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What the Church Gets Wrong About Discipleship

What the Church Gets Wrong About Discipleship
  • Name
    Paul Alexander
At the Unstuck Group we’ve discovered an alarming trend in churches across America. When we lead a church through our strategic planning process we help them discover several “core issues” that that are holding them back from being the church that God has called them to be. In a study that we conducted, more than any other issue churches identified creating a solid discipleship strategy as the most pressing issue they are facing. It’s a concerning trend, especially given the final commission given by Jesus to His followers before He left Earth. Over the years sermons have been preached, consultants have been hired, volumes have been written, para-church organizations have been built and churches have hired any number of staff members to solve the discipleship problem that churches identify. With all of that, I wonder if we haven’t just over-complicated discipleship. Could we be overthinking this? Let me offer up a simpler definition of discipleship…

Discipleship is simply helping people become better friends with God.

Most churches have a tendency to over-complicate discipleship. They turn it into a class, information to acquire or behaviors to somehow try really, really, really hard to imitate. Stuff you need to stop doing and other stuff you need to start doing. The Apostle Paul writes the following in Romans 5:9-11: “And since we have been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Christ, he will certainly save us from God’s condemnation. For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies, we will certainly be saved through the life of his Son. So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God.” Jesus Himself used the concept of friendship to describe what He’s looking for from us in John 15:14-16: “No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.” And all of that behavioral modification stuff? The fruit of the Spirit? The Bible teaches us that you become who you hang out with. The people whom you’re closest with is who you end up looking like. So you want to look like Jesus? Become good friends with Him. The Bible says it this way in Proverbs 13:20: “Walk with the wise and become wise; associate with fools and get in trouble.” Maybe the reason that our churches have so few “disciples” in them is because people don’t know how to walk in friendship with each other and God. To come out of hiding and simply share the real you with God and others. It takes courage, it takes humility. But they’re kind of the same thing aren’t they? So is your church overthinking discipleship?