Being & Building Followers & Friends of Jesus
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That has transformed your thinking about discipleship.
The Company of the Committed (1961) and The Incendiary Fellowship (1967) by Elton Trueblood claimed my attention at the beginning of the year.
I've been grieved in recent years that so many in our churches are in what I call "The Christian Reserve Corps." They essentially say, "Reserve me a place in heaven when I die, but don't expect me to do anything until I get there." These folks don't realize that a call to salvation is also a call to be on mission with God.
I remember the days back in the 1970s and 1980s when a movement of renewal was taking place in churches as the "laity" were being stirred and equipped for ministry. Ephesians 4:11-16 was a focus of many messages. In 1986 I went to work with Avery Willis, author of MasterLife, to help develop resources for the LIFE Learning System (the Lay Institute For Equipping). Avery's vision was to provide a seminary quality education for lay people to be equipped for ministry in everyday life. Experiencing God was one of those books. I remember in those days hearing and seeing the name Elton Trueblood. These two books by Trueblood were frequently quoted. Many saw Trueblood as one of the pioneers in this movement to renew the church through a renewal of the whole body of Christ. I decided to investigate this pioneer's message.
The weaknesses of Western Christianity and the causes he described in the 1960s seem to be accentuated and most contemporary today. His biblical solutions that were so encouraging to the sleeping giant of the laity in the churches of the 1960s, have renewed a hope in me that those ancient solutions could still be used of God to restore a renewal of vital Christianity today! I'm a "prisoner of hope" (Zechariah 9:12).
I'm still digesting these messages with a prayer that our spiritual leaders will become effective equippers of the saints for the work of ministry of building of the body of Christ until the whole body grows up into the full measure of Christ as EVERY member does its work. I recommend these two books for those eager to see a renewal of vital Christianity in our day.
It used to be that when I heard about "discipleship," I only thought of the "knowledge" component. Perhaps I got that misconception from Christian bookstores where the discipleship section was basically filled with books on Bible studies of various scriptural books or themes.
But then I began to realize that Jesus' process of discipleship with the 12 was much more than a Bible study. In addition to knowledge, He stressed prayer, relationships, character, and engagement in ministry. It turns out that the knowledge component of discipleship is often much easier than these other 4 aspects. It's like studying for a test and getting the right answers. But the Bible is full of examples of people who could quote Biblical precepts without being conformed to the image of Christ and their Heavenly Father.
Likewise, as Dawson Trotman of Navigators used to say, disciples are "born to reproduce." Many professing Christians are barren of any kind of significant reproduction, which is very sad.
I pray that we will recapture more of Jesus' model in the years ahead.
I'm actually still waiting for a resource to help me re-imagine discipleship. I became a Christian through Young Life and was on staff for 14 years. I have been greatly influenced by the Navigators and the discipling resources they have put out over the years, as well as Ken Boa, John Piper and the Puritans.
After being on staff at a church and working with adults I am seeing that the discipleship process is not always constrained to a one on one regular meeting. While I think we still need to do that I am also seeing and watching people grow as disciples through their suffering, service, through their trials and relationships. The means of grace and spiritual disciplines all play a vital role in our discipleship process but I'm just now trying to sort out how best to help people go deeper with Christ over the long haul. I'm feeling like the discipleship process is more complex than I used to make it out to be.
I'm looking forward to reading what others are saying in this thread.
I think it's Bill Hull who says, "The gospel you preach determines the kind of disciples you get." We have crowds of discipleship-optional "Christians" because we preach a discipleship-optional, forgiveness-only gospel. Two books that have helped me re-think the gospel in this sense are Hull's "Discipleship Gospel" and Scot McKnight's "The King Jesus Gospel." Right now, I'm using Greg Ogden's "Essential Guide to Becoming a Disciple" as an 8-week launch pad for small men's and women's discipleship groups in my church. Ogden's "Discipleship Essentials" is also useful in some contexts. Dallas Willard's writings (particularly "Divine Conspiracy" and "Renovation of the Heart") have been essential foundational reading for me on spiritual formation and disciple-making. We also use the tried-and-true Navigators Topical Memory System.