Have We Misunderstood What It Means to Be a Disciple? – 5 Takeaways from Verge 2013

Last Friday and Saturday I attended Verge 2013 in Austin, Texas. If you are not familiar with Verge, here is how they describe themselves on their website :

Verge Network champions movements of gospel-centered missional communities and missional leaders by offering timely and topical information, video, interviews, articles and on-going dialogue about living on mission, in community, centered around the gospel.

by Kenneth A Camp

by Kenneth A Camp

I enjoyed the two days of worship and talks from many missional leaders and practitioners. I attended the first Verge conference 3 years ago when I was still on staff at a church. This time I am not on staff. I am working on being a writer now. So, I filtered everything by how I could apply it to my personal lifestyle.

David Platt, author of Radical, asked the question, “Have we misunderstood what it means to be a disciple?” A powerful and appropriate question.

I grew up in a time when preachers made it easy to “become a christian.” Just pray a simple pray, and bingo, you are in like skin.  It seemed that the focus was on making sure you did not go to hell. But is that really what a disciple is all about?

Discipleship in the context of missional communities was the theme of the conference. I realize that some may not know what I mean by “missional community.” Basically it is a group of Christ followers that live life together focused on the mission of God.

Here are 5 takeaways I had from the conference:

  1. Stop wading and dive in. A disciple commits his whole life to the person they are following. A disciple abandons his own agenda, comfort, possession, etc. to follow their Lord. We seek a comfort zone hoping that we will be safe in our Christianity. 
  2. Share life with people. The big question is , who do I associate with? Invite people into your life. As they see how you live life following Jesus, they will learn who He is. Religious leaders accused Jesus of associating with the despised of his culture – tax collectors, prostitutes, and sick. He was guilty. Are we guilty by association?
  3. It is about Jesus. Christianity without Christ is dangerous. Seems obvious, but many who claim to be Christians do not know Jesus personally. Sadly, for many pastors and church leaders, their ministry is more important to them than their relationship with Jesus Christ. This creates a toxic church culture. The culture becomes moralistic, theistic at best. Think about how we counsel people to parent, steward money, make business decisions.
  4. Incarnation respects not overwhelm culture. In the truest sense of the word, incarnation refers to God entering fleshly form. Of course, we are not gods, but we follow the pattern of Jesus. As we share life with people, we enter their context. It may be a very different culture than ours.
  5. Is it supernatural? Dave Gibbons asked the question, “Who is driving the car?”  Many other speakers warned to not try to disciple others if we attempt to do so in our own power. Only the Holy Spirit can change lives. If we are not empowered by His Spirit, then we make disciples of something or someone else. No wonder so many find church boring today. If people are in wonder and awe of the powerful presence of God, they are drawn to Jesus Christ.

Like any conference, I received way more than I can process with you in a few minutes. Bottom line for me is that I want to be a true disciple of Christ. I want to know Him not just about Him. Find me guilty of association.

Question for you? Have you misunderstood what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ?

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I am a longtime Austinite. Married my beautiful wife over 25 years ago. Adopted our son September 2012. Currently a writer and loving it. Previous jobs and careers include project management, missionary, and pastor. I enjoy sports (both watching and playing), traveling, reading, digging in dirt and hanging with my friends and family.

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4 thoughts on “Have We Misunderstood What It Means to Be a Disciple? – 5 Takeaways from Verge 2013

  1. It seems that I need to re-evaluate my understanding of “Christian” every few months. I am in regular discussion with non-believers who challenge my clichés and force me to articulate my defense of my faith without the christian-ese. I am also in regular battle with my flesh which challenges my assumptions of what discipleship-in-the-moment looks like. The bottom line is that the cotton-candy Christianity that we learned in 1980’s America just doesn’t cut it. As my friend Richard puts it, this life is not a playground; it’s a battleground.

    • Hey bro,
      Living life with friends who do not follow Christ, at least yet, definitely challenge our verbiage. That is a good thing I think. I use the “1980’s” term a lot to describe the church culture we see today that is not relevant to the culture in which we live.

  2. Amen! I have no doubt we have missed the mark. The evidence is everywhere. If all who say they are Christians really have been born again their lives would reflect that and we would not have so many simply Sunday Christians. A true encounter with Christ changes everything about you, on afraid there is going to be a vast majority of people who are terribly surprised when they stand before the judgment seat and are told, “Depart from me, I never knew you.”

    • Hey Chris. Sadly, you are most likely correct. I am motivated personally to devote my life to Him. Our culture influences us to seek comfort rather than commitment.