Skin That Cat!
There are more ways than one to skin a cat. Or, in concrete terms, there is more than one way to achieve an aim.
The ultimate aim for the Christian is to follow Jesus as his model for life for the sake of God, his own, and others. He is motivated by love for God and others. Discipleship (learning and training to do just that) and spiritual formation are the vehicles we travel to our destination: Christ-likeness.
Spiritual formation proper is the work the Holy Spirit does in us to shape our character to reflect Christ’s character. Discipleship proper is learning how to follow and to actually follow Jesus in every aspect of our lives. The disciple lives his life inwardly and outwardly, privately and publicly as if Christ were living it in his place.
KNCSB’s discipleship team works with this definition of a disciple: one who is becoming like Jesus for the sake of others. Becoming like Jesus is a journey of a lifetime. It doesn’t happen overnight or by accident. It’s done on purpose and for life. Yes we are becoming disciples all the time. Discipleship is not an end but the way to the end of reflecting Christ in all areas of our lives.
Then there is becoming like Jesus. How exciting! How daunting! Who can describe this without bowing down to the mystery of it all? Who can describe the day-to-day work of the Holy Spirit in the life of the Church. We are to train to live humbly, walk with God, in the power of the Holy Spirit, let His mind be in us, serve and love others sacrificially, be sent to transform our communities, engage in activities that strengthen our souls and our resolve to follow God’s will, flee evil, do what is good, and engage in the things that Jesus cared about, just as Jesus did. Anything else or short of this is not apprenticeship to Jesus. We must be about learning and training to do all his commands.
Then there’s the “for the sake of others” part. Not only do we participate with the Holy Spirit’s work in shaping our hearts but also in the work of the Holy Spirit in bringing the kingdom and will of God on earth as in heaven. We love God and we love our neighbors. That love is as broad and as varied as all of life. It has no limits other than the imagination and the creativity of God! There is the inward part of discipleship and there is the part that is for the benefit of others. God works and we are co-workers with God.
Finally, there’s the community. Discipleship is a plural idea. The word disciple in the singular is rare while the plural disciples as a group is common. Community or local church is essential to discipleship. Soloists must give way to ensemble in discipleship. There may be small solo parts in discipleship just as there is in a string quartet. But it remains chamber or ensemble music. The goal of discipleship is not to make our solo flights into a life with Christ. The goal is a life of interdependence on one another to follow Christ faithfully.
How a church engages discipleship can be as different as each church is different (more ways than one to skin a cat). This is the reason the KNCSB discipleship team has come up with four specific approaches or frameworks to help churches in their discipleship efforts.
I’ll name the four approaches and have more to say about each in future articles.
1. The small church approach
2. The church-to-church approach
3. The small group approach
4. The online approach
The first approach is about helping our smaller churches in their discipling efforts. Most of our churches are smallish (under a 100) and typically don’t have the resources to develop elaborate discipleship programs. They rely more on relationship. In this approach, the key is to maximize relationships for discipleship. Everything that small church leaders do can be done with some thought and imagination to bring about character transformation for the sake of others. Preaching, teaching, worship, administration, fellowship, serving, and committee work can all be done in ways to promote growing in our conformity to Christ. KNCSB’s discipleship team will conduct seminars or consultations on how discipleship can travel already existing functions or activities in the church.
The church-to-church approach is about connecting churches that are doing discipleship fruitfully with those churches that want to learn or improve on their disciple making activities. The discipleship team is aware of those churches in our convention and in other places and will do what is necessary to help churches connect for learning.
The third approach of helping our churches in their discipleship has to do with intentionally starting a movement of small groups of 3 or 4 to multiply disciples. There are several models that we can recommend.
The last approach of helping our churches is to present a way of assessing members’ spiritual strength with online assessment tools that determine levels of spirituality and to recommend paths of growth that help individuals and church leadership to to customize discipleship in the church.
Those who walk with the Master take discipleship most seriously just as the Master has.
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