My usual practice on Monday mornings is to take some extra time for devotional study and to pray for the entire congregation. The other Monday I was looking back in my prayer journal when I realized that I had been praying for improvement for some areas in my life for over twenty years!
Not too long ago, Mary and I traveled to the Atlanta area for the Memorial Service of Drew Parsons. During the service, I was deeply touched by the testimonies of four or five men who shared the impact that Drew had had on their lives. One man in particular, before sharing, bent over before the podium with emotion, and you can be sure he had my full attention! As I listened to these testimonies, I was reminded of the importance of discipleship in the church, and I grew in my resolve to restart our Thursday evening men’s group.
How does the first paragraph connect with the others? Carey Nieuwhof (http://careynieuwhof.com) gives great insights in his article “How the Church Today is Getting Discipleship Wrong.” In this article, he leads off by stating, “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.” Then he goes on to say, “When it comes to much of the discussion around discipleship, I believe we’re getting it wrong in the church. We’re stuck.” Let me add that I think women in the church generally do a better job of discipling or encouraging each other to grow in the faith, than men! We have two ladies’ Bible studies that are well-attended and seem to be growing! So, as I prepared this letter, I wanted to have us rethink discipleship for men to some extent, based on what he shares about authentic discipleship.
First, Jesus commanded us to make disciples, not be disciples. As Nieuwhof shares, “The great commission is, at its heart, an outward movement. So, following example of Jesus, and our ladies, we as men need to be more about helping each other.
Second, discipleship is linked to evangelism. You can’t be a disciple without being an evangelist, and you can’t be an evangelist without being a disciple. But somehow many professing believers would rather be disciples without being evangelists!
Third, a mark of an authentic disciple includes getting it wrong. We tend to criticize larger churches for their doctrinal looseness, for example. Yet the early church was built on Peter, who definitely need correction! We can’t let fear of errors, freeze our ability to grow!
Fourth, a morally messy church is in some ways inevitable. No, this does not mean that we are to encourage sin! But at the same time, a growing church is bound to have a lot of “sinners” and as long as we are discipling them, this is actually a sign of progress!
Fifth, spiritual maturity takes time and is not always accomplished in a “straight line” fashion, so we must not judge people by where they may be now, but on where they’re headed spiritually!
Sixth, Christian maturity was never about how you compare to others, anyway. It is about Jesus. And it is about others, but it’s not about you.
Seventh, the love of Jesus for the world should compel us and be our primary motivation for evangelism and discipleship.