“Christianity without discipleship is always Christianity without Christ.” – Dietrich Bonhoeffer
For the last five minutes or so I’ve been staring at the word “discipleship” and like any word that you stare at for too long it began to look very strange. Unfortunately, that’s how many people look at discipleship in general… strange. How does it work? What does it look like?
A few years ago when we were preparing to launch Christ’s Church, I remember standing in a room with about fifteen members of our launch team dreaming about what the church would look like and how we could impact our community with the good news of Christ. We were discussing what we’d like to name the new church. We all came up with some really interesting names. I remember someone mentioning the name “Christ’s Church” and I thought it was perfect. You see, we believed then and we believe now that this thing called church, and more specifically discipleship, isn’t solely built upon programs, processes or paradigms but on a person, Jesus Christ. He is our cornerstone and our foundation.
At Christ’s Church our mission is to be a Christ-Centered Church leading people to live Christ-Centered lives. Focusing on the person of Christ and growing under His Lordship is the only real way that we can be disciple making disciples that live for Him alone. We believe what Bonhoeffer said, “Christianity without discipleship is always Christianity without Christ.”
So, what does that (discipleship) look like for us?
Our mission ties in with our vision statements and discipleship process. There are four overly simplistic visionary discipleship statements:
Right before Jesus gives the Great Commission in Matthew 28, something happens that is often overlooked. Earlier, Jesus had directed his disciples to go to a mountain in Galilee (Mt. 28:10). So, his disciples head to the mountain; they obeyed him. There they see Jesus. The Bible doesn’t say that in that moment they asked him all kinds of questions about what had just happened or that they ran up and hugged him… What does it say? They worshipped him, even those that doubted (Mt. 28:17). The entire end goal of what we’re doing here on earth is to worship God. In fact, missions exist because worship doesn’t.
“Worship has been misunderstood as something that arises from a feeling which ‘comes upon you,’ but it is vital that we understand that it is rooted in a conscious act of the will, to serve and obey the Lord Jesus Christ.” – Graham Kendrick
We were created to worship God in everything that we do. From work, family, fellowship, prayer, song, preaching, giving, serving, whatever it is that we do, it needs to be Christ-Centered and in worship to the Creator.
Our first visionary discipleship statement encompasses why we are here; to lead people to Christ-Centered Worship. Everyone worships something. Our mission is to make that something a person, Jesus. Without this, everything else we do is arbitrary.
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (Jn 13:34-35)
People will know that we are disciples of Jesus by our love. Churches can be known for all sorts of things: their youth ministry, kids program, outward appearance, outreach, band, etc. But, Jesus says that the world will know that we are his disciples by our love. Here’s the issue: it’s really hard to actually love people if you don’t know them, don’t know what’s going on in their lives. It’s actually really hard, perhaps impossible, to be the church without knowing and loving people. We can let a year go by in church sitting just a few chairs down from the same people without ever getting to know them. There’s something wrong with that.
In Acts 2 it says that people were together and had everything in common. They were even selling their possessions and distributing the proceeds to anyone that had need. Raise your hand if you’d sell something that you have just to help a fellow disciple out. Most wouldn’t. It’s because there is a lack of Christ centered Kingdom mindedness. We want to help people discover christian community. We want people to know and love each other as we all grow in love of the Lord Jesus. We do that through small groups. This is our second visionary discipleship statement.
“Community is deeply grounded in the nature of God. It flows from who God is. Because he is community, he creates community. It is his gift of himself to humans. Therefore, the making of community may not be regarded as an optional decision for Christians. It is a compelling and irrevocable necessity, a binding divine mandate for all believers at all times…It is in small groups that people can get close enough to know each other, to care and share, to challenge and support, to confide and confess, to forgive and be forgiven, to laugh and weep together, to be accountable to each other, to watch over each other and to grow together. Personal growth does not happen in isolation. It is the result of interactive relationships. Small groups are God’s gift to foster changes in character and spiritual growth.” – Carolyn Taketa
“For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45)
It is impossible to be Christ-Centered if we are only focused on ourselves. The God of the universe humbled himself and took on flesh, he walked amongst us, he served, he washed feet, he ate with sinners. He emptied himself for the betterment of the people that were around him. “…let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves. For who is the greater, one who reclines at table or one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at table? But I am among you as the one who serves.” (Lk 22:26-27)
We believe that true disciples are those that serve others out of the overflow of the love of Jesus that they’ve been shown. Consumer Christianity may be taking over the mainstream but those that serve will be the ones that impact the world with the gospel. One of my good friends and a fellow elder in the church always says, “No one will care how much you know until they know how much you care.”
I once read an article about how to handle depression and stress. The premise of the article was that when we take the focus off ourselves and serve others, certain chemicals are released in our brain that relieve stress and depression. When this becomes a lifestyle, serving others, we will truly begin to reflect the image of Jesus and impact our community with the gospel. Service is setting others needs before our own.
“The first question which the priest and the Levite asked was: “If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?” But the good Samaritan reversed the question: “If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?” – Martin Luther King, Jr.
We want to be disciples that make disciples and a church plant that plants churches.
God blessed Abraham so that he would be a blessing to others. “And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.” (Genesis 12:2)
The end goal of our discipleship is that we would worship God; but in the process, in order to be Christ-Centered, we must understand that our discipleship always pushes us to make disciples that will also worship, commune with, and serve God. We were not given a message of grace, love and salvation in order to keep it to ourselves. Jesus came to proclaim the Kingdom of God. If His mission becomes our mission, then we will be compelled by his love to share this message. Multiplication is simply leading others through the same visionary discipleship paths. Anyone can do this. We believe in the priesthood of all believers so it’s not just the pastor or elders that make disciples, it’s everyone.
“Just as the true fruit of an apple tree is not an apple, but another tree; the true fruit of a small group is not a new Christian, but another group; the true fruit of a church is not a new group, but a new church; the true fruit of a leader is not a follower, but a new leader; the true fruit of an evangelist is not a convert, but new evangelists. Whenever this principle is understood and applied, the results are dramatic.”
― Ed Stetzer, Spiritual Warfare and Missions
Believe it or not, even in the midwest, there are communities without Christian Churches. There are also communities that are starving for more Christian Churches. We can help with that. As Nexus helped plant us in 2015, we will help plant other churches in order to see lives transformed by the gospel message.
Application and Challenges
- Seek to worship God tonight with your family. Worship doesn’t just happen on Sunday’s.
- Get into a small group!
- Serve at church and in the community. (Check out our “See a need/Meet a need” wall at church.
- Pray for laborers for the harvest.
- Be intentional about sharing Christ with your neighbors this week. (Maybe just have them over for dinner and build that initial relationship.)
WHOEVER FINDS CHRIST, FINDS LIFE!