Ramblings and Random Thoughts Disciples or Members?
Disciples or Members

Brother Bob Terry recently wrote an interesting article in the Alabama Baptist paper. In it he asks the question, "Are people Church Members or Christian Disciples?" Brother Bob knows the answer as does almost anyone who has seriously considered the question. I thought about the question for a few days. I completely realize there are some very committed Christians in most of our Churches. I am not making any dogmatic statements, here are just some of the things I thought of.

In Matthew 28:18-20 Jesus spoke the last words before he ascended to heaven. We often refer to this as the "Great Commission." He commanded his followers to do three things: make disciples, baptize and teach. So, how good are most churches doing with the "Great Commission?" How good are we at making disciples of Jesus? I believe the modern American church, for the most part, is failing miserably. Jesus did not tell us to make converts. He did not tell us to preach the gospel of salvation every time we meet. He did tell us to "make disciples". Well, what do disciples look like? First and foremost I think one would have the attitudes of Jesus. Paul lists some of those, probably the most important, in Galatians 5:22-23. He calls them the Fruit of the Spirit. Almost anyone would consider having the Fruit of the Spirit in your life as a sign of and result of Christian maturity. I would make a strong statement, without apology, and say that a disciple of Jesus would have these showing up in their lives. If the fruit is not developing you are not maturing as a Christian and a disciple. Two of the 9 fruit are for you: joy and peace. The other 7 are for everybody else to see and enjoy: love, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. In the fifteenth chapter of John, Jesus said if we abide in him and he abides in us, we will produce much fruit. Mostly, I fear, we do not know just what this abiding looks like, but that is another thought.

Why does this disparity exist between being a Church Member and being a Disciple? I guess theologians and religious leaders could debate that from now until eternity. One reason may be that many pastors are not preaching and teaching on Christian Maturity. This may have been a problem in Paulís time. He tells the Hebrew Christians, and thus tells us also, they need to move on from the elementary doctrines and on to Christian maturity. In Hebrews 6:1-3 he tells them not to lay again a foundation of repentance from dead works, of faith toward God, of instructions about washings and laying on of hands, and the resurrection of the dead and eternal judgment. But to press on toward maturity. I am reminded of a time several years ago. I challenged a former pastor to preach a series on this maturity Paul is talking about and lay aside these elementary doctrines. Although he was not offended by my challenge, a PhD and over 30 years in the ministry apparently had not prepared him to preach toward that end. He replied that he would have to look at that. Years later he had not taught that series and not very much past those elementary doctrines. I certainly do not have the answers and will be the first to admit that I do not. I am sure of one thing, the messages from many pulpits does not ever get past those elementary doctrines.

Could this be the reason that so few are really involved in serving Jesus instead of just being church members, as brother Terry wrote? Could this be the reason some churches have strife in them, immaturity in the members? Could this be the reason some people leave a church and move to another, is that they are wanting to mature but donít know exactly what to do? Sub-consciously they are desiring to be more like Jesus and move to find the answers. Some churches are really blossoming. I know some of those are preaching and teaching to move those who go there from members and attendees to disciples. There is a line in an old Pink Floyd song that goes some thing like this:

When I was a child,
I caught a fleeting glimpse,
Out of the corner of my eye,
I turned to look,
But it was gone.
I can not put my finger on it now.
The child is grown.
The dream is gone.
And I have become
Comfortably Numb.

Have you ever thought you saw something out of the corner of your eye, but when you turned to look directly at it there was nothing there. This describes many of our Christian experience. When we are saved, we get a glimpse of the Christian Life. Jesus said he came that we might have life and that life abundantly. We get a glimpse of that Christian life. Then when we look directly at it, when we start to live it out, we canít see what that abundant life looks like. We canít really put our finger on the problem, but the child is grown and the dream is gone. Many Church Members have become "Comfortably Numb." However some of the members are not comfortably numb. They begin to remember the glimpse they got and they want to see it more clearly. Sometimes they get another glimpse from somewhere. Maybe a book, maybe a TV program or maybe they get a glimpse of that abundant life from reading the Bible. They will not be satisfied until they can see it more clearly and live it out in their lives. When they stay in the church they are in, they sometimes make those who are Comfortably Numb very uncomfortable. When this happens, the best word to describe it is "friction."

When a pastor and a church decide the most important thing is to make disciples, the other things will take care of themselves. When a body of believers get a grip on discipleship, then outreach and missions wonít suffer. In fact they will explode. That church wonít have any problems getting people to work in the nursery or to give their money abundantly, maybe even enthusiastically, to do Godís work. One very popular Christian writer named John Ortberg wrote, "Spiritual growth requires that our life with God move from the Ďshouldí category to the Ďwant-toí category." We sometimes think of our pastor as the one who baptizes us, marries us and buries us. We must think of our pastor as the one who God has placed in the church to lead us from the "should" group to the "want-to" group.

It has been said that you canít give a correct answer until you completely understand the question and you canít find a solution until you completely understand the problem. Once we admit there is a problem and then seek to understand it, the Church can find solutions that will grow members into disciples.

So what is my take on Christian maturity? I know it can not be realized with rules of doís and doníts, with requirements, laws and a "heavy yoke". I believe that maturing as a Christian is completely based on realizing more and more just how much Jesus really loves me. I believe all faith, love, power and change are rooted in this.

These are some things I thought about. What do you think, are many churches full of members or disciples? If there is a problem, where does it lie?

Serving the King,
Aaron Bruce


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