These Three Things Are Not Disicipleship

If you want to solve a problem, you have to know there is a problem. When it comes to discipleship, we need to understand the bad definitions that persist in order to propose a better way. In this post, I want to point out the three bad definitions for discipleship that you need to recognize and move past.

book stacks

Knowledge Transfer
Discipleship must be rooted in truth but it must never be quarantined to a library. Too often, our discipleship programs in church are simply an overwhelming number of classroom settings. We convince ourselves that knowing more biblical factoids means holiness. But knowing that Malchus was the servant who got his ear cut off by Peter during Jesus’ arrest will not help you live more fully for God. It is good to know all of the details of the Bible but it is not the sum total of discipleship. We must communicate truth but never stop with 3-ring binders filled with class notes.


Behavior Modification
Do you recognize this Medieval torture device implemented by music teachers? The metronome has an unwavering beat that frightens school children into doing things on time, repeatedly, and without hesitation whether they are passionate or not. Discipleship programs that ignore our passions damage the soul. If we only seek to make people moral then we reduce God to an impersonal being that only wants robotic followers. Behavior modification is easier than heart transformation. It is neater, cleaner, and avoids the mess of dealing with people’s passions. But it is also temporary.


Plasticized Spirituality
Go to any state fair and you’ll find a line stretching out to the horizon filled with children waiting their turn to ride on the Carousel. It enraptures a child’s imagination of flying through the air on a powerful steed. It also reflects too much of our what passes for discipleship in the church. The lights are bright. The music is upbeat. Everyone is moving. Everyone is smiling. But no one is going anywhere. We allow people to live fake lives before one another rather than sharing the truth of how we’ve been brutalized by sin and redeemed by Christ. The carousel is a temporary thrill that has no lasting impact.

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Philip Nation

Philip Nation

I serve as the pastor at First Baptist Church of Bradenton, Florida and frequently speak at churches and conferences. I earned a Master of Divinity from Beeson Divinity School and a Doctor of Ministry from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. In 2010-2012, I was the national spokesperson for the Back to Church Sunday campaign from Outreach. Over the years, I’ve served as a pastor, minister of education, and a church planter. In 2016, I published Habits for Our Holiness: How the Spiritual Disciplines Grow Us Up, Draw Us Together, and Send Us Out with Moody Publishers. I’ve coauthored two other books: Compelled: Living the Mission of God and Transformational Discipleship: How People Really Grow. I was also the general editor of The Mission of God Study Bible. Along the way, I have written the small-group studies Storm Shelter: Psalms of God’s Embrace, Compelled by Love: The Journey to Missional Living and Live in the Word, plus contributed to The Great Commission Resurgence: Fulfilling God’s Mandate in Our Lifetime.

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Recent Comments
What happens when u dont have a meeting place any more. And u was forced out because the buliding wasnt available any more.
— Debra
If someone wants entertainment they're going to the wrong place. Church is not a place for entertainment...or in my opinion a barrage of coffee and donuts. Why are churches today bringing the world INTO them? Then there's the thing with children...age appropriate??? These little guys can pick stuff up in service. Besides Jesus said Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven. Mt. 19:14.
— Laurie
I love the intentionality here as well as the challenge to look at the data. That's missing so many times. I would like to offer a contrarian's take. Church members and regular attenders have so many ways to get information: Announcements, bulletins, social channels, relationships, and email being among the options. But brand new people are likely going to check out the website and that's it. It might be wiser for churches with limited time and resources to focus their website almost exclusively to guests. This group of people isn't looking for a calendar of events but wants to know about regular programs. They probably aren't interested in watching all of the messages but instead may want to preview one of the services. For the times we need church members to go to websites (sign up for camp, join a group, etc), we're probably better off designing and promoting a specific page rather than cluttering up the homepage.
— Michael Lukaszewski (@mlukaszewski)

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