Disciples of Jesus are facing a subtle but pervasive challenge in North America right now. Left unchecked, this challenge erodes the convictions of everyday disciples, leaders, and even entire churches. This challenge comes in the form of a mindset characterized by the following:
- Be tolerant
- Be accepting
- Be non-judgmental
- Be loving (sensitively compassionate)
- Be inclusive
As you look at that list, it surely contains great attributes, especially when practiced in the right way. But what happens when this mindset is applied to all contexts and at all times, even in the face of the hard teachings of the Bible?
Here are some of the natural consequences of what happens when the church gives way to this mindset:
- Tolerance of all sin
- Acceptance of sinful lifestyles
- Passivity on heretical teachings
- Christian love is redefined as sentimental feelings
- Eschewing evangelism
Disciples of Jesus need to counter this impetus to undermine the teachings of the Bible.
Jesus showed us through his ministry a model that creates an alternative to the cultures of this world. Here are five manifestations, or fruits, of Jesus-style disciple making that become part of a counter-cultural discipleship lifestyle:
- Tolerance is reframed—so we pursue both grace and truth
- We accept all sinful struggles—but we help each other pursue holy lifestyles
- We make good judgments—without being judgmental
- Love is defined by sacrificial action that follows Jesus’ teachings
- We work to invite everyone into the beauty of Jesus
How do we create this kind of community?
Jesus shows us how. The first thing we must do, as leaders, is to accurately assess the time in which we live. My friend David Young, PhD, has written a book that should be on every disciple maker’s list.
Young describes the grand illusion of Progressive thought. He shows where it comes from, why it is so appealing, and, yet, why it is so destructive. The leaders of progressive Christianity promise us that their way is an “on-ramp” so that people we uphold the Way of Jesus. Instead, as history has proven time and time again, it is an “off-ramp” that leads people away from church altogether over time.
Armed with a clear mindset about the challenge we face, Jesus’ methods of disciple making must become the methods we use today. It is not a complicated response. In fact there are just five key components.
- Courageous leaders – who know the times and seek an alternative way
- Intentional discipleship – must become the core mission of the church and each ministry
- Reliance of the Holy Spirt through prayer and fasting
- Upholding and proclaiming the reliable Word of God
- Relational discipleship – where Jesus-like love drives everything
These five focus points are simple, but revolutionary. When church leaders fully embrace each one and re-align their ministries and churches, we will see God lead them in creating beautiful cultures that are much more beautiful and life-changing than what the world has to offer.
Bobby Harrington is the point-leader of Discipleship.org, a collaborating ministry of disciple–making organizations, a host for National Forums, and a distributor of free content. It is a ministry that advocates for Jesus’ style of disciple making. He is also the founding and lead pastor of Harpeth Christian Church (by the Harpeth River, just outside of Nashville, TN) and the point-leader of Renew.org (a ministry that renews the teachings of Jesus to fuel disciple making). He has a Doctor of Ministry degree in consulting and has spent years as a coach to church planters and senior pastors. He is the author of over 10 books on discipleship, including DiscipleShift (with Jim Putman and Robert Coleman) and The Disciple Maker’s Handbook (with Josh Patrick), and Becoming a Disciple Maker: The Pursuit of Level 5 Disciple Making.