Previously, I have (1) explored defining a destination for the task of disciple making, (2) proposed a four-step process for the task, and (3) described the first two of those steps. Basically, those editorials covered the part of disciple making during which a disciple remains spiritually self-centered. In the paragraphs that follow, I venture farther, covering two more ideas. First, a discernible and definitive shift splits the spiritual growth process into two segments. Second, churches cooperating to make disciples must practice flexibility with each other. Ministers and church members need to practice humility, learn from each other and not disagree too heartily when plans differ. So, here goes.
Idea one. At some point, growing believers shift from limited concern about their own godliness to concern for the godliness of others. I see it happen in a sequence, others see it occur organically, but we both see it. Somewhere within the growth process, growing believers add spiritual concern for others alongside their spiritual concern for themselves. They never stop caring about themselves. But, establishing healthy spiritual habits enables them to devote attention to helping others along the journey. In the shift, they discover evangelistic burdens and abilities and increasingly desire to help other saints grow. The shift marks a believer’s transition from being a consumer Christian to being a producer Christian.
Before the shift, believers respond to opportunities saying, “I can’t,” or, “That’s not my skill set.” I send back a hearty, “Not yet.” I know God’s intentions and where He is taking them. Eventually, they will master caring for themselves at a level that yields extra spiritual attention they can invest in others. Failing to make the shift can happen without a good mentor or without solid spiritual assistance. Churches must purpose to guide believers past the realm of “me” into the realm of “others.”
Idea two. Cooperating together necessitates addressing the “humility” component of disciple making. I’m not right, and neither is someone else. Only Jesus is right. Some pastors see disciple making sequentially, like I see four steps. For others, the process is circular. Still others describe disciple making as an ad hoc process whose organization resembles a bowl of spaghetti. Essentially, we must agree that disciple making has to occur and that churches must pursue it. People, somehow, must become more and more conformed to the image of Jesus. Evangelism meshes inseparably with disciple making. The two are a single journey. How churches do disciple making will vary, but facilitating that journey is the Church’s assignment.
I like my four-part definition of a spiritual champion. Yet, I recently heard a three-component, very different and theologically compelling description. Was four more right than three? I don’t think so. Yet, ministers and churches easily argue over such things. I discovered my approach thoughtfully, like others discovered their approaches. Each of us is committed to having a plan and doing something. That is God at work!
My approach consistently produces disciples. I also watch other disciple makers do the same task very differently with similar consistent results. Some churches create grand, detailed programs. Others feel their way along with each new believer, seeing what works for him or her. The litmus test of disciple making is Christlikeness. Every disciple-making plan must produce disciples or be discarded. Talon Noh, Mountain Valley Baptist Church’s pastor, describes disciples as believers who submit to the word of Christ, reflect the character of Christ and engage in the mission of Christ. I would say it with four pieces; he uses three. But, we’re both talking about the same thing. However we do it, sameness of approach isn’t as important as effectiveness. Disciple making must produce disciples!
Crossing the Lines
The ideas behind this blog emerged from my study and preaching of a message I titled "A Single Step." It was an unexpected message out of Philippians 2:12-18. I'm the one who was surprised. I had a whole different idea of where the sermon would go. Then, I got into the text and followed it. That led, eventually, to the response by individuals after the message. God worked in me and in our congregation. He's still at work.
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