Christian discipleship can be a pretty broad category. In this list I’m narrowing it down to three main areas: being a disciple, making disciples, and multiplying disciples.
I. On Being A Disciple
Books “on being a disciple” are numerous and can include hundreds of categories. Books on doctrine, spiritual disciplines, and sharing the gospel can all be helpful to new and maturing disciples alike. Of course, making disciples is also an integral part of being a disciple, but for the purpose of this post I’ve included a book on cultivating your faith, lifestyle discipleship, spiritual warfare, serving Jesus with joy, and family discipleship.
In the Book of Acts, planting churches in unreached areas was the natural application of the Great Commission.
In fact, the logical implication of the Great Commission is that it would be done in the context of the local church wherever it exists and that it would lead to establishing local churches where they don’t exist. Baptism isn’t something that is done isolated from Body life. It is the initiatory rite of a new disciple into the church. Naturally, if a church doesn’t exist and we are pursuing the disciple-making mission, a church needs to be established or we aren’t being faithful to Jesus’ commands. The New Testament knows nothing of a lone ranger evangelist who saves souls and moves on. The church is where disciples are baptized and taught.
This was the approach the apostles took when they were empowered by the Spirit. They established a church in Jerusalem. Then, when the persecution arose against them and many were forced out of Jerusalem, they began making disciples and establishing churches everywhere they went in Judea and in Samaria. Soon, churches were established as far out as Antioch which was a Gentile city. They were fulfilling Jesus’ mandate to be witnesses and to make disciples.
Over the past few months, God has been giving us clarity on our church planting vision for Queens, NY.
Without even planning it this way, the vision God has given us has become more than a vision of what we will see happen. It is also the process to accomplish the vision. In fact, our vision is our disciple making process, our church planting plan, and an embodied apologetic.
First, here is our mission:
Our mission is to glorify God by making disciples of all peoples.
The mission is larger than us. It’s simply the mission that Jesus gives all of His followers. Our church in Queens isn’t going to accomplish this mission entirely on its own, but, as far as it depends on us, the above is what we will strive for.
Our vision on the other hand, is how we will pursue the mission in our particular time and space.
Our Church Planting Vision
We will be a multiplying community of Jesus’ followers in the heart of Queens who will go on mission, grow in grace, and gather in His name for the glory of God among all peoples.
I know. I know. What good are statements like these, right? However, when God gives you a vision for what He is calling you to do it helps to capture it in a clear statement. Otherwise, you might find yourself building something flashier and trendier and otherwise different than what God intended.
Preaching is under attack.
Many have already abandoned preaching for newer, more trendy methods. Others have decided that Jesus and the apostles never preached the way we preach today. Still others have problems with authority. Finally, there are some who simply have never heard a good sermon or have never delivered one themselves and have concluded that sermons are ineffective in the church.
Some have not only abandoned preaching but have made it their mission to preach an anti-preaching message. They constantly oppose the straw man preacher who hides behind a pulpit and delivers a boring 30 minute monologue to a disinterested congregation.
This assault on preaching leads us to carefully consider the following questions:
What is the goal of preaching?”
“Is preaching still a helpful means of making disciples?”
“What are the features of a disciple making sermon?”
“How do we respond to those who have abandoned preaching?”
I have a short-list of books that I use in disciple making and mentoring. Radical: Taking Back Your Faith From the American Dream by my friend David Platt is at the top of the list.
In fact, Radical is one of those books that needs to be read by every American or Western Christian, whether Protestant or Catholic, evangelical or liberal.
First, some back story: I first met David Platt when he was a doctoral candidate at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. He was the teaching assistant for Dr. Jim Shaddix at the time so he presented a couple of lectures if Dr. Shaddix was absent. We didn’t really know each other then but I remember thinking that he was a gifted teacher.
I recently ran across Downline Ministries that exists to “equip Christ followers to make disciples”. It looks like they’ve got training resources, books, and articles to help promote making and multiplying disciples. I haven’t really explored their content very deeply but it looks great.
Check out this video for a look at what Downline is all about:
What do you think?
The irony is that I recently wrote a post entitled Disciple Making vs. Downline: Practicing God’s Presence Or Pyramid Scheme. I wrote that post because I had been hearing some negative voices criticizing discipleship as some sort of multi-level marketing pyramid scheme. Those negative critiques spoke disparaging about discipleship as some sort of “downline”. Personally, I don’t care what you call it and if what I do to make disciples (in obedience to God’s will) looks like a pyramid scheme to critics, then so be it.