging around the church, and you will be okay.
I prayed a “prayer of salvation” at the age of seven. I have a Bible with the date written in my seven-year-old handwriting in the front cover. I found the Bible on my bookshelf. Take a look!
I have to admit that’s stinking cute.
But have we changed what it means to be a disciple?
What is Discipleship?
When I say “discipleship”, I mean “teaching a new believer how to follow Jesus Christ.”
The best way I know to disciples another person is by doing life together. Eating, working, playing. Knowing, disagreeing, forgiving. That is hard to do if we see each other for only 2-3 hours a week. And especially if those few hours are spent in some kind of classroom environment.
Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the intellectual study of what it means to be a follower of Christ. And on occasion my life is changed after a discussion in a Bible study or listening to a sermon.
But when you add to that living alongside other believers in consistent, authentic community, discipleship truly happens. What it looks like to follow Christ daily is modeled.
How do I relate to my spouse and my kids as a Christ follower? What does it look like in my vocation? What about when life is challenging? How does a follower of Jesus Christ interact with the world around him or her?
It’s one thing to learn the ways of Jesus in a classroom, listening to a preacher along with a few hundred others, or even over a cup of coffee. But it’s a whole other thing to learn His ways when we are in the midst of living life with other Christ followers.
I think the reason this isn’t a priority in many churches today is because we have lowered the bar of what it means to be a disciple of Christ.
How have we lowered that bar?
- We put a focus on “praying the prayer.” I know that moment of decision is important. We all have to make it sooner or later whether we will follow Jesus Christ. But I think it’s more of a process than it is a moment in time. We become followers of Christ. Even if we do have a date written inside the front cover of our Bible. What is as equally important, if not more so, is if someone teaches us by modeling a life with Jesus life written on the inside of their heart.
- We equate church attendance to following Jesus Christ. A lot of good things happen at church. Or at least they should. Fellowship. Bible study. Worship. Service. The challenge is that if we over-emphasize church attendance, we model and teach a segmented life. This is how you live when you are at church and with church friends. And that is how you live when you are everywhere else; home, work, school, at play. That creates good church attenders, not necessarily disciples.
- We lack authentic, life-on-life community. Unless you have found a smaller group of people within your church that you can live life with, attendance at church once or twice a week at the most, will not make disciples. How many of your church friends are you close enough to that you feel comfortable just dropping by their home or them dropping in on you at your home? If you feel like you have to spend a couple of hours cleaning your house before anyone comes over then you don’t have any friends like that.
Raising the bar of discipleship.
Raising the bar of discipleship isn’t a painful process. It is an intentional shift in the way we live our lives.
- It will take rearranging priorities. Yes, you will have to remove some things from your schedule.
- It will mean allowing others to really know you. I can look like the perfect husband and father to those I go to church with each week for a couple of hours. But if they do more life with me, they will see me also when I blow it.
- It will have immediate opportunities to apply what you learn about following Jesus Christ. Rather than intellectual knowledge that is easily stored away until the next Bible study, a disciple applies what he or she learns to every facet of their life.
Will you take a look at your life along with me and see where we need to return to what God calls a disciple?
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