Recent models of church leadership and growth have often defined success in terms as simple as ABC; attendance, buildings and cash, to be precise. If you increase the number of people sitting in the pews, or even expand to another service or a church plant, then you are on the right track. If you buy or build a bigger building you’re doing great. If the money keeps rolling in through tithes and offerings then you’ve hit the big time.
Now these can be helpful in starting the conversation of what’s happening within the Body of Christ, but they are limited. I would suggest we need to move beyond the ABC definition of success to the letter D: Discipleship. The success of the Christian church is not defined in terms of attendance, buildings and cash but rather by our disciple-making.
We cannot assume that once someone is baptized the hard work has now been done, so we can move on to seeing more people make decisions. The ‘Great Commission’ given by Jesus is, ‘go and make disciples of all nations’ (Matthew 28:19); this doesn’t just mean increasing numbers but developing a spiritual maturity. The Christian church isn’t supposed to be a mile wide but only an inch deep.
Interestingly in the New Testament, the Greek word for disciple is mathetes. That word simply means ‘learner’ or ‘pupil’. This means that every time we see the word disciple in the Bible, we can insert the word ‘learner’. Thus a Christian (a word used only 2 times in the Bible) is defined as someone who is a mathetes (used 268 times in the Bible) – a learner.
The important question is, ‘from whom do we learn?’ Simply put a Christian is a disciple of Jesus who is intentionally choosing to learn from Jesus, in every area of life. A second, equally important question is, ‘how is this going to work in practice?’
This is what we are going to have a look at in our series of sermons on this topic of discipleship. What does it mean to abide in Christ, to walk with him, to be his disciple and follower?
The goal of this study is not just for us to know what it means to be in Christ or to know what it means to be a disciple or follower of Jesus Christ. We are not to be a Christian purely for self-consumption. The goal is not for us to look at some truths in Scripture so that we can walk away and say ‘I am glad that I learned that.’
The goal is for all of us to actually be in Christ, be a disciple and follower of Christ and to be equipped to lead others to follow Christ and to be in Him.
And so we are no longer just receivers of God’s word; we are reproducers. The word is not stopping with us; it is spreading through us.
Discipleship is not an easy calling. ‘When Christ calls a man (or woman)’ says Dietrich Bonhoeffer, ‘he bids him come and die’.
To die to our self so that it is ‘no longer I that lives, but Christ that lives in me.’ (Galatians 2:20) This is the cost of discipleship.
May God grant us joy as we strive earnestly to follow the way of discipleship and as we travel on this way together, may the words of Jesus himself be constantly ringing in our ears:
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” (Matthew 11:28-30 The Message)
That is being a disciple of Jesus.
The sermons below are displayed in reverse order: the most recent at the top. If you want to listen to the sermons in the correct order, start at the bottom and work your way up the list.