Discipleship in a Digital World.
You and I are called to communicate unchanging truth to a continually evolving world. This dynamic tension often strains our ability to connect, and relevantly influence our cultural toward Christ. Yet Jesus' final desires were for his followers to create disciples, and change the culture. Mark's gospel says "Go into the world and preach to every creature, baptizing them. . ." (Mark 16.15) John recalls Jesus said "as the Father sent me, now I send you." (John 20.21) Matthew, writing to the Jewish community directly responsible to expand the gospel's influence, grabs Jesus words. "Go ye therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing and teaching them" (Matt 28.19-20)
If we are called to make disciples, what does that mean? What is disciple building? What is discipleship's place in today's digital, live-streaming, instant world? Can a modern church reach the digital generation and fulfill the great commission with these modern, plugged in, wired, but personally disconnected tools? Well, as Dr. Phil would ask, "How is that working for you?" How much lasting, life changing impact is the church having with respect to the increasing commitment to technology and multi-media resources dedicated to preaching to the masses?
Has our nation taken on more or less of the image of Christ in the past 30 years? Are our children more, or less transformed by the power of Love incarnate? Just how is this working for us, the Church?
Discipleship is the means to transform a person into the image of Christ. Discipleship takes time, effort, love, prayer, and a commitment to walk with another person until you see Christ formed in them. Without discipleship, a new convert is likely to remain culturally connected the world outside of Christ. Old habits remain unchanged - former personal identity untransformed. The new life that started out with great hope and expectation tragically fades, like a seed planted in shallow soil, withered and dry.
Discipleship isn't simple. But If we are to be the church, be the salt that keeps the world from decaying, be a light set on a hill for all to see, we have make a personal investment, and change our approach from building a church to building the Kingdom. Here are 5 points to ponder.
Win: The process starts when one person wins another to Christ. Paul was willing to become all things to all men so that by all means some might be saved. When Jesus called Peter, James and John to leave their boats, their journey was just beginning. Salvation, getting saved, praying a sinner's prayer, coming forward to an altar call, making a profession of faith, is just a beginning. (1 Cor. 9.19-22, Jude 22-23)
Build: Like any newly born child, a newly born Christ follower must learn how to follow. Babies are fed, with milk, mush and then meat. Our task is to walk alongside these new believers, for 6 months, a year or longer, and teach them to walk with Christ. They will fall, and disappoint you. But without your example of faith and friendship, a new believer will likely return to what they knew, when what is new isn't working out so well. (Philippians 4.6-9, 1 Thess. 5.11ff)
Equip: "You give a man a fish, and he will eat for a day. Teach a man to fish . . ." You know the rest. Each and every Christian can, and should feed themselves daily. Then we learn the power, and reach toward our potential in god's kingdom. We are called to share what Christ has given to us with others. (2 Tim. 2.2, 2 Peter 1.3-8, Eph 4.8, 11-15)
Release: The Discipleship cycle completes when the new Christ follower engages, giving of his life, gifts, resources and time to the life of the church and others. Jesus spent 2 years with his disciples, and then sent them out 2 x 2, preaching and demonstrating with miraculous signs that the kingdom of God was come. Today's disciples are called to the same work. (Luke 10.1-18)
Duplicate: Start the process again, this time two people work to build the kingdom.
If the Church is to look like the Church, and be the bride of our Bridegroom, the body of Christ . . . we must take on the work of the church, which is the work of making disciples and transforming the world. Then we will be changed. Then we will be like Him. Then we will be ready for his return.
2 Cor. 5.17-20
Win: Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creation,
Build: Old things have passed away, behold, all things are become new
Equip: And all things are of God, who has reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation.
Release: To know, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself . . . and has committed unto us the world of reconciliation.
Duplicate: Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ.
Timothy Burns lives in West Michigan, and has written professionally for 6 years. Timothy writes with a deep connection to cultural influences, Christ centered living, and how often unwritten patterns can influence our behaviors and beliefs.
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