Revisiting discipleship, I have found three “I’s” that shape the methodological convictions of a robust commitment to disciple-making. Let me explain them briefly.
The goal for every Christian is Christ-likeness. Therefore everything we do in the church corporately and in our investments individually should intentionally be driven with that purpose/goal in mind. In Galatians, Paul tells his disciples that he wants “Christ formed in you” (Gal. 4:19). In Ephesians, he tells his disciples that the goal is “mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ” (Eph. 4:13). In Colossians, Paul’s goal is to present every man “mature in Christ” (Col. 1:28). All of his efforts from personal visits to writing letters to training up leaders was so that every believer would grow up in Christ-likeness. He was intentional about it, and so should we. That means our systems, processes, programs, etc. should be have this as a governor on them – how are we maturing people to know and love Christ, serving and giving themselves in the mission of making other disciples?
Disciple-making should not be relegated to a classroom experience or curriculum. The sphere of discipleship is all of life. Discipleship should be relational, so that their “manner of life would be worthy of the gospel of Christ” (Phil. 1:27). It should be practical, so that the knowledge is met with experience, understanding with application. To the Philippians Paul wrote, “What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me–practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you” (Philippians 4:9). And it should also be missional, so that the maturity of the Christian is intrinsically connected to the growth of the church. As Jesus put it, an invitation to follow (discipleship) is a promise to make you fishers of men (mission). The two should never be divorced. Biblical discipleship begets missional Christians because, inherent to the Great Commission is the sending thrust of the word “go.”
Evangelical tribes tend to focus on one aspect of discipleship more than the others. The Reformed evangelical tribe tends to emphasize truth and doctrine (head), and rightly so. We need to have a refocused understanding and growth in truth. The Pietistic or revivalistic evangelical tribe tends to emphasize experience and motivation (heart), and rightly so. We need to have our motivations rewired and have our affections stirred to know, love, and experience God. The missional evangelical tribe tends to emphasize social justice, mercy ministry, and serving the needs of the community (hands), and rightly so. We need to have our lives reoriented away from self and toward others in sacrificial service. However, when one is emphasized to the exclusion of others, discipleship is disintegrated. He need to balance head, heart, and hands. We need growth in truth (understanding), growth in experience (affections), and growth in service (mission).
So, methodologically speaking, I believe that discipleship should be intentionally pursuing Christ-likeness, interactive in engaging the relational, practical, and missional dynamics, and integrated so that our head, heart, and hands are all transformed in the process.
What do you think?