I noted in last week’s post that Christianity experienced a seismic paradigm shift when Martin Luther and other reformers essentially zero-based the church’s traditional doctrine of salvation and rebuilt it using only God’s Word—“Sola Scriptura.”
Then I stepped back from the details and considered applying that same strategy to discipling ourselves and others. I asked you, “If we zero-base our understanding of what it means to disciple ourselves and others, and then rebuild our understanding Sola Scriptura, how will our strategies—our “discipleship programs”—differ from what it is right now?
Why ask such a question? Because a recent Barna Group survey of discipleship across America (Dec 2015) alerts us to a disturbing situation: Despite our numerous church and parachurch discipling tools, programs, and activities, research reveals “the disconnect between how people think about their spirituality and what’s actually happening in their lives.” Among their conclusions: “Church leaders and congregants need better methods of thinking about and evaluating their discipleship efforts.”
Our key problem is this: People outside the church see woefully little difference between “Christians” and non-Christians. We need to discern that, acknowledge that, and change that. We need to make disciples who make a difference. Further, we must begin with ourselves, and only then influence others as disciples.
If we apply that zero-based strategy, here is what I envision we’ll remember and return to:
- We’ll honestly and intentionally make love our aim. Agape love is a disciple’s distinctive feature (John 13:35; 1 Corinthians 13).
- We’ll more clearly discern the relationship of discipline (e.g., solitude, prayer, memorization) and process (e.g., one-on-one, small group) to outcome (agape love, which shows in our Christlike character). Disciplines and processes are many and flexible; the outcome God desires is fixed. God challenges us in His Word to focus more on being than doing; on becoming more purposeful than process-full (Psalm 19:14; Matthew 15:8-9). And knowledge (e.g., theology) plus skill (e.g., Bible study) minus Christlikeness (agape love) leads to collapse.
- Our testimony—in sharing our faith and in discipling—is more about what others see in you and me than what we say (Matthew 5:14–16). Again, let’s make love our aim. Let’s walk in a manner worthy of our calling (Ephesians 4:1-2; 5:1-2).
This week, 500 years ago, marked the start of the Protestant Reformation. Could this week in 2017 mark the start of a Discipling Reformation? “Let it be, dear Lord, let it be.”