In parenting, in gardening, in planning a vacation…in a majority of the everyday tasks we do, beginning with the end in mind is the smart thing to do. It just makes sense. It doesn’t mean you’ll be able to accomplish the envisioned end, but it means you’ll have a clear idea of when you’re not getting there. It doesn’t mean you’ll know how to get there, but it guides you into the kinds of learning you’ll need to do to get there.
Beginning with the end in mind when it comes to the local church’s mission to make disciples is a noble goal. It’s wise. Prudent. Better than a shotgun approach. And yet it’s insanely difficult for one local church to, together, narrow in on what Scripture says a disciple looks like.
Richard Foster’s helpful book, Streams of Living Water, characterizes six “streams” of Christianity. Gary Thomas’ book, Sacred Pathways, details nine ways that you and I connect to God. And local churches, regardless of denomination, are no longer homogenous in regards what people expect of discipleship. Individual members of churches may have great sway in shaping what that particular congregation envisions a disciple to be. Whether through decisions on programming or a leader’s own spiritual formation, a local church begins to hammer out what it means to be a disciple. And these are just a few of the factors that go into the discussion.
One other factor might be this: Is it practical to think this way? Prudent? Yes. But practical? No. It is far more practical to “do church” and hope that what we produce is men and women who look and act like Jesus.
In this next series of posts, I’m attempting to buck practicality and lay out a vision for who a disciple is and what kinds of fruit he or she produces. The ontological (being) and teleological (doing) aspects of discipleship.
The first ontological aspect:
Jesus’ disciples become disciples because He calls them. They are called. They answer his call to follow by dropping everything even though they do not understand fully the ramifications of following Him. They find their worth in the calling Jesus has placed on their lives, not in how others have turned them down in the past (Matt. 4:18-22).
Jesus tells His disciples just before His death that He chose them; they did not choose Him. While I think those words are limited to the original twelve, Christ continues to call us to Himself. We do not decide to become disciples out of the blue; we do not sign up for taking up a cross and dying to self because that sounds nice. We answer the call because it is Christ who calls us, and we have chosen to trust Him, even if it is with faith the size of a mustard seed.
Christ calls everyone on the planet to discipleship. His call is not limited to a few, His grace is not limited to a few. There may be few who answer, but all are called.