Two really thoughtful United Methodists have long disagreed about the role of congregations in forming disciples.
Dan Dick’s latest post on this topic reaffirms his belief that congregations can and should make disciple formation central to their identity. Dan has little toleration for arguments to the contrary.
There is no place in the Bible where discipleship is described as easy, cheap, or fun. The concept of a passive discipleship — what has become the norm of “church membership” — is a contradiction in terms, and an unacceptable standard by which to define ourselves. A mediocre faith is indicative of a mediocre God, and I can’t imagine that God is pleased or amused.
Taylor Burton-Edwards agrees with Dan about the importance of discipleship. He is every bit the advocate for discipleship as Dan. But he disagrees about the role of congregations. Taylor argues that congregations were built and have been good at a limited set of things: public worship, basic doctrinal instruction, care of members, and being a good institutional player in the community.
Discipleship, Taylor argues, is the responsibility of the larger church beyond the local congregation. Disciples are formed in intentional disciple-making communities, much like the early Methodist societies. Congregations can house such groups, but for the most part these exist and are maintained outside the boundaries and programs of local congregations.
I share these brief summaries because this debate feeds my indecisiveness. I have two smart guys making passionate arguments about the proper way to pursue disciple-making.
Now, the decisive and entrepreneurial among you will have an easy answer to this quandary. “Just do something, John, and you’ll figure out what will work.” I get that.
But humor me. What do you think?