Continuing our series on the 5 parts of a healthy church.
Last week was Worship and that passionate and inspiring worship is key to a healthy church and without it churches will become unhealthy and unable to make disciples.
This week is Discipleship. Discipleship is a fundamental part of church. Without discipleship that is intentional the church will be unhealthy.
Discipleship is the intentional growth of someone’s faith from that of a brand new Christian to a well-developed leader.
If we hope to have a healthy church we must disciple people and we must have a plan for discipleship.
Without intentional discipleship then people are not growing in faith.
Without people growing in faith we end up with either no leaders or at best dysfunctional leaders.
Without people growing in their faith the church suffers. Actually, what happens is there are no new leaders to take over on committees and people end up on the same committee for 20 plus years because there is no one to replace them.
Without discipleship, there are no Sunday School teachers, which means kids aren’t being discipled. Which means the next generation isn’t discipled.
Which means the church closes. Slowly but surely, without discipleship churches will cease to exist.
Without adequate discipleship the church will die. Literally, without discipleship the leadership will get old, pass away, and there will be no one left.
You might be sitting here thinking “This church will never die, there will always be someone to take over.” Well, the reality is, without discipleship there is no one to take over.
Without discipleship, one day the bishop will show up, say a few nice words, serve communion one last time and then the lights will be turned off and the doors locked one last time before a for sale sign goes up on the front lawn. In our conference this happens about 6 times per year, every year.
Discipleship is key to a church’s survival.
If Discipleship is so fundamental, what is it? How do I know if I am disciplining someone? How do we know if the church is disciplining people?
A Disciple is someone who follows someone else.
In our case that someone else is Jesus.
A Disciple is someone who follows Jesus, does what Jesus does.
Discipleship is when one person helps another person follow Jesus.
This doesn’t mean they have it all figured out or know all the answer but it means that they are figuring it out together.
Here, turn with me to Matthew 28:16-20 and see what Jesus says about discipleship.
Matthew 28:16-20 Pew Bible Page 32
16 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus told them to go.17 When they saw him, they worshipped him, but some doubted. 18 Jesus came near and spoke to them, “I’ve received all authority in heaven and on earth. 19 Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to obey everything that I’ve commanded you. Look, I myself will be with you every day until the end of this present age.”
This points to a few things about discipleship.
1. You can still be a disciple if you have doubts. Verse 17. The Disciples doubted.
– We don’t know what they doubted. Their abilities? Jesus? Their mission? We only know they had doubts.
– If you doubt you are in good company.
– You can doubt and still follow Jesus.
2. Jesus commands us to make disciples
– If you have never made a disciple, you are not doing what Jesus has commanded you.
– If you cannot point to a single person who is a Christian because of you, then you have not made a disciple and you are not doing what Jesus commanded.
3. We make disciples by teaching people the commands of Jesus.
– Not by making them follow church rules or traditions.
– Not by teaching them the finer points of Arminianism vs. Calvinism
– By teaching them to follow the commands of Jesus.
– There are only 2.
– Love God with your whole heart, mind, body, and strength.
– Love your neighbor as yourself.
– Parents, you don’t do this by dragging your kids to church. You do it by actually teaching this to your children.
– Spouses, you don’t do this by dragging your spouse to church. You do this by actually teaching it to them.
– You teach this to those around you by actually doing it.
– Modeling this behavior and talking about this belief is how you teach it.
– If you teach your kids to love their neighbor and then make racist comments in front of them you are teaching racism.
– If you teach your kids to love God, but then you don’t read your Bible you are not discipling your kids.
– If you model loving your neighbor but never tell your family why you love them then you are not making disciples.
– You do it, and you talk about why you do it. That is how you make disciples.
How do you know if you have made a disciple?
- Not church attendance, not bible knowledge, or confirmation or membership.
- You have made a disciple when that person makes a disciple.
- If that person never makes a disciple then neither have you.
- Jesus calls us to go make disciples. If that person has not made a disciple they are not following Jesus. Which means you have not made a disciple which means you are not obeying Jesus’ command to make a disciple.
If you are not discipling someone you are not a disciple of Jesus.
Your family counts.
Your weird neighbor counts.
Your kids count. In fact your kids are the best opportunity you have for discipling people.
- I would suggest that if you want to leave a legacy to your children that the best way to do that is to teach them to follow Jesus.
- I would suggest the greatest gift you can give your children is a faith that is their own that they live in to and can say confidently that they believe in Jesus.
- You might not be the person who changes the world and calls thousands of people to Jesus. However, you might be the person who raises the person who changes the world and calls thousands to Jesus.
I would also say, that it isn’t to start this. If your kids do not have a faith of their own or it is that faith that only shows up on Christmas and Easter or when you force them and they give you an answer just to get you to leave them alone. It is not to late!
You can start those conversations now. Not in that nagging overbearing parent kind of way but simply loving your kids and talking to them about grace and second chances and the love God has for them.
Discipling is not some weird long involved process. Or some check list of things you have to do. It is growing together and figuring out faith together. So you and another person read the Bible together? You read devotions together? What do you do?
You begin the process of discipling someone with one question.
- Based on what you just heard/learned/talked about, what are you going to do.
So, if you are reading the Bible together you disciple them by saying “Based on what we read, what are you going to do?”
If it is your kids and they are with you in church today you ask them “What are you going to do based on what you just heard?”
If it is your co-worker, distant relative, friends. You can say “Hey, I was in church this weekend and let me tell you what we just talked about. Or even “Hey, want to have lunch with me.” Then start by listening to them, getting to know them, and then finish with “we should do this again.” and keep that conversation going and moving.
You can disciple anyone. It doesn’t need to be official or drawn out or have curriculum. It is simply you and her or him sitting down and talking about life and how Jesus fits into it and how you can each be better at following Jesus.
To be a healthy church we must each be discipling someone.
So here is the challenge. If you are not currently discipling someone, this week, go find someone. Anyone.
You can tell me if you want, but I won’t ask if you are doing this, but I will know. We will all know if you are discipling someone because they will be coming to church and hanging out with you and you will be a better Christian and everyone will see that you are taking the commands of scripture seriously.
When you take discipling seriously and begin to disciple others everyone will see it. We will see you taking the commands of Christ seriously and you are investing your time into them.
When we take discipling seriously the whole church will be healthier and California United Methodist Church will exist for generations and generations.