Discipleship is not a program. It is not a ministry. It is a life-long
commitment to a lifestyle.
There is a crisis in the church of NorthAmerica. A growing number of voices are joining the chorus that is giving voice to the crisis, most prominent among them, Darrell Guder of Princeton Theological Seminary. The symptoms of the crisis include diminishing numbers, clergy burnout, the loss of youth, the end of denominational loyalty, biblical illiteracy, the perceived (italicized word my own, reflecting my bias) irrelevance of traditional forms of worship, the loss of genuine spirituality, and the widespread confusion about both the purpose and the message of the church of Jesus Christ. The typical response of church leaders, asserts Guder, is to identify methodological solutions. All it takes, it would seem, is money, talent, time, and commitment. This approach to the crisis may seem to be the answer but it is not. The answer to the crisis of the North American church, continues Guder, will not be found at the level of method and problem solving. The answer, quite simply, is a recovery of the missional church.
Foundational to the missional church is the nurturing of a congregational culture where all members are involved in learning to become disciples of Jesus. Disciples of Jesus think differently, behave differently, and use financial resources differently than persons not actively following Jesus. Disciples of Jesus are less concerned with whether the local church is meeting personal needs and preferences and more concerned with intentionally integrating their life with the practices and habits of Jesus. Disciples view membership in the local church not as entitlement to privileges but as an arena where citizenship in God’s kingdom is actively lived.
The difficulty, according to Dallas Willard, another voice in the chorus, is that in many churches, persons are expected to automatically know how to grow as a fully committed disciple of Jesus. What many church leaders are now discovering is that they don’t. A clear, manageable, pathway for being shaped into Christ-likeness is not presented to church members with the unfortunate result that many are asking, “Is this all that there is to being a Christian?
This November, First Presbyterian Church of Delray Beach will host Dr. Greg Ogden, a Presbyterian pastor, author and leading voice today in Christian formation. The small group resources he has published are the most effective materials today for moving people deeper in their formation in Christ. Your elected leaders and staff want an even more robust future for our ministry. Such a ministry will have an exponentially greater impact for God’s kingdom in Palm Beach Countyand the world. This future begins with increasing numbers of church members taking personal responsibility for intentional Christian formation in their lives. Greg Ogden will show us the way.