When most people think about church they might think Sunday morning worship, Sunday School, and perhaps a morning ritual of eating a big breakfast. When I’m sharing my faith with someone, I often start with this question: “Do you have a church home you attend regularly?” More times than not, I hear the same litany of answers. “We used to go, but don’t attend as much as we’d like.” “Yeah, I go to church at ___________Baptist.” (But can’t tell me the name of the pastor.) “My mom used to take me, but as soon as I was on my own I quit.”
There are two glaring problems in evangelical Christianity today regarding the way most people (I would say those who label themselves as Christians) think regarding church and their church experience.
The former might be a post for another time, but the latter is for today.
I’ve learned that much of the problem stems from our pastors and church leadership. Pastors have not been discipled, therefore do not know how and are not providing an example for the rest of the church. “This is where our seminaries have failed us” some will say. I would make a different argument: this is where our past and present church culture has failed us. It is the job of the church and the Christians who make up the church to disciple new believers, not our seminaries. Our church culture is quick to pump out “3 easy steps for this,” and “a complete box for that,” all with good intentions of equipping people who equip people. It’s not working. There’s a famous definition for doing the same thing over and over yet expecting different results…
The church is not meant for insanity, it’s meant to help grow people into maturity as they learn to worship God together and make Him known throughout the world. Instead of writing a dissertation on the “do’s” and “don’ts” of disciplemaking, let me ask a few questions that help to evaluate your disciplemaking potential:
If you’ve answered Yes to these four questions, you are exactly the type of person who needs to begin discipling another.
You might be a pastor who has never taken anyone else under your wing. I was this pastor at one time. Swallow that pride and seek out a peer or a consultant who can model discipling for you. Some people like discipleship groups of 3 or 6 or whatever. Personally, I think one on one is the most productive way to disciple another believer. Check out www.ieaom.org. I like the “A Call to Joy/A Call to Growth Discipler’s Pack ($29.99). Get two and go through it with a pastor friend, equipping both of you. Another good resource is Charles Brock’s material found at www.churchgrowthinternational.com. Start with “Good News For You!,” work through “I’ve Been Born Again, What Next?,” “Galatians, Law to Grace,” and so on. These tools serve as a great format when meeting.
Maybe you’ve been a believer for some time but have never taken the time to disciple a fellow Christian. If you are a man, ask the next young man or brand new believing man who joins your fellowship if they’d like to meet weekly to go through some Bible study material. Vice versa for the ladies. You’ll start small and work your way through more difficult material. That’s why I like Dr. Brock’s material. Not only will you meet to study scripture, you’ll discuss the importance of sharing your faith, you’ll hold one another accountable, and you’ll build a lifelong friendship.
Perhaps you are a baby Christian, saved within the past year. Look for a mature brother or sister who is walking with the Lord. Ask them if they have ever invested in a younger believer. If they have, great! See if they have time to meet with you weekly. If they’ve never discipled anyone but seem interested, show them the web links above and see if this is something they’d like to do with you.
Make disciples who make disciples. Share the Good News with everyone and when you run across a believer, ask them if they are active making disciples. Encourage them in their journey as a disciplemaker or to get started.
Matthew 28:18-20 is for everyone. Be obedient to the Lord by helping others obey His teaching.
Recently we took a trip to Massachusetts to visit family. We try to make this trip every two or three years. While we were there we wanted to go to Salem to see some of the history there. We did not make it. The traffic through Boston was terrible and my daughter was getting car sick, so we settled for a visit to Boston that day. While we were there, we stopped to view some of the graves of our forefathers. I wanted to see Paul Revere’s grave among others. While in the graveyard that held his grave (Granary Cemetery on Tremont Street), we were able to see the graves of other notable Americans like Thomas Paine, John Hancock, Samuel Adams, Crispus Attucks, Peter Faneuil, and Ben Franklin’s family.
An interesting commonality among many of the graves was the skull and wings engraved at the top. To the modern person, they might look super creepy or super cool, depending upon your taste. Personally, I went from creepy to cool as I looked, pondered, and learned of their meaning.
These people lived and died during a time that had heavy Puritan religious overtones. These people simply would not understand our culture. Of course there is a God. We don’t find too many atheists from this time period. Of course there is heaven and hell. Not too many would dispute this fact. Of course God is the creator of all things. How else did everything get here?
These gravestones were common as I walked through the cemetery. Why? Their culture wasn’t as individualistic as it is now. Walk through a modern cemetery and you will be hard-pressed to find many stones alike. They are tall, short, include Bible verses, pictures, favorite sayings, Masonic symbols, marriage rings, names of children, and all sorts of other things.
The Puritan style gravestone included the person’s name, dates of birth and death, and age. In the case of women, many said, “Here lie the body of Mrs. Mary Smith, wife of John Smith.” Plain and simple are these stones. They also have a commonality of the artwork at the top. Engraved is a picture of a skull with wings. It looks both morbid and interesting. If there was ever an evangelistic mode of artwork that I’d like to wear on a shirt, this is it. It was meant to symbolize our mortality and the briefness of life and the power of death. We are here for a time, then off to eternity forever. The difference in today is that it is easy to stop there and not have an issue with someone. You might tell them that “life is short and eternity is forever” and they wouldn’t have a problem with that. The problem lies in the reason life is short (sin-Genesis 3) and eternity will be spent in hell (John 3:36) apart from a life in Christ.
In our culture, we see symbols every day and don’t think anything about them. People wear cross necklaces and have no idea what they symbolize. Someone takes the “Christ” from Christmas and replaces it with an “X” and everyone loses their minds. (X is the Greek letter Chi which early Christians used instead of writing “Christ.”) What if we learned about Christian history AND the studied the Bible? Maybe we’d be a more effective witnesses for Christ. What if we wore clothing that contained symbols not as a fashion statement, but as a platform for a verbal witness? What if we explained our heritage to non-believers in love rather than a spirit of regret as to “where our country is headed”?
The Puritans dealt with sin too. People in the 17th and 18th centuries struggled with the idea of Jesus dying for their sin too. Churches were splintered then, pastors did terrible things, and hypocrites faithfully attended the famous Old Union and North Churches. Not much has changed on that front. Our sin nature really hasn’t changed.
The question is this: Can you and I tie our culture and history to the Bible in such a way that we can be an effective Gospel witness to our non-believing/lost family and friends? Do we care enough to take the time to not only learn, but to tie the two together, AND use it for a future witness?
Remember to keep the bait in the water and keep fishing! Matt. 4:19
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.