Maturity takes time and is not linear. It would be great if there was instant maturity in faith and in life. But it never works that way. You can’t expect a 3 year old to have the maturity of a 13 year old, or expect a 23 year old to have the maturity of a 43 year old. When you place expectations on people that they are just not able to bear, you crush or confuse them. And yet we do that in the church all the time. People grow and mature over time.
One of the ways you know you’re making progress is that you stop having the same discussion over and over again.
If you’re discussing the same issues on your team or at home year after year, you’re probably stuck.
When it comes to much of the discussion around discipleship, I believe we’re getting it wrong in the church.
What if the popular understanding of discipleship is producing some of the ill health and even stagnation and decline we see all around us in the church?
And what if you could do something about it by rethinking what you mean by discipleship?
Different Day, Same Conversation
From my earliest days in ministry, I’ve had a conversation about discipleship that repeats itself again and again.
It goes like something like this:
Me: People need to reach out more and focus more of their time, energy and resources on evangelism.
Other person(s): That’s a great idea but what we really need to focus on is discipleship. There’s such an immaturity in Christians today that we need to focus on growing the ones we have first. And besides, evangelical churches are known for producing shallow, immature Christians.
Pretty compelling logic.
Unless, of course, it’s wrong.
I agree that often Christians in the West are immature. I agree our walk doesn’t always match our talk.
But I also think the average North American Christian is about 3000 bible verses overweight.
The way many leaders approach maturity is to assume that knowledge produces maturity. Since when?
It’s wonderful that people understand what they believe, but knowledge in and of itself is not a hallmark of Christian maturity. As Paul says, knowledge puffs up. Love, by contrast, builds up. And some of the most biblically literate people in Jesus day got by-passed as disciples.
The goal is not to know, but to do something with what you know. I wrote more on why our definition of Christian maturity needs to change here.
7 Truths About Authentic Discipleship
Here are seven things I believe are true about biblical discipleship church leaders today should reclaim:
- Jesus commanded us to makedisciples, not be disciples.
The way many Christian talk, you’d think Jesus told us to be disciples. He commanded us to make disciples. The great commission is, at it’s heart, an outward movement.
Could it be that in the act of making disciples, we actually become more of who Christ designed us to be? It was in the act of sharing faith that thousands of early Christians were transformed into new creations.
I know personally I grow most and learn most when I am helping others. It gives me a place to apply what I’m learning and to take the focus off myself and place it on Christ and others, where it belongs.
- Discipleship is simply linked to evangelism.
The thrust of all first century discipleship was to share Christ with the world he loves and died for (yes, Jesus really does love the world).
You can’t be a disciple without being an evangelist.
And for sure, the opposite is true. You can’t be an an evangelist without being a disciple. But somehow many many people would rather be disciples without being evangelists.