I had to turn off the podcast before it was over. I was listening to a discussion on how the Church needs a new approach to discipleship. There’s so much sin, so much brokenness, so much unforgiveness, so much division…you get the idea. The Church is messed up. And all of us can nod our heads in agreement – yes, the Church is messed up. And yet at the same time, most of us can affirm that the Church is life-giving – a place of healing, reconciliation, inspiration, satisfaction, joy, and deep friendship. But let’s get back to the Messed-Up Church – the MUC. How do we fix the MUC?
The podcast presented a particular discipleship course that has been years in the making. This course is designed to disciple the Church into its God-intended maturity and health. And the thing is, you just can’t order this course, read it, and apply it to the life of your church on your own. If you do that, the impact will be minimal. You need to be trained in this method of discipleship. That is the only way to ensure the maximum benefits of this course will be experienced.
The premise behind the presentation is that we live in such complicated, challenging times and people are broken in so many ways, that we need a sophisticated approach to discipleship that will be able to both address and cut-through the complexity. The Church needs this sophisticated approach to disciple-making and specialized training is needed to understand and apply this modern approach. This course will bring the Church back to Biblical discipleship. The podcast wasn’t over, but this is where I turned it off because the words of Jesus had grabbed my attention.
Jesus said in Matthew 28:19-20, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you…”
The Church is to make disciples (followers of Jesus) of all nations by two means – baptism and teaching them to obey the commands of Jesus. Please note that disciples not only know the commands of Jesus, they also obey the commands of Jesus. The Church isn’t to go and teach them the commands of Jesus. The Church is to go and teach them to obey the commands of Jesus. This is key. This is crucial. A disciple isn’t one with sophisticated knowledge. A disciple is one who gives simple obedience. Discipleship isn’t measured by knowledge. It is measured by obedience. Knowledge doesn’t transform. Obedience transforms. The Church doesn’t have a crisis of knowledge. The Church has a crisis of obedience. You don’t have a crisis of knowledge. You have a crisis of obedience.
Yes, I do think that we need sophisticated knowledge to understand and address a lot of the issues we are faced with today. I was in Bible College from 1972-1976 and the moral, cultural, philosophical, legal, technological, scientific, and political landscape has shifted, and morphed, and become so much more complex. Dorothy is right. We are not in Kansas anymore. It feels like I’m in Mordor surrounded by Orcs! The demands of ministry have increased exponentially, but the criteria for discipleship has remained the same; simple obedience to the commands of Jesus.
How does it aid your discipleship if you understand post-structuralism, but don’t obey Jesus and love your enemies? How does it transform your soul if you know how to respond to someone who has deconstructed their faith, but don’t forgive those who have sinned against you? How do you become more like Jesus if you become a social justice warrior and an advocate for marginalized peoples, but despise those who don’t embrace your cause with the same zeal? How do we see Jesus in you when you scorn and mock those who don’t vote like you do? Deeper knowledge, greater zeal, worthy causes don’t make you a disciple of Jesus. Obedience to the commands of Jesus makes you His disciple and brings transformation to your soul. Don’t mistake knowledge and zeal and a righteous cause for obedience to Jesus. Often, these things can accompany obedience to Jesus. Sometimes, they replace obedience to Jesus. If your knowledge, zeal, and righteous cause(s) bring you to the place where you despise, and mock, and scorn others, your knowledge, zeal, and righteous cause is not the result of obedience to Jesus.
An increase of activity is not necessarily a deepening of discipleship. An increase of knowledge and zeal and righteous causes is not necessarily the developing of a disciple. An increase of obedience to the commands of Jesus is the deepening and developing of a disciple. And the greatest obedience is to love God and people. Love is the manger of a disciple. And where there is scorn, derision, and mocking, there is no love, which means there is no obedience, and so – no discipleship. Where there is no love there is no discipleship. There can be ministry where there is no love. There can be knowledge and zeal and righteous causes where there is no love. But there cannot be discipleship where there is no love. Because where there is no love there is no obedience. And where there is no obedience there is no discipleship.
What is God’s program for discipleship? Learn to love; give yourself away; consider others more important than yourself. At home. In marriage. As a mom. As a dad. As a friend. As an employer. As an employee. How do we fix the MUC? Obedience. Discipleship. Love.