Monday, May 23, 2011


In an experiment to better understand discipleship, I've made a miserable observation: Books with the term discipleship in them often stink. I've read two of these books recently, and rather than providing any clear teaching on the matter, I've been ferried down theological and historical streams that contribute nothing of practical value.

I'll provide an example, without naming the source (although, be certain, The Bible and Discipleship constitute its subtitle).

"Discipleship requires a whole new conversation in a church that has been too long accomodationist and at ease in the dominant values of culture that fly in the face of the purposes of God... Such disciplines intend and permit a drastic reorienting of one's life, an embrace of new practices, and most particularly, a departure from other loyalties that have seemed both legitimate and convenient" (pp. 95-96).

At first glance, this quotation offers some helpful background for a theology of discipleship.
  • First, it is the work of the church--ideally the Christian church.
  • Second, it calls the church out from the ideology of its larger culture.
  • Thirdly, being called out implies certain practices, called disciplines, that contrast church members from the common taxpayer in Cook County.
  • Finally, what sustains this distinct lifestyle is a greater loyalty to God than the gods of convenience and popular opinion.

Later the author lists, with little definition, the "practices" of a disciple--teaching, fellowship, breaking of bread, and prayer--as observed in Acts 2:42. Shortly thereafter, the chapter ends, as does the book's explicit teaching on discipleship. Next chapter: Citizens versus consumers.

To be fair, this is one example, but I run up against this time and time again when looking for specific, practical guidance on a given topic. The fine art of joining theological foundation with practical application rarely surfaces in printable form. Moralism abounds in the Christian bookstore. Scholasticism reigns in the Seminary library.

What I'm looking for is a text that blends truth with exhortation. Maybe I'm looking too hard.

"Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations...teaching them to obey all that I've commanded you..." (Matthew 28:19-20).

1 comment:

Ed said...

'...make disciples...' I know the ingredients to make a cake or a cabinet but what are ingredients to 'make' disciples? Here is my short list of ingredients...

Time - spend time with Jesus and people
People - a large serving of relationships is necessary
Focus - point ourselves and our friend to Jesus in all we do
Transparency - being real will help the relationships to rise
Sharing - feeding others the Truth that impacts my life is fun

Mix it all together, get the dirt of life under your fingernails, wait for faith to rise and then send out disciples immediately - don't let them cool down before serving :-)

I so enjoy making disciples together with you Tim. I encourage you in, and I am encouraged by your pursuit of Him.