From my earliest days in ministry, I’ve been passionate about people connecting with Jesus and growing in their faith. Discipleship and making disciples are important subjects for me and I will buy into them with anyone willing to discuss them.
When I have these conversations I stick to the words disciple or discipleship rather than other commonly used words such as christian and convert. The word christian can and does mean so many different things that it is not a helpful word to use. A few examples may help make this point:
- The western world is mostly christian
- Around 60% of people in Australia call themselves christian
- I’m a christian because I go to church regularly
- My parents are christians so I’m a christian
The word convert is also not helpful because today it usually refers to someone who has made a one-off decision to cross a line and does not convey the depth and process of discipleship.
Having said that, I’m also aware that when I use the words disciple/discipleship, the people I’m talking with interpret these words through an individual set of glasses they are wearing or…
- a set of assumptions, concepts, values, and practices that constitutes their way of viewing reality
When people are presented with a new way of looking at disciple/discipleship that is different from their historical view I know it can cause some discomfort and disorientation for a time until they adjust and discover their view is becoming clearer. My hope is always that the Holy Spirit will grab a person’s attention and engage their heart as we talk, so that discipleship can be seen through a new lens that considers the whole of life response of a person to Jesus Christ.
The basic definition of discipleship below is foundational to what you will read in my blog articles:
‘Discipleship is the whole of life response of a person to Jesus Christ. Everything a person believes and does is an aspect of discipleship. The goal of discipleship for an individual is growing and maturing, examining and changing how they think, feel and act as they become more Christ-like in every aspect of life’.
This definition incorporates a lifelong journey. It does not describe something that has already happened but a dynamic process that is happening in the life of the individual. This concept of discipleship comes from the life of Jesus and is particularly highlighted in the life-long journey of His disciples.
From my constant reading and conversation with people itis obvious that Christianity is in a state of major change as we move further into the 21st century. Many recognise that this change is not simple to understand nor has it happened overnight. Many significant leaders and authors believe we are now at the beginning of an historical break-point that will prove to be as dramatic as the Protestant Reformation.
To understand and effectively grapple with this change, we need to start asking ourselves some important questions:
- Do we see discipleship as a continuous whole of life response of a person to Jesus Christ? If not, why not?
- Are we really outworking the commission of Jesus to make disciples? If not, why not?
- Is this getting easier or harder as we move further into the 21stcentury? If it is getting harder, what are we going to change?