Let’s face it, I can be a huge pain in the butt (wait, can I say that as a Pastor…checking with my censorship committee…ok, good I got the green light). Anyway, I can be a huge pain in the rear, especially about things that I am very passionate about. Now, having just typed that sentence, I will be expecting several comments on this post with “amen,” most likely from my two sisters and my buddy Jackie. Some of these things I will willingly admit are obnoxious (UT Sports, Braves baseball, Hunts ketchup, etc…), and I will happily apologize to those who must endure my rants about such things. There are some things, though, that I am unapologetically a pain about because they are THAT important.
You don’t have to be around me long in ministry to hear me hop on my soap box about the importance of discipleship. It is so vitally important to the spiritual development of each and every one of us who know and call Jesus our Lord. Several years ago- and I’m not sure when, something happened in the church here in America where there was this massive push for numbers- get ’em saved, get ’em baptized, and get that number to the state mission board. Now, don’t get me wrong, numbers in and of themselves isn’t bad, so long as we are not gauging our health solely on the number of people we baptize. Sometimes, I will get the question, “How many do you have coming to youth?” Which I will respond, “we are healthier than we have been.” Becoming a growing disciple of Christ is paramount to our spiritual health. I don’t want to make the mistake of assumption, so I am going to tell you first what it is and then I will address why I push it so much.
I have tried to simplify this definition so that people can understand discipleship at its core. The definition that I use for discipleship with my students is this: “Discipleship is the lifelong process we go through as we move from unbelievers to committed followers of Jesus Christ- It is a growing process.” You see, while evangelism is the product of being discipled and salvation & baptism are the very beginnings of the discipleship process, we cannot stop there. If we do, we will raise a generation of believers who do not go out and evangelize and who do not know how to disciple new believers. Once we have accepted the free gift of salvation, we are NOT at the finish line of our spiritual journey, in fact, we are just getting started. If we are not embarking on the LIFELONG process of discipleship, then our faith will be tested, shaken, and rattled to its very core. We will question God in the hard times, we will prioritize the busyness of life over gathering, bible study, and prayer, and if the situation gets dire enough- we may walk away from Him all together.
So, why do I push discipleship so hard? It’s because I have seen firsthand the effects of what the lack of discipleship can do and now, many of us are seeing it for the first time during this pandemic. I was not discipled as child or teenager and the choices I made reflect that. First of all, my parents did what they could- they made sure I was in church every week. But, I never had that person come alongside me and really show me what a committed follower of Christ looked like. I was saved, so I believed I was done. All I had to do was go to church on Sundays, attend youth if I had the time to, and my spiritual duties could be checked off for the week. Living for Christ was never an every day pursuit. I didn’t read my Bible because I didn’t know how, I prayed before bed & when I needed help because that’s what I thought prayer was, and I lived life thinking that I was doing exactly what I should be doing- I wasn’t. It wasn’t until I was 22 and met this girl in college who showed me there was more to my journey, that salvation was just the starting point and I was actually on a lifelong pursuit of holiness that would only end when God said well done good and faithful servant.
Unfortunately, many of us across the country are witnessing this first hand in our churches during this pandemic. Churches across the country are reopening and sadly, a lot of people have not returned. DO NOT HEAR ME WRONG- I am NOT talking about those that have not returned out of health concerns. I am talking about people who haven’t returned because they were never invested in their growth to begin with. I have talked to countless pastors that I know and its the same story- we are desperately trying to reach those who we know need to be back and can be back, but haven’t come back. This demographic is a direct result of the lack of discipleship. When the church disciples well, when people actively seek to grow in their faith and walk with the Lord, we produce disciples who then go out, evangelize the lost, and make other disciples.
The bottom line is everyone will be discipled by somebody, either an agent of this world or by us, the church. Ultimately, we must complete the process and not stop short of discipleship. We need to grow healthy ministries, not just big ones. We need to explain to those seeking Christ that following Him will come with a cost, but that cost is more than worth it. That way, when they make that all important decision to follow Christ, they won’t be shaken at the first attack from the world, they will be prepared for battle.
In Christ Alone,
Rev. Bro. Coach