Reflecting on Discipleship
I have been thinking a lot about discipleship lately (since it is sort of my job description at City Church) and there is also a girth of material being written on the subject these days. There is no doubt that part of this is a reaction to discipleship not being done very well in the church (broadly speaking). Much of what evangelicals think is more caught than taught. There are various things that need could be addressed and various approaches, but this post has some initial observations I have made about what I have seen out there.
First, I do not consider this exhaustive, but just initial reflections. Second, ultimately discipleship needs to be rooted in a firm theological foundation of humanity and the salvation that God provides through Jesus Christ. Thirdly, this is basically an exploration not of the content, but the method. Lastly, you can tell I am an engineer since I made a chart.
The approaches I have seen essentially fall along two axises: 1) ranging from formal to informal, 2) ranging from group to individual focus. The each have their strengths and weaknesses which I put some of my first thoughts below. I invite anyone to provide additional thoughts and comments on what is basically the beginning… dare I say it… of a long conversation. Ultimately, the whole of a church’s ministry would hit these elements to different degrees. Thus, discipleship really is not a separate work of the church but constitutes everything that it does.
1) Broad Group Focus
- Reflects a highly corporate theology (our human commonality)
- Highly efficient
- Good for communicating lots of information everyone needs to know
- Assumes everyone is at the same place and has the same needs
- Limited effectiveness at engaging transformation of heart and hands
- Tendency to be homogeneous and difficult to incorporate diversity
2) Specific Individual Focus
- Reflects a individualistic theology (our human distinctiveness)
- Highly effective and customizable
- Good for addressing individual needs, gifts and growth areas
- Very inefficient and extremely time consuming
- Difficult to engage and review all the common beliefs and practices of the whole church
- Tendency will be to stress individual uniqueness and diversity
3) Formal Stages
- Recognizes a common growth path for many Christians (i.e. the “Spiritual Journey,” or from non-xian to Disciple Maker)
- Enables uniform teaching and training
- Can be so formal it neglects the role of the Spirit to guide and direct people’s growth and sanctification path
- Can neglect holistic transformation and need for ongoing and continual growth
- Tendency to compartmentalize sins
- Easy to replicate and train leaders
4) Informal Areas
- Stress on holistic growth in a variety of areas that combined incorporate the whole picture
- Recognizes different growth paths for each person or group of people
- More holistic view of depravity and gospel transformation
- Tendency to neglect treat all sins or growth areas as equal
- How in the world do you implement such a strategy?
- Difficult to train many to do and requires a high level of expertise for leaders