Not make disciples, be disciples

Sky McCraken, the blogging United Methodist District Superintendent, has a good post responding to Will Willimon’s post about small churches. It is worth reading.

McCraken and more than one commenter make the point that the church needs to learn again how to actually make disciples. The statement got me thinking: Do we know how to be disciples?

Before John Wesley went out making disciples of Jesus Christ, and inventing along the way all the apparatus of Methodism, he spent years in his own intensive discipleship program. He was a disciple for a long time before he had any noticeable success in making disciples.

How many pastors — at any level — in the United Methodist Church right now are exemplary disciples of Jesus Christ? What are they hallmarks of their discipleship programs?

In a lot of ways, Methodism is just an application of John Wesley’s own spiritual practices to other people. If the discipleship practices he found edifying in the 18th century could be expanded to others, why can’t the discipleship practices that we pursue also be expanded?

The real problem behind that question is getting people to participate.

John Wesley did that by preaching wrath.

Most of us do it today by trying to adapt the marketing and management strategies of McDonald’s.

We can worry about these questions, though, later. First, we have to figure out how to make disciples. My proposal for this is first to figure out how to be disciples ourselves.


8 thoughts on “Not make disciples, be disciples

  1. I was reading Charles Wesley’s Hymns yesterday and this verse struck me:
    O that I was as heretofore
    When first sent forth in Jesu’s Name.
    I rush’d thro’ every open Door,
    And cried to All, ‘Behold the Lamb!’
    Seiz’d the poor trembling Slaves of Sin,
    And forc’d the Outcasts to come in.

    Could renewal be a simple as a massive return to our first love through disciplined pursuit of grace?

  2. It is a good piece worth the read.

    My take:
    If you are not fully convinced you will never convince anyone else.
    If you cannot answer questions asked they will go to someone who can.
    The questions of those that are asking questions or are struggling are usually the same.
    Why do you believe in God?
    How can you believe in a God that…..?
    Do you believe only Christians are saved?
    The questions will then expand to the hot social issues of the day.

    When you answer their questions be prepared for resistance knowing they will probably be back with more questions IF the answers they received were logical, were biblical and challenged their beliefs which are usually based on misinformation.
    Know your scripture.
    Know your facts.
    Don’t push too hard and I rarely invite them to my church right off.
    I wait until they ask me what church I go to (be prepared to answer all the questions that surround your choice of denomination.)
    You do you part and let God do His.

    Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your Christian hope, always be ready to explain it. 1 Peter 3:15

    Each Sabbath found Paul at the synagogue, trying to convince the Jews and Greeks alike. Acts 18:4

    Then Agrippa said to Paul, “You almost persuade me to become a Christian.”
    Acts 26; 26-28

    Note: They came for answers to you. (That should alert you to the fact you have a reputation weather you know it or not so conduct yourself appropriately)

  3. You bring up the best topics.

    Now that I think about it, I have never attended or heard of a class on discipleship.
    I learned by trial and error. (Not good)
    I have never been employed where training was not the first thing on the agenda.
    Maybe you should start a thread ?

  4. “My proposal for this is first to figure out how to be disciples ourselves.”
    You’re not going to tell us how and what to do?

    Oh, the horror! Humility!
    There must be some place to report this.

  5. Personally, I welcome suggestion.
    It is a thrill when someone suggests an idea that had not crossed my mind.
    A historical name I hadn’t heard of, an event I am not familiar with, a different, faster, better way of doing something a pro knows and a novice doesn’t.
    I may not agree and the conversation may get a little rough sometime but it is well worth the effort

  6. We are children of the Enlightenment, as we are Wesley’s spiritual progeny, the “Facebook” of methodology, the “Methodists”…no longer a term of derision, but of pride. And so we weary ourselves, hector and berate, trying to hold ourselves accountable for what is essentially a calling to follow Jesus Christ: “They will listen to my voice.” ( John 10:16)

  7. John, As usual this is an excellent post. From Jesus’ example, making disciples is more living together than merely teaching (more apprenticeship than training program). The groups need to be small. Jesus had only twelve and one still missed the mark. What makes us think we can do it for hundreds from the pulpit? The part of Matthew 28 that we appear to miss is “teaching to them to obey”. Isn’t obedience counter cultural in our individualistic, consumerist world? Your point abut learning to be disciples ourselves is excellent? We cannot give what we don’t have.

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