Summary: 6 of 18 messages on moving toward greater health as a church.
The Purpose-full Church: In Disciplemaking
I. Defining the Purposes of the Church
1. A definition
2. The real commission
3. 5 Principles of disciplemaking
It’s been eight weeks since the last message in our series: The New Testament Church for Today. Before the holidays, I introduced you to the five purposes of the Church. For a quick review to help us get back up to speed, let me remind you a little about our last message which dealt with the first purpose of the Church, namely, Worship. I defined worship very broadly as “celebrating God’s presence and honoring Him with our lifestyles.” Jesus stated that the greatest commandment is “to love the Lord your God.” I pointed out that it is my contention that the primary purpose or mission of the Church is to glorify God and I went on to make a case for my argument. Then I spent the rest of our time together dissecting my definition of worship into the key aspects of celebrating and honoring and drew some practical implications.
This morning we will be moving on to consider the second purpose of the Church: Disciplemaking. In preparing for this message, I was challenged about my personal beliefs and convictions on the subject of disciplemaking. Like most of us, for a number of years, I have held a picture or snapshot in my mind that captured what I think disciplemaking should look like and what it is all about. These beliefs, in turn, have influenced my attitudes and actions: they told me how to go about the process of fulfilling God’s command to make disciples (Matthew 28:19). If you would have asked me, “What is disciplemaking?” I could have given you a definition that would have sounded pretty good.
But as I studied the subject anew in preparation for this sermon, I found that some of my ideas were inadequate when compared with God’s ideal. For example, if you can remember back to the November message where I gave you an overview of the five purposes of the Church, I used the term discipleship rather than disciplemaking. I know it may sound like a subtle difference or a just matter of semantics, but the importance conveyed in this term change is nothing short of revolutionary (and it’s more biblically accurate). So fasten your seatbelts, and get ready for what may prove to be an “epiphany.”
I want to begin our investigation this morning by giving you a working definition of disciplemaking. I can assure you that I would not have defined it quite this way prior to preparing for this message. I’ll warn you that it’s a little lengthy and perhaps cumbersome, but I think that it encapsulates the larger intent of the word: Disciplemaking is educating and training God’s people for kingdom living through a directed course of Bible study and an incarnational demonstration of His truth in the context of an intentional relationship. [Repeat]
You may remember from our overview of the five purposes of the Church that we extracted this purpose from the phrase teaching them to obey as it is found in the Great Commission (Matthew 28:20a). One commentator points out, “disciples were understood to be individuals committed to a particular person so as to learn that person’s teaching or way of life and then to follow a particular pattern of life, whether by living in a certain way, passing on the teaching to others or engaging in political or religious activities” (CBEC-WS).
The Real Commission
Let me take a “time out” right here. I know I’ve said a whole lot in just a few sentences. I also realize that I have had more time to digest these things and some of you may be feeling like your going into “information overload” right now and you’d like me to slow down. But what may seem like information overload may actually be a moment when you’re experiencing a “clash of realities.” What I mean is, in our heads we agree with what has been said, but our familiarity with these things is lacking: we can give assent to the truth of the words, but we haven’t seen the truth fleshed out before us.
I believe, by and large, that the Church in our generation has not done a very good job of disciplemaking. We can boast about the number of converts that have been made throughout the world in the past few years, but how many disciples have resulted from our efforts? We can get people to wade in the shallow end of the pool of salvation, but how many have been equipped and trained to swim in the deep end? Why is it that we usually fail to fulfill our real call? I believe that there are a number of reasons, but for our purposes let me quickly mention four of the more prominent ones (they all begin with the letter “i”):