These Three Things Are Not Disicipleship

If you want to solve a problem, you have to know there is a problem. When it comes to discipleship, we need to understand the bad definitions that persist in order to propose a better way. In this post, I want to point out the three bad definitions for discipleship that you need to recognize and move past.

book stacks

Knowledge Transfer
Discipleship must be rooted in truth but it must never be quarantined to a library. Too often, our discipleship programs in church are simply an overwhelming number of classroom settings. We convince ourselves that knowing more biblical factoids means holiness. But knowing that Malchus was the servant who got his ear cut off by Peter during Jesus’ arrest will not help you live more fully for God. It is good to know all of the details of the Bible but it is not the sum total of discipleship. We must communicate truth but never stop with 3-ring binders filled with class notes.


Behavior Modification
Do you recognize this Medieval torture device implemented by music teachers? The metronome has an unwavering beat that frightens school children into doing things on time, repeatedly, and without hesitation whether they are passionate or not. Discipleship programs that ignore our passions damage the soul. If we only seek to make people moral then we reduce God to an impersonal being that only wants robotic followers. Behavior modification is easier than heart transformation. It is neater, cleaner, and avoids the mess of dealing with people’s passions. But it is also temporary.


Plasticized Spirituality
Go to any state fair and you’ll find a line stretching out to the horizon filled with children waiting their turn to ride on the Carousel. It enraptures a child’s imagination of flying through the air on a powerful steed. It also reflects too much of our what passes for discipleship in the church. The lights are bright. The music is upbeat. Everyone is moving. Everyone is smiling. But no one is going anywhere. We allow people to live fake lives before one another rather than sharing the truth of how we’ve been brutalized by sin and redeemed by Christ. The carousel is a temporary thrill that has no lasting impact.

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Philip Nation

Philip Nation

I serve as the pastor at First Baptist Church of Bradenton, Florida and frequently speak at churches and conferences. I earned a Master of Divinity from Beeson Divinity School and a Doctor of Ministry from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. In 2010-2012, I was the national spokesperson for the Back to Church Sunday campaign from Outreach. Over the years, I’ve served as a pastor, minister of education, and a church planter. In 2016, I published Habits for Our Holiness: How the Spiritual Disciplines Grow Us Up, Draw Us Together, and Send Us Out with Moody Publishers. I’ve coauthored two other books: Compelled: Living the Mission of God and Transformational Discipleship: How People Really Grow. I was also the general editor of The Mission of God Study Bible. Along the way, I have written the small-group studies Storm Shelter: Psalms of God’s Embrace, Compelled by Love: The Journey to Missional Living and Live in the Word, plus contributed to The Great Commission Resurgence: Fulfilling God’s Mandate in Our Lifetime.

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Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> I like it Mac and do agree with your opinions on the matter. Thanks much
— winston
comment_post_ID); ?> In this era, we have the opportunity of professional church staff today who utilize their gifting to shape the image and atmosphere of the church organization. But the 100% real impact on the church visitors is genuine evidence of changed lives by the gospel and the active growing discipleship (just as it was in the first century church). One demonstration is financially rich believers ministering equally together with poor believers (how odd, and incredibly miraculous; all humble and bow at the foot of the cross.). It is the awesome contrast of church members vocations, race, gender, age, maturity, gifting, humility that demonstrates to visitors "there is a Spirit in the place". That first-time guest list of 10 are "physical excuses", not spiritual excuses. Those don't tell the story. The condition of facilities and publicly greeting people have zero to do with it. The power of God in and through believers lives dedicated to impact other people with their relationship bridge-building of acceptance of the lost around them. Empowered believers are infectious, loving, helpful, giving, self-less, dynamic, compelling, bold, Christ-filled. As I have been in many church settings domestically and internationally, the facilities can be poor, and yet the fellowship can still be rich. We need to operate with first church humility. People come to Christ on His terms, not on our human abilities of hospitality. A huge catastrophe in a community, disaster relief brings lots of people into churches – many come to the church in those terrible conditions no matter the physical condition of the local church. Off the condition of facility, and onto the condition of God's people (living stones).... and everything else will grow.... and the other physical issues will be corrected by the staff.
— Russ Wright
comment_post_ID); ?> "While I understand the intent behind this phrase" Expound please. What do you understand to be the intent behind that phrase?
— Ken

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