My Mission and Calling: Discipleship
My Mission and Calling: Discipleship
Foundations of Pastoral Leadership
Professor - Doug Vaughan
May 2, 2017
Discipleship is a massive hole in the church leading many in the faith to fall away from accepting the gospel, fall away after accepting Christ, and backslide after having started participating in the church. This topic is important to me as God has opened my eyes to understand it’s importance and has taught me how to effectively fight this shortcoming in the church.
New believers find themselves in a church where they are not family, but an outsider. They receive sermons like everyone else and perhaps a Bible study once a week, but most of this stuff doesn’t make sense. They lack the fundamental foundations that our faith is built on. They lack the lessons that we all learned the hard way, and they lack a general sense of motivation as IF they have experienced the power of God, thus far it has been limited to a few experiences at best. We all know that even powerful experiences with God can be forgotten quickly. Read through Exodus and see how quickly God’s people completely forgot God’s amazing power and provision. We are sheep, and God had to institute festivals and feasts to be observed yearly just to keep His promises and wondrous works fresh in our minds. We expect these new Christians to hold tightly to what so many before them were unable to. All the while, the entire world is going the opposite direction and encouraging them to do the same.
If these new believers manage to hold on long enough to grow roots, they have huge holes in their theology, as they get at best a key concept a week. These are the believers who instead of sharing the gospel with someone resort to inviting them to church so pastors can share the gospel with them instead. What happens when they do come to church and the gospel is not shared? What if they’re in a series exploring text and the gospel is not connected? They get some Scripture, lacking the exhortation, and they move on having simply experienced another typical Sunday at another typical church. The system is broken. Christians no longer know how to share the gospel with someone, and if, by chance they do, they have no idea what to do next.
Christians are engaging in relationship with non-believers, continuing to use drugs and abuse alcohol, struggle with pornography, and appear to the world as though there is nothing different or special about this “Christian”. The world is quickly losing respect for Christians, the Bible, and for God because they see us compromising all over the place, or even worse, they see us judging the world and spewing hate at those who are not walking according to God’s word. Even worse, in order to combat this loss of respect, some churches have softened their message to bring more people in and keep them there. This leads the world to see the church as spineless, lacking conviction, and thus see our God as shallow and weak.
Churches hold discipleship classes, teaching people the Holy Trinity and calling it good, sending the Christian back home with a check in a box on their church membership checklist. The church expects members to tithe, but most have no idea why they would do that, and some don’t even know it’s expected. They think it’s optional. If they did, they don’t know where that tithe is going or what its purpose is. Churches expect people to step up and serve and become leaders, but no one is training leaders. No one is explaining to these believers that they are a vital member of the body of Christ, with gifts and talents that are unique to them. They don’t understand the body and they don’t understand the members.
Because of this, leaders are in short supply and pastors are facing burnout left and right. I don’t recall where I heard it, perhaps a Baptist organization that supplies church statistics, but we in the U.S. are actually closing churches faster than we are building them. I believe this decline is more based on this shortcoming in discipleship than anything else. Coupled with discipleship is a Christian’s ability to both share the gospel and make disciples, and the average Christian has no clue about either as they have never been disciple and couldn’t even tell you what that means.
My training began in San Diego at a T4T conference and training seminar. I spent days there learning what disciples are and how a disciple is made. I met a guy named Jake McDonnell who was pastoring a crazy plant church that was reaching out to multiple cultures in the city simultaneously. This guy was on fire in a way I’d never seen before, chasing down people in love and desperation much the same way I think Jesus would do in our day and age. I stayed at his house and got to know him on a personal level. The hospitality and love he showed me was shocking. It was like we’d been brothers our whole life. His fearlessness in the presence of cultural opposition and previous generations’ failures was nowhere to be seen, and the passion inside him radiated like a light… on a hill… drawing people in. No compromises. No sugar coating. Just love and fearlessness.
The system I learned was flawed in more ways that I can count, but it was a start, and Jake ignited in me a flame that has burned bright since. As I learn here in school, study in Scripture, and work with my pastor and mentor, it only grows brighter and stronger. My goal now is to fix this fundamental flaw in the church one disciple at a time. I hope that in time the system I’m working on will spread to other churches, and I will be happy to sacrifice my time, energy, and resources to my infection spread as far and wide as God will allow.
Since I have started to intentionally disciple Christians, I have found that some are in fact hungry and have been waiting for someone to disciple them. Others are absolutely willing to step into this environment, but the leader must be fearless and tell them plainly what discipleship is, why it is important, and what it will look like. No sugar coating. No coaxing. Just plain and simple. We’ve grown so fearful of rejection in the world that it has creeped into the church and we sugar coat things even with each other. It’s time that we stand on God’s word in confidence, assume the role that He has called us to, fulfill the mission He has given us, and take responsibility for our words and our actions. We are loved, and there is more grace and mercy pouring out on us that we could ever exhaust, but these are reasons to push harder and farther, not relax. This is important. These are people; families. The very thing Jesus gave His life for. The best way that a disciple of Jesus can honor Him is to do exactly what He did: lay down your life for others. This doesn’t mean you have to die. It just means that your life comes second, and that person, whoever it is… their life is more important. You’re saved. You have salvation, mercy, grace, and eternal life. You will reign over the earth alongside the One who did ALL the work for you… without your help. These people… they don’t have that. They have no hope, no peace, no joy. They have desperation, pain, hurt, bitterness, resentment, and hate. I vow to spend the rest of my life changing that. There is hope. His name is Jesus, and I am His disciple.