Sunday, July 22, 2012

IT'S A TRAP! Discipleship and consumer Christianity.

Sunday morning many of us attended churches filled with multitudes people and listened to one person talk for about an hour. Many probably also visited a movie theater this past weekend for three hours watching the premier of the Dark Knight Rises. As I was sitting in a church here in South Korea yesterday I couldn't help but think that there was something lacking in this model of Christianity. It has become a production--even I recognized how I have fallen into the trap of becoming a consumer of Christianity.

Being equipped to make disciples?
Unfortunately it becomes easy to start treating church as just another form of entertainment--watching the Dark Knight Rises doesn't make any demands on one's life--and for too many Christians neither does attending church. I started to think--what if we had all gathered together to worship the Triune God, be mutually encouraged, held accountable and then to be challenged and equipped to go back out into the world as disciples of Christ--what would it look like?

I believe it would look a lot more like a team-meeting than a lecture. Near the end of the first (real) Star Wars film, a leader directs a group of pilot's attention to a projection screen and points out the weakness in the defenses of the Death Star. These pilots have the leadership, training and team-work necessary to carry out their mission, they're given strategic information, and they are encouraged and sent out to save the galaxy from the evil Empire--ultimately though, it will be dependence on a higher power that gives them victory. This I believe is a more biblical picture of how we are called to gather together as believers. 

Fiction: no technical difficulties with the projector.

We need to avoid the trap of falling into consumer Christianity! For the first time a few days ago I realized that the Great Commission given in Matthew 28:18-20 was cyclical. "And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”" (ESV)

Jesus begins by saying, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me." Simply put, "I am your King!" The Great Commission isn't a suggestion, it is a command. As a disciple of Jesus, being obedient to the Great Commission is not optional--the Great Commission isn't just for a hand full of select 'called' Christians who are gifted in evangelism and have apostolic gifts--it is a commission given to every disciple of Jesus!

What is the commission? Go! Go and make disciples. Get out of your comfort zone. Don't expect people to come to you and want to talk about Jesus. Intentionally follow the Holy Spirit to the people He wants you to meet! Ask God to show you the people He wants you to witness to. Make disciples! Don't simply ask people to give mental assent to a list of truths about God, extol God's glory and invite people to repent of their sins, worship Jesus and become obedient to Him! Baptize them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit--observe the ordinances (sacraments) and instruct them in good theology!

Here is the icing on the cake, "Teach them to obey all that I have commanded you." We're not called to fill up churches with passive observers, consumers of Christianity--we are called to reproduce disciples. The key word here is observe (obey). We, along with those we call to Christ are not simply called to be hearers of the word, but doers of the word. (James 1:22) This is where it becomes cyclical and starts to develop into multiplication! 

When we obey the Great Commission to make disciples, we teach those disciples to obey the Great Commission to make disciples, who then teach their disciples to obey the Great Commission to make disciples and so on--this is the true picture of biblical discipleship and multiplication. 

I recently started to read a book entitled Training for Trainers: A Discipleship Re-Revolution. This book actually makes the case that we need to move beyond the word disciple--because in the English language it has the connotation of passive learner. Instead the missionaries in this book advocate the use of the word trainer instead of disciple--because the original understanding of discipleship in Jesus' time had the goal of reproducing the teacher, not just the teaching. I am only three chapters into the book--and it is having to share my attention with the other book I just started on Global Church Planting and a few other things I'm reading--but it is already having a profound influence on the way I am seeing the church. 

The Great Commission finishes with Jesus saying, "I am with you always." We are not in this alone--it is by the power of the Holy Spirit that this mission is going to be accomplished. May the Spirit of God be with you!

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