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

serve as the Director of Advancement and Global Impact Churches with the Baptist World Alliance 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. My latest published work is the video-based Bible study Pursuing Holiness: Applications from James. 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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comment_post_ID); ?> Thank you Ed for sharing your insights into the Church Growth Movement. I have my reservations with Church Growth models because it has done more damage than good in the Body of Christ. Over the years, western churches are more focused on results, formulas and processes with little or no emphasis on membership and church discipline. Pastors and vocational leaders are burnt out because they're overworked. I do believe that the Church Growth model is a catalyst to two destructive groups: The New Apostolic Reformation and the Emerging Church. Both groups overlap and have a very loose definition. They're both focus on contemporary worship, expansion of church brand (franchising), and mobilizing volunteering members as 'leaders' to grow their ministry. Little focus on biblical study, apologetics and genuine missional work with no agenda besides preaching of the gospel.
— Dave
comment_post_ID); ?> Thank you for sharing such a good article. It is a great lesson I learned from this article. I am one of the leaders in Emmanuel united church of Ethiopia (A denomination with more-than 780 local churches through out the country). I am preparing a presentation on succession planning for local church leaders. It will help me for preparation If you send me more resources and recommend me books to read on the topic. I hope we may collaborate in advancing leadership capacity of our church. God Bless You and Your Ministry.
— Argaw Alemu
comment_post_ID); ?> Amen!!
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