Today begins a 3-part series called Problems and Solutions in Discipleship.
I’m speaking about Christian Discipleship.
In this post, I’m going to address a set of problems that are common in the realm of Christian discipleship today and offer a solution to each of them.
I will do the same tomorrow (Tuesday) and again on Wednesday, treating another set of problems and offering solutions.
Okay, here goes.
First Set of Problems
Problem 1. The common way to deal with lukewarmness among Christians today is to make God’s people feel guilty and condemned. So guilt is the tool that’s used as the “driver” for spiritual fervor and zeal.
Problem 2. Many Christians start out on the spiritual journey on fire, but the embers gradually grow dim and they are left feeling cold toward the Lord and His Word.
Problem 3. Christians are wanting to discover how they can become more like Jesus. The message they are typically given as the remedy for this is: “Pray, read your Bible, go to church, tithe, witness, and do your best to do what Jesus said to do.”
And then . . . “disciple others by teaching them to do these same things.”
But is that what the New Testament envisions for the life of a disciple? Is that what we see in the apostles and the early Christians?
Discipleship According to the New Testament
Well, let’s take each point one by one:
Pray – yes, the early Christians prayed, but not like we do. They understood the highest form of prayer to be fellowship, a two-way communication.
Read the Bible – the early disciples didn’t have Bibles. The Old Testament was virtually inaccessible and the New Testament hadn’t been written. (When Paul’s letters and the Gospels were written, they were circulated. But there were no printing presses in those days, so they were scarce. And most of the early Christians couldn’t read or write.)
The Jewish Christians certainly heard the Scriptures read in the synagogue from childhood and they had outstanding memories. And when the apostles came around, the Christians heard the preaching of the Word.
But their encounters with the Word of God were much more than learning the written Scriptures, which they learned orally. There was something else involved.
Tithe – the early Christians didn’t tithe until well after the death of the apostles. They gave, but they didn’t follow Israel’s income tax system (which was actually more than 10%).
Go to church – The early Christians didn’t “go to church.” They were the church and they gathered regularly, living as a shared-life community.
Witness – The early Christians witnessed to the life of Christ by their deeds. And the apostles and evangelists proclaimed the gospel in different parts. But there was no evangelistic program that the early believers obsessed over. They certainly shared their faith by the leading of the Spirit, but their lives were epistles written by God’s Spirit.
Do your best to do what Jesus said – The early believers didn’t take the words of Jesus like they took the Old Testament Law, in a legal way, trying to fulfill His words in their own power and strength. There was something else at work. (Another element is to “disciple others” by teaching them to do the above.)
Consequently, there is a MISSING INGREDIENT in discipleship today that answers the question of how to become like Jesus.
I’ve offered solutions to these problems in the following FREE resources:
1. Epic Jesus: The Christ You Never Knew (this is the Introduction to my new online discipleship course.)
This message does the following:
a. it explains how Paul dealt with lukewarmness and church problems. And why we should do both the same way.
b. it demonstrates how to ignite love for the Lord in a believer’s heart who has lost his or her first love.
c. it identifies the missing ingredient to modern-day discipleship and shows this from the entire New Testament
d. it reveals how Jesus lived the life of a disciple of His Father and how we can live as a disciple of Jesus the same exact way.
You can get the written transcript of the message for free only today (and .99 on Kindle & Nook). This free eBook offer expires tomorrow (Tuesday).
2. My free article Rethinking Discipleship, Mission, and Church addresses some of the other problems in contemporary discipleship that I’ve outlined.
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