By God’s marvelous providence, I’ve had a chance to welcome a number of guests into our church from the area. Some are brand new to church world, others are looking for churches where they can hear the Word preached and taught, and as a ripple effect from that, develop relationships that will help them to stay focused.
In other words, people are yearning for discipleship. They are not simply wanting to find a church, they are wanting to connect with Christ. Sadly, for so many, these are not synonymous. Steve Timmis and Tim Chester in their book Total Church, says, “Every Christian is a disciple of Jesus because in the kingdom of God it is only Jesus who has disciples. it is legitimate to talk about Christians discipling one another as long as we recognize that we are describing the process by which disciples of King Jesus help one another to be better disciples of King Jesus” (p. 111).
From my observation, there are four areas of discipleship that take place in the life of a local church. None should be dismissed, and they should all be kept in some semblance of balance. The four areas are church, classroom, community, and conversation. In all of these, communication takes place. But as you go from church to conversation, it becomes more interactive, even to the point of having one-to-one conversations. Even then, we have to be careful not to dominate in these areas.
Church. In a worship gathering, God has called us to listen to the proclaimed word, administered by a preacher. While some call for more of a conversation, there will be other venues for this mode of communication and discipling. Here, we proclaim, teaching them to observe everything commanded (Matthew 28:19). To think that we do not have discipleship going on in this venue is to miss the entire point of the preaching part of the service. Each of us has a job to do: the preacher preaches as he has listened in his study, the congregant listens as the preacher preaches from the produce of his study.
Classroom. While more interactive (at least here, the teacher asks questions or for any insights and feedback), the classroom is still teacher-led. Sunday School traditionally has been like this. And I am a big fan of Sunday School or structured Sunday morning Bible studies.
Community. Here, I see people getting together during the week for discipling, accountability, prayer, and study (a book of the Bible, or a book about a biblical topic)—but somewhere other than the church building. This communicates that ministry can happen other than the four walls of a church. This communicates that discipling is not just in a sanctuary or classroom, but in all of life—and in the home, the place where the most influencing takes place.
Conversation. It’s amazing that Christians can be together as friends, one-on-one, but go for years without discussing anything regarding their spiritual walk. No praying together, sharing Scripture together, sharing spiritual burdens together. It’s no wonder that so many may come into a worship time and not get much out of it—and spend a good deal amount of time looking at their watches. Our spiritual systems have not been trained to do otherwise. It’s not a lifestyle. Church is simply an event to clock in, then clock out with nothing significant happening and no true reaction to the Word. We must have conversation with Christ in prayer so we can have meaningful conversations with others to help one another grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18).
This is what I would like to see at ARBC. Thoughts?