I had a wild experience this week, meeting a leader in the missional church movement that has been influential in my understanding of living on mission for God’s Kingdom. I had stayed up half the night before church last week, watching Alan Hirsch videos on Youtube, trying to find something I could show during our Sunday School hour to start a discussion on missional discipleship – which requires deconstructing our Christ-against-culture/evangelism/consumerism mindsets and reconstructing a mindset of discipleship through relationship, meeting and loving people where they are, drawing them to Christ through showing up, time and again.
Anyway, I had just had this Alan-Hirsch-binge and a few days later, was face-to-face with him at my job, where he was attending a dinner! “Are you Alan Hirsch?!” I exclaimed, and when he smilingly told me he was, we shook hands and I thanked him for his work. Then I recovered my professionalism and carried on. But it got me thinking that I ought to share his work here with my blog readers. So here is the video I chose for my Sunday School class, and the notes I passed out. You can learn more about Alan Hirsch here.
Discipleship is fundamental to our faith – it is formation in Christ. Missional discipleship incorporates the assimilation of spiritual disciplines (prayer, etc.) but goes beyond to involve ourselves in the eternal purposes of God in this world to redeem it to himself.
Highly transformative missional movements throughout history, with explosive growth and high transformation (the early Church, the Celtic movement, Moravians, Methodists, Pentecostals) have been obsessed with discipleship and disciple-making.
The key to the health, sustainment, extension and renewal of the church is not more evangelism, but more discipleship.
Greek philosopher Epictetus – “It’s impossible to teach a man what he thinks he already knows.”
There’s some unlearning we need to do. We’ve used the Great Commission to mean “we do evangelism.”
Matthew 28:16-20 “All power and authority has been given to me…Go…make disciples of the nations, teaching them to obey all that I’ve commanded you, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.” Where do you hear evangelism here? Evangelism is implied, but it is actually about discipleship.
The way we’ve been doing evangelism feeds consumerism. People are looking for purpose, meaning, significance, belonging, community – the very thing religion offers is being sought in consumption.
You can’t make disciples out of consumers. Jesus said “die,” come to the cross. You can’t take that out of the equation and expect the same results. We must begin with the end in mind – what God intends to achieve in the world. But we must also end with the beginning in mind. It’s all about discipleship, from beginning to end.
When were the disciples born again? Right up front? In the middle? Towards the end? The Johannine Pentecost (John 20:19-23)? Jesus has a whole lot of pre-conversion disciples. That’s what we should do! Don’t focus on the evangelism part, focus on discipleship. Somewhere along the line will come the born again experience – that comes from God. That’s Jesus’ business.
First draw out the image of God (Image Dei) and then the image of Christ (Imago Christi). Once you’re born again, you’re reformed into the image of Jesus.
Definition: The answer is Jesus.
I believe in substitutionary atonement achieved by Christ on the cross. But it’s not simply that. “It’s Jesus in my heart…but there’s no agenda in my life beyond that.”
The exemplary life of Jesus, his life and teachings, the role he played –
This is the agenda of discipleship!
Ignoring the life of Jesus is a reduction of the Gospel that damages our capacity to be disciples. The cross is where Jesus is my Savior. The rest is where he is my Lord. It is a heresy to divide the person and work of Jesus.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer – “Discipleship means adherence to Christ, and, because Christ is the object of that adherence, it must take the form of discipleship. An abstract Christology, a doctrinal system, a general religious knowledge on the subject of grace or on the forgiveness of sins, render discipleship superfluous, and in fact they positively exclude any idea of discipleship whatever, and are essentially inimical to the whole conception of following Christ. Christianity without the living Christ is inevitably Christianity without discipleship. And Christianity without discipleship is always Christianity without Christ.”
C.S. Lewis “It is easy to think that the Church has a lot of different objects—education, building, missions, holding services …the Church exists for nothing else but to draw men into Christ, to make them little Christs. If they are not doing that, all the cathedrals, clergy, missions, sermons, even the Bible itself, are simply a waste of time. God became Man for no other purpose. It says in the Bible that the whole universe was made for Christ, and that everything is to be gathered in him. That is what it is all about.”
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