Summary: From a series on our church’s Core Values
Trinity Baptist Church May 7, 2006
Discipleship as a Pattern
A couple of years ago I took a course in leadership at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Every week, we would read 10 or 12 articles on some aspect or theory of Leadership. Then we came to a week’s assignments which were completely different. That week the professor had decided we should read on “following“. Following isn’t a common topic -- and not a topic most people even warm up. But of course, leaders, by definition, need followers.
Do you realize that a key component of Christ’s influence in our world engages us in following? Jesus’ idea of following comes to us in an ancient word -- it’s a word that sounds obsolete in modern English. The word is disciple. Disciple and discipleship -- like following -- will never be hugely popular concepts. And yet, the call of Jesus is still given: He says, come and follow Me.
We’re spending eight weeks examining the biblical roots of what we call Trinity’s Core Values. These values are principles which God has begun to build into us. They therefore shape our ministry and point us toward how we should operate. The value we’re looking at today could not be more central to what we think of as biblical ministry.
So even though we employ an ancient term -- even though it sounds archaic to modern ears -- maybe even negative -- you and I must grapple with its significance.
The value is there in your worship folder -- “Discipleship as a Pattern.” You also have the expansion. “Christ invited every believer into a close following relationship with Himself. Our commission from Him is not simply to make converts or win church members, but to develop disciples. [Therefore] Our teaching and training is “life-change” oriented, not simply informational.”
Let me call your attention to 2 other items in your worship folder. If you’ve been at Trinity awhile, you notice we repeat these two every week.
One is our purpose statement. Our biblical reason for existing as a church is to develop maturing disciples. Three components of a disciple’s life are mentioned there. The other statement is on the front of the worship folder weekly. It’s just 3 words, but they too, aren’t incidental. Developing authentic Christians. These three concepts fit together hand-in-glove. “Authentic Christian” is a good paraphrase of the term disciple.
If a person is a disciple in NT terms, that person is a follower. He or she has set out on a path to pursue Jesus Christ. That’s what we need to talk about. I want to approach it in two ways:
First, we need the repeated reminder that this is what the church is about. As part of Christ’s body, we exist to develop disciples. If we miss that, we’re off course.
I read a sentence this week from someone named Warren Webster: Webster had been a missionary in Pakistan for 15 years. Thinking back over his life, he said: “If I had my life to live over again, I would live it to change the lives of men, because you haven’t changed anything until you’ve changed the lives of men."
The church doesn’t have another purpose. The central objective, defined by Jesus, is to produce changed lives -- disciples. There are lots of other things we can do or could do -- lots of needs we can address -- but if we fail in this -- if our ministry doesn’t produce maturing followers -- then we’ve failed.
The second reason we discuss discipleship is also foundational: every Christian among us needs to come to grips often with Christ’s claim and call on us. We need to review His call to follower-ship. He never stopped summoning men and women to an ever closer commitment to Himself. From the first day of His public ministry, He challenged people come follow Me.
The final time was what we heard read this morning in Matthew 28: it was the challenge to follow, and the commission to produce more followers. We’ll see this morning, following often begins at a distance but then progresses to ever closer levels of following.
Of course, for a church, it would be simpler, to just let people do whatever they feel like, remain where they are in the process of following Christ. It would be simpler not to challenge one another to move higher, go deeper, follow more closely. But that’s not why Christ has us here. And it’s certainly not the life He has for us.
So let’s think about the design of discipleship. We’ll be reminded of our high calling and of the goal to which we should urge each other as Christians. Let’s begin with the negative. I give you three statements on your outline which first tackle What discipleship is not