Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Christian or Disciple?

In April 2012 I sat with a small group of mega-church pastors who lamented their inability to make disciples, admitting that their people were addicted to preachers and programs. The Multiply(www.multiplymovement.com) curriculum was launched out of that meeting. It’s a call to make disciples who will make disciples through telling the story of God. This past week I met with this group again, this time in Austin. Some of those pastors have now have handed over mega-churches to lead house churches, others lead churches of 10 000 plus, but all face the same challenge – how do we make disciple makers? It’s not the size or form of church that is key – it is the quality of disciples.

One of the questions we wrestled around was, what really is a disciple?
We have up in our church lobby the ‘9 elements of a disciple.’ I loved being part of the wordsmith process of the definitions, and I love the way they look in our lobby. They are carefully chosen, and beautifully portrayed, but for the life of me I could not remember more than about 3 asd I sat in Austin. So I found myself thinking, "What definition is transferrable enough for everyone to remember and commit to?"

Jesus, when he called the disciples said, called them with clear, authoritative simplicity. “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.” His call was essentially to three things – to follow Him –not just believe, but accept him as their leader. To be changed by Him – I will make you. And to be on mission with him.” I will make you fishers of men.’ That is the essence of a disciple.

The word disciple is used over 258 times in the New Testament, whereas the word Christian is only used three times. Disciple does not just mean ‘student’, it means ‘apprentice’. We are learning to do the things that Jesus did. It is very active. Following Jesus does not just mean learning about him, but doing what he did – making disciples. It has multiplication in it’s dna.

Christian means 'little Christ' is more a statement of association than a statement of intent. In acts 11 in the church of Antioch, Luke says, ‘the disciples were first called Christians there.’ In other words, the way the disciples were following Jesus reminded people so much of Jesus that they called them ‘little Christ’s’ This may sound provocative, but maybe we should be calling ourselves disciples of Jesus, and leaving it to the city to say whether we remind them of Jesus or not? Maybe we need to give our unbelieving friends a ‘hunting license’ to call us out where we do not remind them of Jesus?

Whatever, the case, Jesus calls us to far more than just ‘association.’ He commissions us, as his apprentices, to learn from him, walk with him, and do what he did – to make disciples.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Alan
    Are there transcripts of those meetings? I'm sure there would be many who would love to hear their/your thoughts.

    A question of sorts - do you think that the "go make disciples" commission was the culmination of the "I will make you" proposition? Was the time spent with Jesus the necessary preparation for them having the authority to go and make disciples? I'm intrigued that after all that they had been through, and done for him, it was only when Jesus returned to the Father that he gave them authority to disciple. I'm certain that if that had been us we would have thought that we were already "doing the stuff" by now! Do you think that they had to wait for the crucifixion/resurrection event before they could make actual disciples, rather than just "proclaiming the Kingdom" (even with its accompanying signs, wonders and miracles)?

    Intriguing too that, whilst we take a rightful inference, Jesus didn't say to them that they would be fishers of men "for him", nor that they were to make disciples "of Jesus" of all nations. Hence I suppose your comment on usage of the Christian name tag - we can be so intent on christianizing but maybe lose out on the expense of discipling.