I've once heard that to a non-Christian, Jesus is interesting; to a nominal Christian, Jesus is useful; and to a true Christian, Jesus is irresistibly beautiful. How did this segregation arise?
The first time the word "Christian" appears in the Bible is in Acts 11:26, where "in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians." Jesus' disciples are therefore known as Christians in the early church. However, in today's context, being called a Christian does not necessarily mean one is a disciple of Christ.
Being a Christian means that you believe in Christ and are born again with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Being a disciple of Jesus goes beyond believing, being interested in or finding Jesus useful; a true disciple is willing to take up his cross, follow and obey Him daily, no matter the cost.
Unfortunately, there seems to be a discipleship deficit today. Many Christians believe in the right doctrines after hours of worship services and Bible studies, but do we truly follow Jesus with all our heart, mind, and strength? Does our soul find Jesus irresistibly beautiful?
How, then, can discipleship be made vital for every Christian in our church today?
What is Discipleship?
Discipleship is the process of reaching the lost with the Gospel and mentoring believers in their intimacy and walk with Christ; enabling them to become spiritual leaders so they can go forth and do likewise. It is grounding each Christian in solid, biblical worldview and equipping them with godly values so their entire being is centred on the Word of God. Discipleship demands intentionality and a relationship in which we invest in each person.
From Managing Events to Mentoring Relationships
We need to make sure we get our focus right. Some churches get caught up with running events for Christians that they forget about discipling them.
The church is meant to be a community of people set apart for God. Scriptures show that the early church was less focused on where and how it met for worship. Rather, the central focus was on how the followers of Christ lived and shared their lives.
The church should assemble to worship God and equip believers, without conforming to the pressure to entertain the crowds. When a church spends most of its time, energy and money putting on a weekly event, the pastors and leaders are too busy to develop a process to disciple each person.
Building such a process is what will lead to a multi-generational multiplication of fully devoted followers of Christ. Therefore, churches must develop a discipleship model that goes beyond programs to the intentional development of mentoring relationships.
We see models of such mentoring relationships in the Bible:
Paul - Timothy - Faithful People - Others (2 Timothy 2:1-2)
There are four generations of discipleship here. A spiritual parent/mentor (Paul) disciples his mentee (Timothy), who is then charged to disciple faithful men and women who in turn are able to disciple others.
Moses - Parents - Children - Children's Children (Deuteronomy 6:1-9)
God gave His commandments to Moses, who is instructed to teach them to the Israelites that they may pass them on to their children and their children’s children.
Starting from the Home
As God has commanded Moses and the Israelites, He is calling the church to strengthen families for the sake of making disciples. Because every disciple is part of a family, the church-the family of God-is actually a family of families.
The natural family faces multiple stress points today. Hence, the church needs to intentionally strengthen the family. The church also needs to make every home a centre for discipleship. Remember that God wants to bless all families of the earth through Abraham. (Genesis 12:3)
The family is the most important place to develop and disciple spiritual leaders. Families must nurture and model a living faith at home. Parents and grandparents are to intentionally disciple the younger generation because parenting is discipleship.
Discipleship happens naturally when Christians live in a community that is characterized by intimacy and authenticity. It is applying truth, rather than just talking about it. Discipleship is an intentional journey toward maturity in Christ.
Jesus calls us towards spiritual transformation - of ourselves and others. Disciples ask themselves if they are becoming more like Jesus, and disciple makers ask how they can make others into disciples of Jesus. Good Friday and Easter are now behind us, but may we find Jesus irresistibly beautiful each day, not just interesting or useful. He is the One worth following. And this is what makes a true Christian - a disciple of Jesus.
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