Tuesday, November 07, 2006

What is "discipleship"?

On my first (ever) visit to Jacksonville, I met a woman who was very excited about the prospect of North Point launching a strategic partnership in Jacksonville. She said that her church and ours could be great partners. She said, exactly, "ya'll could lead them to Christ and then they could come to our church to be discipled."

I just smiled. The obvious indictment was that, while Access might do a good job at creating environments that lead people to "accept" Jesus Christ, we'll probably drop the ball soon after.

Our mission statement is "to lead people into a growing relationship with Jesus Christ." Everything we do and will do is about that—seeing people increase their faith in God. How does a church accomplish "discipleship"?

Some churches have a great teaching ministry—layers upon layers of classes and electives. In those churches, you hear phrases like "biblical literacy" a lot. Some of those people ask, "when does North Point get to the deeper stuff? However, in my years of ministry, some of the smartest Christians I knew were also the worst at following Jesus' purpose—"to seek and save the lost."

Other churches talk about obedience. And it's true that, if you love Jesus, you'll obey him. But obedience absent the relationship is just pharisaical.

Obedience alone will make you judgmental.

Knowledge alone will make you proud.

A spiritually mature person is one who lives as if God is who He says He is and will do all He has promised to do.

Knowledge? That's a class.

Faith? Maturity? That's a product of time. That's what happens when God works through relationships and circumstances and when we exercise our ministry gifts. It's what happens as we practice the private spiritual disciplines and tune our heart to the heart of God. And yes, it's when practical Bible teaching shows us where we are and where we need to go.

Do we want to see people in a growing relationship with God? Absolutely? Will that happen as a result of classes, seminars, and electives? Not likely. And can it be measured by obedience? Only partly.

Okay, folks, don't be shy about your comments. I'm sure not everyone agrees. In fact, my best friend in ministry for the last decade and I will go to the mat about this issue of "spiritual maturity." But that's okay. He's also an Eagles fan. What's that tell you?



Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with you Rich that the discipleship process occurs through relationships. However, I believe that a significant part of growing deeper in your relationship with Christ is having the RIGHT people around you. Each of us should have someone that we are not merely friends with, but one that knows us at a 'soul' level. It's easy to find ourselves around people (especially other Christians) who are lot of fun, but never encourage us to grow deeper. We need people that will challenge us to be the person God has called us to be. These are people who see within us the God given potential waiting to be unleashed. And we, in turn, should look for that in others.

November 8, 2006 10:24:00 AM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Rich, once again, you hit the nail on the head with your comments about the differences of the words we so frequently toss around to describe our relationships with Christ.

At times when I talk about the church and it's relationship to North Point, I am overwhelmed at the high level of expectation I feel and hear from the people who have heard about Andy, Louie or the worship. Then I realize I am indeed the one with the expectations while acknowledging the humble principle by God's gentle nudging that He is in charge. I truly reflected this weekend upon the fact that nothing I say can make or break the deal for people seeking our church here in Jacksonville. Freedom is restored in my mind and heart when I listen to the Lord about what He is doing in the lives of people in this great city.

I fully support our mission statement. I believe it. I have clung to it in the last 15 months since I left Buckhead Church for the river city. I think North Point gets "to the deeper stuff" through the kitchen environment, through small groups, through communication among believers and unbelievers who grace the church with their presence, by Starting Point, by serving in Waumba Land.

"Obedience alone will make you judgmental" YES!
"Knowledge alone will make you proud" RIGHT ON!
I can personally speak on the topic of obedience causing a critical, cynical heart. I am guilty of this and you nailed it.

I can only hope to aspire to an increased faith and maturity in my coming late 20's.
Thanks for sharing with us.


November 27, 2006 12:02:00 AM EST  
Blogger Sean said...


great thoughts my friend. Anonymous 1 made a great point about key relationships and I couldn't agree more.

One question I have is what does a mean for a person to encourage us "to grow deeper." what is deeper? I think is a Christian word we throw around a lot, but it doesn't have a lot of clarity. does that mean we know more? act nicer? pray more? What is this "deep" that so many churched people seek?

I think this has confused so many people b/c it has them seeking a deeper spiritual knowlege that I'm not sure exists.

I'm not sure there is anything deeper than producing the fruit of the Spirit in the power of the Spirit. Maybe I'm mistaken?

I know I've taken as many Bible and Theology classes as almost anyone alive and yet I often live in an impatient and judgemental way. I know this needs to change more than anything else in me!

Peace and Love,


November 29, 2006 7:57:00 PM EST  
Blogger penny said...

I'm a little late reading these BLOGS, but I wanted to know more about Access Church. I;ve attended twice now and really liked what I saw and heard in the sermon.

I agree w/ your discipleship comments. We need to help people come to a "true faith" in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I heard tonight in Bible Study:
We all need to realize how much we need Christ. even IF we're obedient and knowledgable. Blessings in this new venture, Penny

April 9, 2007 10:13:00 PM EDT  

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