Here are some discipleship truisms from my blogger friend Ron up in New York. At Big Creek Church we are currently attempting to get our arms around discipleship, therefore I found Ron's thoughts good fodder in provoking some of my thinking and as a springboard for my thoughts on discipleship. I hope Ron wouldn't mind me adding a couple of caveats and additions to his thoughts, all of which I have included in bold italics. Here they are:
- Information doesn't guarantee transformation. Information alone doesn't change people. If it does, what's our excuse? (Never before has the church been so resourced.) There's been a big disconnect between the head and the heart. Very true, discipleship isn't merely about information download. Too often we have treated discipleship like a classroom. But Jesus didn't disciple in a classroom. It was life on life. With life on life spiritual investment comes true, meaningful and real spiritual transformation.
- Never equate longevity with maturity. It is possible to be in the church a long time but not have increasing evidence of Jesus' indwelling. Any congregation can become a spiritual club, where graytops are merely infants in diapers. I heard a friend say that too many people in the church suffer from the Sponge Bob problem - they just come to church to sit and soak. If that is all people do, they will never grow. Spiritual transformation is never passive.
- The measurement of discipleship is obedience. Nothing more, nothing less. I would add this qualifier that we don't want obedience stemming from legalism, but rather a person whose heart and life is captured by the love of the gospel. It is true that discipleship isn't merely about "knowing", but we must be "applying", otherwise it falls short.
- Personal charisma doesn't guarantee transformation. You can be a nice guy and still be a damned nice guy. Having spiritual manners -- even some spiritual sensitivity -- doesn't make you mature. Nice people are adept at fooling others. Of course it is true that external niceness doesn't necessarily indicate internal heart transformation. People can wear masks and be posers. Discipleship demands that we are willing to delve beyond external behavior and manners and get deep into matter of the heart.
- Disciples aren't made effectively in classes. There's no way around it: time, time, more time. Coffee, coffee, more coffee. One conversation, then another. Classes are components but shouldn't be the main method. Disciples are made within the messiness of real life. There is no substitute for it. People want to see how faith intersects real issues, struggles and challenges in life. You can't teach that in a classroom.