by Trevin Wax
Whenever Christians discuss the mission of the church, we tend to get mired in debates over the responsibility of local congregations to be involved in social ministry. Is our work in the world part of the church’s mission? Is the mission broad or narrow?
Underneath these discussions, however, is a bigger question concerning the nature of discipleship. The question isn’t merely about the mission; it’s about how disciple-making should be defined. Is disciple-making broad or narrow?
Below are four important truths we should keep in mind as we consider biblical discipleship:
1. Discipleship is Modeled
Disciple-making is accomplished by modelers, not just messengers. Disciples develop not merely through the intake of correct information, but also through witnessing the life and choices of other disciples they encounter on their way.
This is why the Old Testament emphasizes both the memorization of Scripture and conversations about the Law that take place in the daily rhythms of life. Psalm 119, for example, is heavy on the need for learning and internalizing the Law of God, while Deuteronomy 6 focuses on the daily discussions of the Law in everyday life. It’s also why Paul told the early churches they should imitate him as he followed Christ.
In Total Church, Steve Timmis and Tim Chester explain how they learned the importance of modeling through their own personal experience:
People should learn the truth of justification not only in an exposition of Romans 5 but as they see us resting on Christ’s finished work instead of anxiously trying to justify ourselves. They should understand the nature of Christian hope not only as they listen to a talk on Romans 8 but as they see us groaning in response to suffering as we wait for glory. . . .
We have found in our context that most learning and training takes place not through programmed teaching or training courses but in unplanned conversations—talking about life, talking about ministry, talking about problems.
This emphasis corresponds with the New Testament picture of Jesus with his disciples. Jesus was…click here to read the whole article.