Total Church 14: Discipleship

This is part 14 of our series Total Church by Steve Timmis and Tim Chester. Blame and credit for these posts must be shared by the Wednesday morning Total Church reading group:

Two major themes in this section:

1. Discipleship is a communal affair:

We become disciples by becoming a part of the people of God, this is best symbolised in baptism – which is not a private affair but rather a communal act.  If the start of our discipleship is being brought publicly into a gospel community, why then is so much of our discipling after that event promoted as a personal thing -e.g. personal evangelism or Bible study.

“Too often, however, churches are not contexts for making disciples so much as occasions for acknowledging relative strangers.” (p110-111)

If churches are about disciple-making then we must take seriously the reality that the larger the group/church/community the more inevitable the superficiality of relationships are.  Instead of growing larger congregations we ought to be considering beginning new congregations through church planting.  Rather than one large mega-church, establish a large network of smaller discipleship making congregations.

Whilst I am not against large churches I am convinced that the larger the church the more difficult we make our job or creating structures in order to do disciple-making.

Why are smaller communities better at disciple-making?  Well besides the obvious ability to actually get to know the other members of your community, it, perhaps more importantly for our Christian maturity, prevents us from forming clubs.

Explain?  In a large community we can choose the people we wish to spend time with, join a home group with etc.  But in a smaller community we have no such choice.  We have to form a community and not a clique.  Anyone can form a club but only “grace, shared vision and hard work” can form a community.

In such a community of grace, awkward people and difficult relationships  have the result, through the Holy Spirit, of transforming sinners into disciples.

2. Discipleship is a gospel-on-the-road affair:

Most discipleship happens “on the road” (taken from Deut 6:6-7) as situations, questions and problems crop up.  Not in formal sit down contexts.

“All too often people equate being word-centred with being sermon-centred.” “People assume that the alternative to sermons is anarchy or relativism…” (p112)

The concern of the authors is not to reject the monologue/sermon… “Being Word-centred is not less than being sermon-centred.  Our contention is that being word-centred is so much more than being sermon-centred.”  (p112)

This has been a revolutionary truth for me; we can be word-centred without “preaching”.  In fact if we equate being Word-centred with preaching then our vision is not too big in fact it is too small. It is “easy” to preach Word-based sermons and then speak of being Word-centred. That we can control, and confine to a certain set of activities.

If being Word-centred is a part of a bigger picture in which a sermon may or may not be included then it is much more difficult to package and control and keep orderly.

Actually that requires of us as teachers far more than simply preparing a sermon or a bible study and being “experts” on a certain book or passage. It is calling us to be broader, deeper and more all-round students of the Bible.

Also as much of being Word-centred is in response to events, questions and problems that arise on the road, it must entail cultivating a more comprehensive biblical worldview that enables us to easily reflect on our world and bring biblical understanding to bear on it.

This actually works out to be a bigger and more challenging task than preparing a sermon.  It is a call to being an all-round student of the Word, who reflects deeply on his/her world and on the Word which speaks God’s word about His world.  It is a call to being prepared all the time not just for your sermon!

“We need a culture of daily and mutual discipleship.  Structures and programmes cannot create it. It requires the sharing of lives and gospel intentionality.” (p119)

2 Random thoughts…

from our reading group:

1. We struggle with teaching on the road because it is incompatible with our image or pattern which subconsciously or intentionally sets us up as a CEO type figure.  And then we wonder why people are not having deeper relationships…

2. If we really want real discipleship – Bible learning and not just Bible teaching – how about discussion within our sermons or times of Question and Answer during or after the sermon.  Then we will not only discover how much was actually understood.  But also the areas where this teaching needs to be applied, the questions it raises and where people are at in their maturing and discipling.


~ by John on October 8, 2008.

One Response to “Total Church 14: Discipleship”

  1. […] 1) Community is the setting in which discipleship of young people takes place.  See this previous post. […]

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