A Question of Discipleship

“The fact is that there now is lacking a serious and expectant intention
 to bring Jesus’ people into obedience and abundance through training.”
     During my doctoral studies at Fuller Theological Seminary one of my instructors asked each student to give answer to this question: “What is the greatest obstacle to your church reaching a higher level of effectiveness?” Two students answered before it would be my turn.
     The first student, a senior pastor of a 1,200-member congregation in Toronto, Canada, responded, “The desire for the familiar and convenient beats out the desire for greater effectiveness in ministry. If it involves experimenting with something that might work better, the response is almost always resistance.”
     The second student answered, “A prevailing culture within my church that is defined more by the attitude, ‘It’s about me!’ rather than ‘It’s about God!’ Membership seems to be more about taking care of ‘my needs’ than a concern for the mission of reaching our community for Christ.”
     Then it was my turn. I wished that I had had more time to reflect before having to respond so quickly. The answer that pressed against my heart was, “The lack of a clear understanding of how to move from the shadow waters of faith to the deeper waters of discipleship.” Now, nearly five years later, it is clear to me that more time would not have changed my answer.
     One of the other pastors quickly turned to me, following my answer, and suggested, “Don’t you mean that the problem is the lack of discipline among your members?”
     I answered that such an assessment would be unfair. People must first understand a pathway for growing in their faith. Simply, people need to be shown “how.” It was then that I determined what I would do for my final doctoral project. After a year of reading, thinking, praying and conversations with many pastors of what they found working in their congregations, I developed one pathway for Christian formation: Practices, Solitude, Community and Sharing. This approach is detailed each month in the church’s news magazine, The Spire and fully developed in my book, Faith Journey. I imagine now that it is a question of discipline, isn’t it?

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